What are Vitamins and Minerals?
Well, they're vitamins and minerals, of course! They're good for us! I know vitamin A, B, and C are some of the popular ones, um, calcium's a mineral that we need...oh, you mean what are vitamins and minerals? Like, a definition? Beats me...
Vitamins and minerals are massive components of the Health and Wellness Industry as a whole. With more than 60% of dietary supplement users taking some kind of vitamin, mineral, or Multivitamin/mineral (MVM) supplement, the market's total estimated worth has swelled to a jaw-dropping $14.3 billion (with $5.7 billion of that total being reserved supplements that are only MVMs).1
Ignoring their staggering economic value for a moment, the human body cannot function without a handful of key vitamins and minerals. Full stop. One of the best ways for anyone – be they a consumer or an industry insider – to help their body run at its best is by understanding the fuel that it needs.
Defining Vitamins, Mineral, and MVMs
Let's take a closer look at the definitions for each the major categories:
The primary and most basic definition goes something like this: "a group of organic compounds that are essential for normal growth and nutrition and are required in small quantities in the diet because they cannot be synthesized by the body."2 Already, this definition highlights some points that our introductory attempt at a definition failed to hit.
When it comes to understanding what makes a vitamin a vitamin, there are three key takeaways: 1) It is essential for normal human growth and nutrition, 2) The body cannot make it on its own, and 3) It is an organic compound (not in the "USDA-certified" sense, but in the "it's carbon and hydrogen-based" sense).
Currently, scientists have identified 13 vitamins3 that are necessary for the human body to function, which can be split into two categories: fat soluble and water soluble.
13 Essential Vitamins
- Fat Soluble: Vitamins A, D, E, and K
- Water Soluble: Vitamins B1, (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B6, B12 (cyanocobalamin), Pantothenic acid, B7 (Biotin), Folate (Folic acid and B9), and Vitamin c
Each of these vitamins plays a unique role in helping the body function (a role which is shaped, in part, by the differences between being fat soluble and water soluble).
Simply, a mineral is: "an inorganic substance needed by the human body for good health."4 Not unlike vitamins, when it comes to understanding what makes a mineral a mineral, there are three key takeaways: 1) It is essential for normal human growth and nutrition, 2) The body cannot make it on its own, and 3) It is an inorganic compound (again, not in the "USDA-certified" sense, but in the "it isn't carbon-based" sense).
So far as our bodies are concerned, minerals can be split into two categories: macrominerals and trace minerals. As their names suggest, the body requires relatively large amounts of the macrominerals and relatively small amounts of the trace minerals. Here's a list of 15 minerals5 needed by the body:
15 Essential Minerals
- Macrominerals: Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Sodium, Potassium, Chloride, and Sulfur
- Trace Minerals: Iron, Manganese, Copper, Iodine, Zinc, Cobalt, Fluoride, and Selenium.
Just like the vitamins, each of these minerals plays a unique role in helping the body function.
Just as the name suggests, this last category is made by combining the first two. As of 2006, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality provided this lengthy definition: "any supplement containing three or more vitamins and minerals but no herbs, hormones, or drugs, with each component at a dose less than the tolerable upper level determined by the Food and Nutrition Board—the maximum daily intake likely to pose no risk for adverse health effects."6
Typically, an MVM supplement can be placed in one of three major sub-categories:
- Broad-Spectrum MVMs are designed to be taken daily. They can be formulated to cater to the specific nutritional needs of men, women, pregnant women, children, or seniors.
- Condition-Specific MVM supplements contain vitamins and minerals that are intended to meet the needs of people with a specific health condition.
- Natural and Organic MVM supplements are generally made from whole food sources. The rise in this category's popularity is a direct result of a consumer push for options presenting vitamins and minerals in more "natural" states.
Whether you're a brand owner looking to produce high-quality vitamin/mineral-based supplements or a consumer looking for the best supplements to meet your needs, understanding even the most basic aspects and components of the products that are on the market today and how they can work with our bodies is an important step.
About the Author: Melissa DellaBartolomea
Melissa DellaBartolomea is NutraScience Labs' resident Content Marketing Specialist. Driven by a passion for the world of written, visual, and digital media, she's dedicated herself to keeping up with all things nutraceutical. From ingredient insights to the latest in contract manufacturing regulations and trends, her mission is to provide our readers (like you) with the stories and knowledge they need to fuel long-term growth and nutraceutical industry success.