Are Vitamins and Supplements really necessary?

Most of us do not get all the vitamins and minerals that our bodies need for many reasons and this can be the cause of a large array of minor and major ailments. How many people have you heard complaining about not getting enough sleep, or aching badly as soon as they try and do anything of a physical nature, or lack concentration, or suffer headaches, stress, heartburn, lethargy, the list goes on and on.

Part of the problem lies in the changes to our lifestyles over the last 50 years or so, how many children do you see playing ball games in the road after school and at weekends? How many children to you see walking to school every day? How many of you have noticed that the number of cars on the road on a Sunday is now the same as the “rush hour” of 30 years ago, this could be one of the reasons for the lack of children playing in the road, amongst other concerns. 50 years ago entertainment consisted of a little television for those who could afford one, books, cinema and clubs either sports or social that people generally walked to. Communication was face to face, telephone (landline only) or letter which took several days to get there and back again but that did not matter, it was the norm. Now from the moment that people get up they are attached to the information highway or cyberspace where everything happens instantly, the mobile phone is no longer just a telephone it is internet linked with apps for all your favorite social networks so that you do not miss out on any scrap of information. When you are not attaché dot your mobile phone you are in front of your work or home PC or tablet or laptop or net book connected by wifi hotspots and the like.

The change could be far more dangerous than just a headache due to eyestrain. Many of us abuse our bodies with excessive work and the associated stresses that come with it, poor diet as a result of rushing a “fast food” meal or worse still missing meals altogether, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol to relax or have a good time. Smoking certainly does not help but if you are a smoker you will be sick of having been told that and lack of physical exercise.

So when the first danger sign appears you rush to your GP and expect that he or she is going to wave a magic wand give you a wonder pill and all will be well again. Well be ready for the shock this is not going to happen simply because you are a highly complex organism and what’s worse is that you are unique, there is not another human being the same as you so your GP is guessing at what is wrong and what is worse you will probably not be telling them the truth. The GP asks “How many cigarettes do you smoke a day and how many units of alcohol do you drink a day?” You answer “10 and 2” because you do smoke and drink but you know your GP will give you a hard time if you tell the truth so you lie. Based on this your GP wants to encourage you to quit the evil weed and perhaps get some rest as maybe you have been over doing things a little but in reality you smoke 40 a day and drink 2 pints at lunch and 2 more in the evenings and possible 6 on Saturday and Sunday so 14 units a week becomes 52 units. What chance had your GP got of helping you?

In addition your GP has 15 minutes to identify the problem and do something about it, you are overweight, your blood pressure is a little high you are 50 years old, solution is blood test, beta blockers, aspirin and statins because the last pharmaceutical representative was very convincing concerning the latest statin that his company is making and all the field trials have proved that it is the holy grail and if he doesn’t prescribe it then he is failing his patients badly. So what does he do, well he has not got the time to do all the research that he would like after all he only has 15 minutes before his next patient is sitting in front of him so he follows what the drug company’s and the medical monitoring organizations tell him is best. The problem is that the pharmaceutical companies are far from impartial in the advice and information that they present to your doctor. In the same way that you are not totally honest when telling your GP how many cigarettes and how much alcohol you consume each day so it is with the pharmaceutical representative, he only passes on the information that he thinks is in his best interest in getting his drug prescribed to patients. As an example a drug company recently claimed that their Statin drug reduced heart attacks by 50% which certainly does sound very impressive particularly when you are assured that the side effects of this particular drug are no worse than for other Statin drugs. However when you look at the figures you find that in the tests carried out 3 people in 100 that had no medication suffered heart attacks compared to 2 people in a 100 who had heart attacks while taking the medication. You do not have to be a mathematician to realize that the difference is 1 in a 100 or 1% not 50% but of course 3 is 50% bigger than 2 so they have not actually lied but have instead presented the figures in a way that best serves their purpose.

There was a television interview when a representative of the pharmaceutical industry referred to drugs as “mainstream” and the use of herbs, vitamins and minerals as “alternative new age” and it occurred to us that pharmaceutical medicines have only been around for about 100 years whereas the “new age” treatments as they referred to them have been around since time began, well let’s just say about 4,000 years so which would you call the alternative new age.

So , what is the alternative to the GP’s course of treatment? The alternative is to prevent the problem occurring in the first place by living a more balanced life, eating a better balanced diet, supplementing with vitamins and minerals where appropriate, getting more exercise such as walking in the countryside, and restricting the things that we all know are bad for us in excess. This is not to suggest that you become a non-smoking, non-drinking, sugar free, fat free, salt free individual, many of the fads are in fact more dangerous for our health than we are led to believe.

But you have been told in the newspapers by the medical authorities and the big pharmaceutical companies that supplements are dangerous and can even kill you and that you can get all of the vitamins and minerals from the food that you eat. Okay let’s just look at this for a moment, pharmaceutical companies invest vast sums of money in developing, marketing and selling drugs and their business is to make profits for their shareholders so is it possible that they have a financial interest in whether you buy vitamins or their highly priced medicine? We would not suggest, for fear of legal action, that they would lie but I think that all of us in their position would see the benefits of convincing the customer to buy our product over a competitors or an alternative. So are supplements dangerous, generally it must be said that the answer is emphatically no but there are always going to be people who are allergic to certain elements and therefore as with all things care must be taken and professional help and guidance sort. However, as an example of the scaremongering that goes on it was recently reported in the press that Vitamin C supplements in high does were dangerous and could even result in death. Even the medical profession would not put their name to this one; Vitamin C cannot be manufactured by the body and therefore has to be obtained externally, however as it is water soluble any excess is generally excreted in the urine and the sole effect is excessively yellow colored urine. As to the risk of death, to date, worldwide the number of deaths attributed to excess consumption of Vitamin C is NIL, so where did they get their story from and what was the purpose of the story? The last part is that you can get all the vitamins and minerals from the food that you eat, well this may well have been true 50 years ago but the need to boost production has brought about the use of pesticides, fertilizers and the like which have all depleted the natural take up from the soil. In addition every plant takes a little bit of a mineral out of the soil but how does it get back into the soil, the answer is that it doesn’t and therefore over a period of time the level of vitamins and minerals in the soil are reduced until next to nothing remains. We then no longer eat fresh locally grown produce; instead we buy produce that has been picked, blanched and flash frozen all of which reduces the vitamins left and available for us to eat. Worse we buy convenience foods which have been prepared for us to all that is required is 5 minutes in the microwave and they are ready to eat, the problem is the high temperatures applied to sterilize these foods also destroy the useful vitamins and minerals that did still exist in them so by the time we get to eat them most if not all the goodness has been destroyed. Finally, what do you do if you do not like the foods that contain the essential vitamin or mineral for example what do you do if you want to consume say omega 3 oil but cannot stand the taste of the fish from which it comes, mackerel, sardines, salmon and tuna are after all not to everyone’s taste. Or perhaps you need vitamin C but cannot eat citrus fruits, there are alternative sources of vitamin C thankfully as it is a widely available vitamin but a supplement may be the only alternative and a deficiency of vitamin C could be a contributory factor to those winter colds that you always seem to get!!

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