BLAME it on very active advertisement- be it over radio, television, and even print, a lot of Filipinos are hooked- forgive the word, not suggesting any form of addiction- on vitamins and its supposed relative “herbal supplement” or “food supplements.”
After a series of previous articles in this column dealing with diet and food, perhaps it would be logical and useful if look back and have a closer look at vitamins.
Vitamins belong to the so-called micronutrients- in contrast to the macronutrients or the calorie-laden foods like carbohydrates, proteins and fats- because vitamins are needed in small amounts but they must be provided on a daily basis to promote sound nutrition and optimum health and well-being. One way to classify them is as fat-soluble vitamins, meaning they require bile for adequate absorption whereas water-soluble vitamins do not require bile for absorption into the general circulation.
Another significant difference is that fat-soluble vitamins, if taken in excess, may have toxicity symptoms, most notably vitamin A. whatever excess amounts of water-soluble vitamins taken are simply excreted in the urine by a healthy kidney.
A very common misconception about vitamins is that, they are fattening.
As said before, vitamins, like minerals and water, do not contain calories, thus, they do not make one fat, overweight or obese. Related to this issue, is the belief that vitamins whet the appetite, that is, they are appetite-stimulant, making the eater crave for more. If your pediatrician had been giving your kids Lysivit or Lysine 500, it is the amino acid lysine which contributes to the appetite stimulating effects of the syrup.
Many of my patients, mostly students and office workers, tell me they shy away from vitamins, accusing them of drowsiness and non-stop yawning.
Your columnist could just imagine Hypnos, God of Sleep, laughing and turning on his grave. Vitamins, whether in liquid or solid formulations, do not contain any tranquilizer, whether it’s the popular Valium or the Ativan, which was unjustly- implicated by notorious felons a few years back. Despite all these clarifications, still a lot of people insist that vitamins make them somnolent, and sleepy, thus they would rather take them at night. Well, to each its own.
Whether they are hurrying to catch the MRT or they have a report to submit to the boss, some people skip breakfast and reason that they take their vitamins anyway, and regularly at that.
At this juncture, it must be emphasized that vitamins whose major role in metabolism is that of co-enzyme, work best best when there is adequate carbohydrates, proteins and fats in the diet, because vitamins enhance the chemical reactions involved in the breakdown of foodstuffs and their absorption up to their eventual utilization by the 75 trillion cells in our human body.
That everybody must take vitamins is another myth- if we may call it myth. A person who has three square meals a day sourced from the three food groups plus fruits and vegetables laden with vitamins, would not be needing a capsule or pill or tablet of vitamins.
Admittedly, those who are convalescent or coming out from a severe illness, persons who are bedridden, those suffering from chronic illnesses like tuberculosis. Let’s raise a tall glass of those who are immune-compromised, example Aids victims, should take vitamins, because of the great metabolic participation of vitamins in their rehabilitation, recuperation or in building up their own natural immune system.
So dear readers, friends and patients, hopefully you have a clearer, more reasonable and healthier understanding of vitamins. Let raise a tall glass of fresh fruit and vegetable juice to vitamins.