Fallacies in the Use of Vitamins

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.


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.

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March 1945

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