The Student
You are what you eat – vitamin supplements aren’t the solution

For several decades vitamin supplements have been praised as a miracle cure against anything and everything. Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling was one of the pioneers to follow his manifested belief that vitamin supplements in high doses would protect the human body against all kinds of illness.

This theory, published in 1970, has long since been refuted. Nevertheless, vitamin supplements have still maintained their image as a’secret weapon’.

It is correct to assume that vitamins are an essential tool for the body’s health as they contain a large group of organic substances which cannot be produced by the human body naturally. Nevertheless, despite this promising argumentation, we should be careful about what we put in our bodies.

The little panaceas are not as healthy as manufacturers and advertising agencies want us to believe. Scholars even warn us against the false usage of the motley, chemical cocktail. If not taken correctly or for too long, they can in fact harm our bodies instead of supporting our system.

As an example, the overdose of Vitamin D can lead to poisoning symptoms and too much of Vitamin A can alter the skin texture and cause hair loss, but does this mean we should stay away from vitamin supplements entirely?

This is not necessarily the case, as certain groups of people need specific vitamins more than others in spite of healthy and balanced, nutritional diets.

Women taking a contraceptive pill should consume more Vitamin B6 and B2 as well as some extra folic acid. Furthermore, regular alcohol consumption can lead to a loss of appetite and hence a reduced intake of vitamins. In general, people suffering from high stress levels tend to require an increased vitamin intake too.

However, one thing must be kept in mind: consuming vitamin supplements as if they were candy is not the correct way to do it.

These pills or powders cannot replace a nutritional diet, but can only supplement existing habits. Vitamin supplements often contain only a few isolated substances, whereas natural ‘vitamin-rich’ products comprise of a range of vitamins and minerals organically.

Thus, only a few vitamins are recommended to be taken as a supplement if appropriately dosed. Although many consider the often wildly discussed statement “being vegan is harmful because you do not get enough nutrients” as a myth, scientist recommend the consumption of vitamin B12 for those with a vegan diet. As an essential part of cell division and the functionality of the nervous system, it is the only vitamin that cannot be gained from plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy.

Another one is Vitamin D, which is responsible for the storage of calcium and hence essential for the bone structure. It is not found in food products and is usually formed through the absorption of sunrays. However, rainy days in Edinburgh complicate this. Moreover, folic acid, necessary for human blood formation, is contained in a multitude of green vegetables, seeds and pulses, but this does not cover its required daily amount. So these vitamins are the ones that you should be perhaps consider supplementing.

This proves that modern accomplishments once again lose in the boxing ring against natural products.

The best form of nutrition comes from a varied ‘wholefood’ diet with some vitamins thrown in where they cannot be gained from food. Those lil capsules can’t simply fix our bad nutritional habits, sadly.

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