Recent developments in the science of nutrition, especially with respect to the essential role of vitamins in the maintenance of health, have focused attention upon these substances and paved the way for commercial exploitation. The great significance of vitamins to human nutrition' is readily recognized, and has an established basis in scientific fact. The pendulum of public popularity has swung so far, however, that there is widespread, indiscriminate use of these preparations by the lay public.
Vitamins are essential constituents of food and a "must" in the adequate dietary. Vitamins are also potent therapeutic agents in the treatment of certain diseases due to dietary deficiencies. Furthermore, no one would question the propriety or importance of employing vitamin therapy for a limited period of time where circumstances of illness or restricted dietary were such as to produce a suspected or subclinical deficiency state. But it is irrational and unwise to administer vitamins in therapeutic doses indiscriminately on the basis of their importance in nutrition, or simply on the assumption that if some are good more will be better.
Articles in the daily press, radio broadcasts, salesmen's promotion, and other agencies often suggest that such vague symptoms as fatigue, weakness, loss of ambition, irritability, nervousness, etc., are commonly due to a lack of vitamins, and. therefore when such symptoms appear, as they so commonly do, then by all means take "our" vitamins in convenient pill or capsule form. Complying with such advertising advice would prove disappointing in the majority of cases—cases in which no vitamin deficiency exists.
It is true that the dietary in many homes is not wholly adequate and should be improved. The way foods are prepared or stored often impairs the inherent vitamin values : nevertheless, evidence of benefit from indiscriminate administration of vitamins to industrial workmen in average health is lacking after repeated controlled studies.
The blanket administration of vitamins to persons whose dietary habits are faulty or whose diet is inadequate in respect to protein or total calories, or whose meals are too far apart, does not solve the whole problem or correct the way in which such an inadequate dietary may be related to fatigue or faulty nutrition. In other words, vitamin therapy is not a substitute for a well-balanced, adequate diet. Wholesome, natural foods are still the best source of vitamins, and for the great majority of adults, the only source necessary to furnish the body the essentials for optimal nutrition. Let care be exercised, however, to prepare foods for the table in such a way as to preserve to the maximum the vital components of food and the mineral salts as well. Both vitamins and mineral salts are lost to some degree in most foods when thick peelings are removed, or when, foods are cooked in large amounts of water and that water is discarded. Certain vitamin values are lost when foods are stored or left standing after being prepared. Chopped raw vegetable salads quickly deteriorate on standing.
Vegetables, fruits, whole-grain cereals, ‘and nuts, prepared in a simple, appetizing manner, make, with milk or cream, the most healthful dietary, and one which will bountifully supply all the essentials for complete nutrition.
H. M. W.