( Originally Published 1930's )
The least essential of the three vital food values, which we have named, are the vitamins. In the first place, vitamins are required by our bodies in very minute quantities, and these are usually found well distributed in most foods. Any person, who eats a variety of food distributed over dairy products, vegetables, and fruit, are practically certain to supply their body needs.
In the second place, vitamins are not direct body builders. They are catalitic, or causative, agents. Only when your body has access to enough protein, mineral, carbohydrate, and fat foods, can a vitamin benefit you. If you fail to supply your body cells with protein, some disease attacks you and vitamins will not save you. The same holds true with the mineral foods, especialy vegetables and fruits.
It may not be exact for us to compare the vitamin to the carpenter, when we consider it in connection with the mineral nails and amino lumber. It would be more correct to say that the vitamin is the hammer which drives the nail into the lumber in order to build a house. However, the hammer is very essential; be that hammer made of stone, metal, or of whatever material.
But, to carry the comparison even more fully, the vitamins may be compared in size and quantity to the hammer. You need a hammer quantity of vitamins to the nails size minerals and the lumber size protein if you want to build the human house to goodly proportions and keep it that way.
It could be a sorry deal for millions of people, who are not up to par physically, to listen to the million dollar siren blaring its shrill call to health via the vitamin route. Are they essential? You bet they are. Your life depends upon them. But, your natural foods carry them all. If you are eating properly, and a sufficient variety, you are getting all the vitamins you need and you have no cause to worry.
Vitamins are food portions and very small portions at that. As a supplementary diet, they are compounded in Milligram and even Microgram quantities. A Milligram is one thousandth part of a Gram (fifteen grains) . There are four hundred and thirty-seven grains to one ounce. If you are good at figures, you can see how small a milligram is. But a microgram is one thousandth part of a milligram, and that amount cannot be easily understood, weighed, nor seen. It is the pin point upon a gnat's heel, if that will convey any meaning to you.
Understand, we are not minimizing the value of vitamins to your health. They are vitally needed substances. In fact, the name vitamin came from the word vita, meaning life, and amin showing a vital nitrogen content; together, meaning vigorous life. But someone, who is not interested in selling you something, should call your attention to the fact that there are other foods much MORE vital to your health. And these other foods contain practically all the vitamins you need.
Vitamin deficiency can only follow an absolute food deficiency. Food deficiency may be due to the fact that you do not eat the proper foods, or cannot assimilate them if you do eat the proper food values. If you do not eat a variety of foods, you, yourself, can remedy that deficit. If you cannot assimilate the foods you eat, you have an organic disturbance and should consult your physician promptly. Do not depend upon vitamins to restore lost health.
You will, of course, be surprised at the foregoing placement of vitamins. You have been led to believe that vitamins are cure-alls. Even physicians, today, are uncertain how much to depend upon vitamins, because they and you have been made so vitamin con-science by huge advertising.
Vitamin business in the United States has become a two hundred and fifty million dollar plum. Fully one hundred and twenty-five million dollars of that amount is wasted.
This wastage takes two forms. Many people, who do not need vitamins, take them in the hope of keeping good health. These people are more nearly right than those who take them after illness has struck. Vitamins are more keeper-uppers than builder-uppers. Again, vitamin content of tablet and capsule has steadily grown in size, until, today, the units are labeled in tens of thousands. This is more than the body can use in many factors. Some of it is certainly pouring money down a rat hole.
It is a well known clinical fact that a great amount of vitamin B1 passes out of the body, through the urine, in a few hours after it is taken. Yet, this vitamin is a valuable health aid in nervous conditions, and is necessary for the assimilation of food.
How much of this pyramiding of huge sounding doses is brought by the profit motif is hard to say. However, vitamin B1 has dropped from dollars to cents a grain. It is cheap enough to make large doses to charge larger prices. Certainly, no vitamin to-day is worth ten dollars a hundred. It is doubtful that your health is the entire consideration of those who load you down with so much and so many vitamins at one time that you pass them out of the body without use.
The United States Government has a group of biochemists who furnish it with a list generally conceded as your minimum daily vitamin intake. This is published in the Agricultural Year Book. We are going to base our contentions in great part upon their findings. We will take up each essential vitamin and try to give you its need, use, and range of dosage.
The body is unable to store Vitamin B1. Therefore, it is necessary to supply it daily in our food. Most foods contain B1. How-ever, milling grain to white flour, polishing rice to white grain, and sulfuring fruits, destroys some of the B1 in these foods.
Vitamin B1 is needed by our bodies in order to complete the digestion of starch. Meat usually supplys its own B1. Fat does not require B1 for its digestion. Therefore, your personal needs for vitamin B1 may not be what it is for someone else. It depends upon what you eat and how much. Also, hard workers, pregnant women, and extremely nervous people need more than the normal person.
Biochemists have determined that the need for vitamin B1 ranges from two hundred to seven hundred units per day for the normal individual. The Bureau Of Home Economics claims that the consumption of B1 ran from three hundred to five hundred units a day for half the people they investigated. Some people do not eat the foods which run rich in vitamin B1.
If two hundred units are allotted to each one thousand calories of food eaten, even the big, heavy eater would require only eight hundred units at the outside. Allow two hundred units more per day for a nervous person, and four hundred units above that for a person who drinks, because alcohol destroys B1, and you have fourteen hundred units a day for the most extreme needs.
There are a few abnormal conditions of the human body which warrant huge doses of vitamin B1. Extreme optic nerve pain re-quires as high as 33,333 units as a dose. Unless the case is unusual, and it is a doctor's decision, no large dose of vitamin B1 is essential for daily use.
However, vitamin B1 is manufactured in tablet form containing 3,333 units to 33,333 units for general use. These tablets cost you from two dollars to fifteen dollars per hundred.
Most people need no more than one thousand units a day, but they take three tablets containing 3,333 units each, or ten thousand units a day. Even the careless, run-down people supply themselves with five hundred units per day from their food. Good eaters supply themselves with one thousand units or more. So, be a good variety food eater and get your vitamin B1 in what comes naturally.