Vitamins: you can’t live without them, that’s for sure. The question, then, is: where do you get them from? In the ‘good old days’ (which may have been in your grandparents generation, but perhaps much further back than that) we got our vitamins and other nutrition from totally natural sources: the sun, the water we drank, and the food we ate.
Nowadays, and this is no secret, our food and whatever we drink, just doesn’t pack the same punch as it did in the good old days. There are many reasons for this, and I don’t want to write a dissertation on it. But, for example, many of us get our food from soil that is not as rich as it used to be. And the many chemicals that are used on most of the food we are likely to eat may deplete the nutrition even further, or at least add some unneeded poisons to our diet. And it often comes from far away from where we live, so it may have lost some more of its nutritional content on the way here.
So, what should we do? Well, one common approach is to take vitamins. This view has both backers and detractors.
Recently, according to the Seattle Times, one former detractor of this approach has changed its viewpoint.
They note that “the American Medical Association (AMA) is advising all adults to take at least one multi-vitamin per day — a reversal of their long-standing anti-vitamin policy.”
Their policy has changed it seems, because of advances in research on the effects of vitamins. It now appears that people who get enough vitamins may have a lower risk of some common chronic illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis.
Perhaps their change of view is reflecting that of the American public. For instance, 20 years ago the AMA only encouraged vitamin supplements for pregnant women and those who are chronically sick.
I remember, when I was younger, that there were some multi-vitamins on the market and some other vitamin and nutritional supplements also, but they were not your common fare. And when I started going to health food stores, I ran into a whole barrage of strange vitamins that I’d certainly never heard of in biology classes.
But now, for example, the value of folic acid in preventing some birth defects and heart disease is recognized.
Who ever heard of folic acid 20 or 30 years ago?
Of course it’s not just that food has less nutrition nowadays, but also that we are not so aware of caring about our own nutrition and how it relates to health. The AMA says that almost 80 percent of Americans do not eat the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables a day to provide essential nutrients.
If that is the case, then we need to get our vitamins and minerals from somewhere. And it seems that vitamin supplements are now accepted by the scientists and doctors who should know about these things.
Another thing that scientists are learning more about is that our recommended daily allowances for vitamins may need rethinking.
Dr. Jeffrey Blumberg, of Tuft’s University’s Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging said that nutrition experts are concerned that recommended daily allowances for many vitamins are too low. RDAs were originally established to prevent symptoms of vitamin-deficiency disorders. But evidence is growing that higher levels of many vitamins are necessary for optimum health.
And, as we know, if these vitamins don’t come from our food, we need them from somewhere, such as vitamin supplements.
Dr. Robert Fletcher of Harvard University agrees. He reflects that many of us thought while we were growing up that a reasonable diet would take care of our vitamin needs. “But,” he says, “the new evidence… is that vitamins also prevent the usual diseases we deal with every day, (such as) heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis and birth defects.”
However, experts, and others of us with common sense, remember that vitamins are a “supplement” to our diets. They don’t replace a balanced diet. So, by all means eat a balanced diet, but if you want to lower your risk of contracting the common chronic illnesses of today it would also be wise to add a good multi-vitamin supplement to your diet.