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Posted June 6, 2012: by Bill Sardi
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 history book while the date of the discovery of the first magic bullet miracle drug, 1928 for penicillin, is hallmarked as possibly the greatest advancement in modern medicine. True, penicillin reduced death from infectious disease 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, 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 and wholesome foods vanished from the American dinner plate. Who could have dreamed that sedentary Americans, who no longer open their garage doors thanks to automation and who don’t even climb stairs thanks to elevators and escalators, would also be eating in front of boxed screens that delivered endless entertainment while they consume potato chips, marshmallows, bags of cookies and endless other snack foods laced with taste stimulants and designed to be eaten to the bottom of the bag?
Then 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 became chubby and changes in the food chain began to manifest in new diseases and syndromes. Fibromyalgia, irritable bowel, hypoglycemia, childhood diabetes, asthma, autism, and Americans became more reliant upon more and more prescription drugs, among them – antidepressants. Whatever Americans are doing, their girth is unprecedented compared any prior generation and their mood has declined. And whatever is doing this is being programmed in on a broad scale. Modern medicine has looked at this as an opportunity to treat more disease.
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 health span is about 10 years less than the American lifespan. The last decade of life is marked with disability and disease, and overtreatment I might add.
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 required for DNA repair by the way. 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 results in stiffening (calcification) of their arteries.
Cheap multivitamins, the antidote for all this, 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, work and live indoors and don’t get enough sunlight, and drink soda pop, even a 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 can’t imagine they are being gamed, that a certain level of disease is being ensured in the population for modern medicine to treat. Mental 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.
Physicians not only have a disdain for dietary supplements, mainly because drug prescriptions generate a consultation fee, but also because drug Rx’s bring patients back to the office for prescription renewals.
Furthermore, virtually every diabetic should receive instruction to supplement their diet with the highly absorbable form of vitamin B1 (benfotiamine) as it averts all serious complications of the disease (eyes, kidneys, etc), as well as magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin B12 and vitamin D. Regular alcohol imbibers need supplemental B1, zinc, magnesium, and vitamin C. Smokers need to supplement with vitamin C and carotenoids (lutein, lycopene, beta carotene). But generally not a word is said about this in doctors’ offices. They say this would give license for those who smoke and drink to continue in their poor health habits.
Essentially, the only Americans who consistently exhibit nutritional adequacy are supplement users.
Given the magnitude of the problem, the European researchers are pleading for a call to action, to “find ways to close the gap between recommended and actual vitamin intakes in the elderly.” Their call is likely to be ignored. Modern medicine practices preventive medicine only in the context of finding more disease to treat via endless colonoscopies, mammograms and biopsies. Anything that prevents disease altogether is ignored. The public continues to choose those weak multivitamins. Even if you double up the dose, they are insufficient to overcome nutrient deficiencies. If you can figure a way to lead the masses out of this mire, let me know.
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