Put Your Vitamin Know-How to the Test
True or False: Calcium should always be chased with vitamin D.
Photo courtesy of Pieter Kuiper
True: Calcium is a necessary component for strong bones and teeth, but we can drain our stores through such basic functions as sweating and nail growth. To replenish our supplies and strengthen our skeletal system, however, calcium alone won’t get the job done since your body also needs vitamin D in order to absorb that calcium into the bloodstream.
True or False: All vitamins must be ingested from outside sources.
Photo courtesy of Jina Lee
True: Vitamins by definition are distinct from other organic chemical compounds in our bodies by the very fact that we cannot produce them strictly on our own—we have to ingest them through our food or convert sunlight, which our skin absorbs and converts into vitamin D in a photosynthesis-like process.
True or False: Vitamin C can stave off the common cold.
True and False (depends on how you use it): Vitamin C (abscorbic acid) serves many purposes in the human body, most famously as an antioxidant. In addition, studies have found that deficiencies in Vitamin C have been linked to a decreased ability to fight off pathogens. There’s no question that this vitamin has a positive influence on the immune system. However, a 1970 paper by renowned chemist Linus Pauling recommending a mega-dose of 3,000 mg of vitamin C to prevent and possibly cure the common cold has turned out to be controversial. Researchers responded by injecting the common cold virus into thousands of volunteer subjects while treating a subset of them with Vitamin C—with little difference between the groups. Bottom line? Taking a daily dose of Vitamin C over time positively influences the immune system, but no vitamin should be used as a quick fix—especially without a doctor’s advice.
True or False: There’s no such thing as “too much.”
Photo Courtesy of Bradley Stemke
False: Your vitamin bottle includes a recommended daily allowance for a reason—to help you stay healthy and keep your nutrition in balance. As with any pill or supplement, taking more than the recommended dose can be ineffective or even dangerous. Our bodies can only process so much of these compounds at any given time. If you’re curious about how the vitamins you take interact with each other, the medicines you take, and the food you eat, reach out to a medical professional to ensure your nutritional mix makes sense for you. Depending on your age, gender, and physical activities, you may want to adjust.
Photo courtesy of Charlie Llewellin
True or False: Vitamin B12 will help you drop a pant size.
False: Vitamin B12 is a major player in necessary bodily functions like DNA synthesis and converting fat and protein into energy. It’s an essential nutrient for the body, found in foods like meat, shellfish, and poultry, or taken as a supplement for those at risk of deficiency (such as vegetarians or those afflicted by certain digestive diseases). But—just like any vitamin—it’s not a miracle-worker. Unsupervised B12 injections (or any off-label use of a supplement) are not recommended, not to mention unlikely to help you shed pounds at an unnatural rate. Stay safe and stick with the recommended dose.
Photo courtesy of Charlie Llewellin
True or False: Smear on vitamin E to minimize scarring.
True and False (depends on who you ask): Vitamin E is a must for strong immunity, as well as healthy skin and eyes. Because it’s fat-soluble, supplements are best absorbed with food. But what about applying the vitamin externally? Clinical studies over the years have shown that applying vitamin E oil actually has little effect on the cosmetic healing of scars, possibly even making them worse. Nevertheless, many burn victims and those with mild to severe scarring have reported that long periods of topical vitamin E treatments left them completed healed. Though the jury’s still out on this one, it likely best to stick with the kind of Vitamin E you can take with a meal.
True or False: Vitamins alone can cure disease.
True (certain diseases): Ancient Egyptians ate liver (rich in vitamin A) to cure night blindness, sailors on the high seas learned that eating citrus fruits (high in Vitamin C) prevented scurvy, and the Imperial Japanese Navy of the 1800s added animal protein to their diets (rich in vitamin B1, also known as thiamine) to prevent a debilitating condition called beriberi. All of these diseases are caused purely by severe vitamin deficiencies, making them entirely curable with proper vitamin intake or targeted supplements.
Vitamins. These tiny organic compounds have been lauded and studied, sanctioned and misunderstood, but since their discovery in the early 20th century they have assumed an integral role in the way we approach the foods we eat and the illnesses we treat. Let’s break down some of the most pervasive claims and controversies surrounding these vital nutrients that have sparked debate and confusion. Based on extensive scientific research, this slideshow sheds light on what we can definitively know about vitamins. So, how informed are you? Find out here.
The GOOD Wellness Project is an eight-month collaboration with Walgreens and Vitamin Angels, in support of the #100MillionReasons initiative to bring vital micronutrients to 100 million malnourished children across the globe by 2017. In order to gain clarity and raise awareness about health and well-being, we are diving into vitamins, alternative medicine, the effects of the environment on our body systems, and more, to provide a deeper understanding of what it looks like to live a healthy, well-balanced life.