If you've ever wandered through the vitamin section of your pharmacy or found yourself feeling lost in a health food store, you know that there are an overwhelming number of options these days when it comes to vitamins. You are not alone if you have ever found yourself wondering what exactly they are. Catherine Price, author of Vitamania, has some answers. She says:
It turns out there’s no chemical definition of a vitamin. They were all lumped together by historical happenstance when they were discovered around the same time. The Polish biochemist Casimir Funk came up with the word 'vitamine' before anyone had isolated a vitamin. Now, 104 years later, we’re still calling these things vitamins.Apparently, they are different chemical compounds and we need them to keep our bodies working properly. It may seem like there are more but there are only 13 essential vitamins. These are things our body cannot produce on their own and so we must get help from our food and our environment. For example, our bodies can only make the vitamin D that our muscles need after spending time in direct sunlight but you get vitamin A from dairy and vitamin C from citrus. Whether or not you need to take vitamin supplements is still subject to debate. If you have a deficiency, you must take supplements. But if you don't, taking extra seems to produce mixed results. Some recent studies have found that taking too much vitamin A and E can increase your risk of certain cancers. There is also some evidence that suggests taking too many vitamins taxes your liver which can lead to a whole host of problems. To make matters even murkier, Price explained that the recommended daily allowance for vitamins is often too high for most of us because they're meant to cover everyone's needs. So, unless you are addressing a deficiency, there doesn't seem to be any reason to take more than the recommended daily percentage. Supplementing is still recommended for pregnant women when it comes to folic acid, a B vitamin. The point is, if you are getting sunshine and eating a healthy, varied diet, you likely don't need to be taking vitamin supplements.