Vitamins are chemical compounds that are required for normal growth and metabolism. Some vitamins are essential for a number of metabolic reactions that result in the release of energy from carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. There are thirteen vitamins, which may be divided into two groups: the four fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, and K) and the nine water-soluble vitamins (the B vitamins and vitamin C). These two groups are dissimilar in many ways. First of all, cooking or heating destroys the water-soluble vitamins much more readily than the fat-soluble vitamins. On the other hand, fat-soluble vitamins are much less readily excreted from the body, compared to water-soluble vitamins, and can therefore accumulate to excessive, and possibly toxic, levels. This means, of course, that levels of water-soluble vitamins in the body can become depleted more quickly, leading to a vitamin deficiency if those nutrients are not replaced regularly. Deficiencies of vitamins may result from inadequate intake, as well as from factors unrelated to supply. For instance, vitamin K and biotin are both produced by bacteria that live within the intestines, and a person can become deficient if these bacteria are removed by antibiotics. Other factors that may result in a vitamin deficiency include disease, pregnancy, drug interactions, and newborn development (newborns lack the intestinal bacteria that create certain vitamins, such as biotin and vitamin K).
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