by Bonnie Jones
(San Diego, California, USA)
Not long ago an astonishing pair of full-page advertisements appeared in leading newspapers of the country. The advertisers were two of our most popular, huge-circulation magazines.
Both ads were headed by amazing statements. One proclaimed that “You can’t photograph a vitamin,” and drew the analogy that you couldn’t photograph the intangible virtues of the magazine either.
The other declared that “Nobody has ever seen a vitamin” and that neither could anyone see the vitamins of editorial quality that made the magazine distinctive.
What’s wrong with these statements? Merely the fact that vitamins can be seen and photographed as easily as you take a snapshot of the baby.
You can hold pure crystalline vitamins in your hand, taste them, study them just as you can ordinary table salt.
If advertisements costing thousands of dollars, carefully checked by dozens of high-salaried executives, can be so far wrong about vitamins, it is high time that the mystery be cleared away just as it has been in the laboratories.
To a chemist a vitamin has no more glamour than a keg of whitewash. A vitamin is a definite chemical entity whose individual atoms, as distinctive as human fingerprints, can be drawn on paper with every atom in its proper place.
Not only are the functions of important vitamins well understood, but it is now possible to count the amounts of them in your daily diet just as you can count calories.
If vitamins occurred in foods in substantial quantities, they would be no more mysterious than the white crystals in your sugar bowl. But it happens that they are present in inconceivably small amounts.
A level teaspoon containing a mixture of all the known vitamins in purified form would be sufficient to keep you functioning at top efficiency for two months!
Many mysteries about vitamins do remain, of course. Not all the vitamins have been discovered. In very recent months the functions of at least three newcomers have become better understood—pyridoxine, pantothenic acid, paraaminobenzoic acid.
Vitamins were originally named after letters of the alphabet because nobody knew what they were. Now the tendency is to substitute their accurate chemical names for the ABC’s.
The miracles in vitamins are real enough. You can’t win a war without them, which is one reason why governmerits, including our own, are fortifying foods with vitamins.
Lack of Vitamin Bi makes whole populations easy victims of a “war of nerves,” and extreme lack of Vitamin A would dull a soldier’s eyes so he couldn’t see to sight a rifle.
In your personal war, the one you are waging to wrest a living from the world, to forestall ill health, to make the most of your talents, vitamins are no less important.
Vitamins put a chip on your shoulder, keep you on the outside of mental hospitals, give you a skin you love to touch, preserve your vision, enable you to grow and have children.
None of these desirable ends is achieved by vitamins alone. They are only part of the story of nutrition; they build no tissues, give no energy except by acting as catalysts that enable other food elements to do their work.
If you are already getting plenty of vitamins, your health will not be improved in the slightest by increasing your intake. But the disturbing discovery of recent advances in nutrition is that unless you are an exceptional citizen indeed you probably are not getting enough vitamins.
This does not mean that you are very likely to be a victim of acute deficiency diseases such as rickets, pellagra, xerophthalmia, beriberi, or scurvy, which arise, respectively, from lack of Vitamins D, nicotinic acid, A, Bi, and C.
It does mean that in all probability you don’t get enough vitamins to assure you of energetic, supercharged, positive health that is your birthright.
Practically all authorities agree that mild vitamin deficiencies are distressingly common in this country.
Symptoms are often so vague that diagnosis is difficult, but such extremely common complaints as listlessness, lack of pep, dragged-out feeling, poor appetite, faulty elimination, very often disappear when diets are balanced with vitamin-rich foods.