All About Vitamins

An On-going Series

The History of Vitamins

The healing power of food has been recognized throughout history. As far back as the 1500’s BC people observed the ability of certain foods to heal specific conditions. Let’s look at a few instances that have been recorded:

• 1500 BC – People used goose liver to treat night blindness.
• 1757 AD – Dr James Lind discovered fresh fruits and vegetables cured scurvy.
• 1757 AD – Marzari of Italy observed diets high in refined maize (corn) led to pellagra, diets high in unrefined maize did not.
• Mid 1800’s – Cod liver oil was reported to cure rickets.
• 1893 – Whole grain rice was used to treat beriberi (a type of paralysis).
• 1912 – Dr Casimir Funk isolated 1 part of the B complex from rice.

As a result of his research, Dr Funk proposed that scurvy, rickets, pellagra and beriberi were the result of a lack of 4 different essential substances in the diet. About the same time, F G Hopkins (a biochemist in England) was conducting experiments with animals. He fed one group refined food and they were unable to reproduce, became ill and died. He fed a second group of animals unrefined, whole foods and these animals thrived. Through this research it was proved that what is in whole food is necessary to sustain life and good health. Many doctors and scientists continued this type of work and finally identified the substances in foods that were helping people be healthy. Their research led to the discovery of vitamins and minerals.

Based on these findings many researchers believed that the vitamins and minerals that were isolated could cure illness. Studies were performed using the isolated vitamins in an attempt to heal various diseases. The results were overwhelmingly disappointing as the subjects never regained their health, but grew worse—some even died. When whole foods (containing the entire vitamin complexes) were used to treat these illnesses, the subjects regained their health.

Many years ago a newspaper headline read: “Lack of vitamins causes many ills.” This is as true today as it was then. But there is good news, and I want to give it to you now rather than wait until the end of the article. Eating unrefined food along with whole food supplements leads to a correction of the “ills” and maintenance of good health.
What actually is a vitamin?

A vitamin is an organic, living complex which consists of the nutrient (A, B, C, D, E and so on), enzymes, co-enzymes, phytonutrients and organic trace mineral activators. All the parts mentioned, except the nutrient itself, are called synergists. A vitamin needs all of them in order to function. Scientists have only discovered a few. Yet there are hundreds in each vitamin complex. Although all of these synergists have not been discovered they are very important. Vitamin complexes, which exist only in food and whole food supplements, are needed by the body to support normal growth, activity and healing. They cannot be created synthetically and are not toxic, even when taken in excess.

What are synthetic or crystalline pure supplements, and how are they made?
Synthetic means that a chemist made vitamins from sources other than food. For example, they make vitamin B₁ from a derivative of coal. The chemical structure does not come out the same. This is a key point to remember because the chemistry of the body is specific. When your body needs vitamin B₁ it is looking for the chemical structure of the vitamin B complex as it is found in food. Another example is synthetic vitamin E—known as d-alpha tocopherol. This is made from a by-product of materials used by Eastman Kodak to make film.

Crystalline means that a whole food has been treated with chemicals, solvents, heat and distillations to reduce it down to one specific, pure vitamin. The synergists, which some scientists call impurities, are destroyed. There is no longer anything natural in the action of crystalline vitamins. To be accurate, these vitamins would be best called pharmaceuticals or drugs. They are toxic. An example of this would be ascorbic acid, the crystalline form of the vitamin C complex. When taken into your body, it performs the same action as any antihistamine drug.

Synthetic vitamins tend to create deficiency states. When consumed, the body will try to change them into a biologically useful form. In order to do this the body must draw from stored vitamin complexes, which leads to the creation of deficiency conditions. If there are no stores of complexes the synthetic vitamin will be sent to the liver to be detoxified. This puts an additional load of healing and processing on the body which detracts from its ability to be healthy.

In summary, in order to be well our bodies need only small amounts of vitamin complexes from whole foods, not mega doses of synthetic vitamins. The topic of vitamin supplementation is very complex. We’ve only touched on it in this article. Please call my office for more information and my recommendations to help you meet your particular nutritional needs.

1. Empty Harvest, Dr Bernard Jensen and Mark Anderson, p 20
2. The Real Truth about Vitamins and Antioxidants, Judith DeCava, MS, LNC, pp 9-11
3. “What is a Vitamin?”, Dr Royal Lee, Applied Trophology, August 1956
4. Dr Janet Lang, 2003, Lang Nutritional Seminars
5. “The Truth about Vitamins”, Royal Lee, DDS
6. “Vitamins: The Real Story”, Ron Carton, D.V.M., M.S.