Vitamin Identity Crises
So this is something that has bothered me for months, the common commentary on vitamins that I’ve read online and even been told by friends is that they are utterly useless. You pay money to consume a pill that you will proceed to then urinate out without any net gain whatsoever.
The logic behind this is that the average person will consume all the necessary nutrients they need to function properly and needn’t worry about taking a vitamin and that indeed those pills containing iron and certain other minerals or vitamins might make you ill because they could give you far more than you need (note the iron poisoning warning on the nearest multivitamin pill bottle in your house).
However I am well aware of the existence of things such as scurvy, a disorder that can be easily mediated by consuming Vitamin C. I’m also aware of the essential fatty acids, these get their name from the fact that we cannot produce them on our own. Humans are one of many on a laundry list of animals that cannot produce all the nutrients they need on their own, we must consume other biomass to thrive.
But how likely is it that we are consuming the proper amounts of the proper biomass? Have you seen the grocery store lately? I can easily take in 100 grams of sugar every hour but the odds of me nailing down the various vitamin complexes that I need to properly function appear to be quite slim unless I put some thought into it.
So I am left with a crises of thought, on the one hand I have countless people saying that multivitamins are foolish and that you are always getting the nutrients you need, and on the other I have the (I presume) logical thought process of just how do I know? When I get ill, or have muscle spasms, or mental sluggishness, how do I know with confidence that I am not deficient in an important nutritional building block?
Scurvy is real and while it is a very extreme example it is a proof of concept. You can put a human in an environment where they have food and drink and they will not get essential nutrients to survive and function properly. So in our manufactured world how can we be so sure? That’s the part that is throwing me off is the certainty of all these online reports.
I understand the idea that you cannot process the nutrients in pill form, I don’t know if this is true or not but it at least makes logical sense to me. Context is crucially important and this is why the same amount of sugar in a banana versus in refined form is not the same. If you were to eat the same amount of Bananas every day to make up the amount of sugar you get from cereal, coffee, soda, etc, you would not be as bad off as if you just were consuming those things.
That also slides over the importance of nutrition versus calorie count. It isn’t that sugar is inherently bad, but if you are consuming things with higher sugar counts and no nutritional value you are getting all the negatives of a sweet food item but none of the benefits normally brought alongside.
So are multivitamins a waste of time? I’m fully willing to believe that they are, that the market does not prove efficacy. The underlining necessity for an informed consumer is the missing ingredient that capitalism desperately needs. So the fact that multivitamins are a huge industry does not mean they are a necessary or efficient one.
It’s weird when you find yourself arguing with consensus, I don’t do it often but this is something that may plague me for a bit longer. If you happen to know where my mind is missing out I would be most appreciative. Does someone drinking Almond Milk and eating Mac and Cheese really nail all the nutrition they need?
Does a sandwich from ToGo’s and a bowl of Cereal later really nail it all for me? Do I urinate out all the vitamins in a multivitamin or does my body manage to consume and use those that I missed through my daily routine?
So bothersome, biology would be much nicer if our bodies just had a counter system.