1912 was a monumental date in human history – a Polish scientist, Casimir Funk discovered the first vitamin, vitamin B1. But that date is underplayed in the history books while the date of the discovery of the first magic bullet miracle drug in 1928 penicillin, which is hallmarked as possibly the greatest advancement in modern medicine. True, penicillin reduced death from infectious diseases and humans lived longer. But chronic disease was ignored. Over time medicine began to treat diseases as if they were drug deficiencies rather than seek their true origins, oftentimes rooted in nutrient shortages.
While processed foods removed essential nutrients, food fortification then corrected many, but not all, of these deficiencies. For example, there is still no recommended daily intake level for essential omega-3 and omega-6 oils decades after it was determined that fish oils seemed to eradicate many common health problems in the Eskimo population. Lutein appears to be essential for the human visual system, but a recommended daily intake level is not even being considered.
The ability to make synthetic vitamins made it possible to inexpensively add vitamins back into foods. Milk was fortified with vitamin D. B vitamins and certain minerals were added to flour.
But there were no adjustments in intake levels for an aging population that produces less stomach acid and has difficulty absorbing many nutrients from foods. Some 24% of 60-69 year-olds and 37% of people over age 80, do not produce enough stomach acid.
Also, the overuse of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs could not have been predicted, all of which are practices that deplete the body of essential nutrients.
Then processed food intake was practiced to the point of convenience foods. Everything was pre-prepared and preserved while wholesome foods began to vanish from the American dinner plate. Next came cheap sugar – high fructose corn syrup was added to soda pop and breakfast cereals. And hydrogenated fat intake increased as more baked goods were consumed. And with canned foods came bisphenol A, a hormone-disrupting molecule. Foods were being fortified with the wrong stuff.
Somewhere along the road of modern American history, beginning in the 1970s, lean Americans started to become overweight and changes in the food chain began to manifest in new diseases and syndromes. Fibromyalgia, irritable bowel, hypoglycemia, childhood diabetes, asthma, etc. Americans became more reliant upon more and more prescription drugs, among them – antidepressants.
Who could guess that coffee (60% of Americans are regular coffee drinkers), tea, soda pop via its sugar content and alcoholic beverages all block the absorption of an essential vitamin, that very first vitamin discovered – vitamin B1. This has essentially led to the unrecognized resurgence of beri beri, which is what thiamine (B1) deficiency disease is called. Beri beri is characterized by loose stool, mental disturbances, uncontrolled eyelid twitching, mental confusion, increased heart rate, breathlessness, numbness and heart failure, to list a few common symptoms that are likely misdiagnosed.
So European investigators are now asking the same question as the title of this report – why is adequate intake of vitamins, particularly in the elderly, still a matter of concern 100 years after vitamins were first discovered?
These researchers are quick to note that the American healthspan is about 10 years less than the American lifespan. The last decade of life is marked with disability and disease, and in many cases, overtreatment.
According to these European investigators, the prevalence of nutrient deficiencies among elderly (over age 71 years) Americans is greater than 75% for vitamin E, ~40% for vitamin C (if you consider 60 mg to be adequate), ~40% for vitamin D, ~25% for vitamin B12, and 16% to 40% for folic acid for American men and women respectively. Folic acid is also instrumental in DNA repair. Some 34% of American males and 49% of American females also do not consume sufficient amounts of vitamin K, and many take vitamin K-depleting drugs in a misdirected effort to prevent blood clots that result in stiffening (calcification) of their arteries.
Then antidote for all this, cheap multi-vitamins, fill store shelves.
American pharmaceutical companies produced the two leading brands of multivitamins that provide pabulum-doses of nutrients. But the label on their bottles says their products provide 100% of the daily requirement, that is, if you are perfectly healthy. If you smoke tobacco, regularly drink alcohol, take certain prescription drugs (especially diuretics and aspirin), are pregnant, hospitalized, are under emotional stress, have blood sugar problems, have an eat-and-run fast-food diet, eat a fat-free diet, and don’t get enough sunlight, even the best multivitamin is not going to get your nutrient intake up to par with what is required to maintain health.
However, this does not mean well-designed multivitamins don’t exist, it is just that unsuspecting consumers may not consider the above-mentioned factors, and as a result, a certain level of disease or other ailments remain in the population for modern medicine to treat. Depression may have its origins in a shortage of folic acid or a lack of sunlight and vitamin D, but if you go to a physician with a complaint your mood is down, expect a prescription for an antidepressant, not trial use of vitamins.
Essentially, the only Americans who consistently exhibit nutritional adequacy are supplement users.
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