Vitamins the Old-Fashioned Way

VITAMINS THE OLD-FASHIONED WAY

The basil never quite recovered from our good intentions. For four weeks now it has languished, burned and yellow, after we sprayed a mineral solution to correct a supposed manganese deficiency. Apparently, it is possible to be overzealous with nutrient supplements.

It can happen to humans, too. In the early 1980s, some women began taking megadoses of vitamin B-6 to ease symptoms of PMS (premenstrual syndrome). Within several months many noticed numb feet, loss of sensation in the hands, even an inability to work. Impairments began to clear up after the supplements were withdrawn, but some permanent damage did occur.

Until that time everyone (including researchers and dietitians) believed that, like other water-soluable vitamins, B-6 could not reach toxic concentrations in the body. Then there was the case of a woman who took megadoses of vitamin C while she was pregnant. After birth, the baby developed symptoms of scurvy because its system was used to higher doses of vitamin C and couldn't get adjusted to more normal ones.

It is tempting to ignore nutritionists who would have us obtain vitamins and minerals the old-fashioned way-eating a wholesome, varied diet. It is so much more exciting to join the euphoric crowd of people in the vitamin aisle who wish to slow their aging processes, avoid getting cancer, or boost their immune systems with a fancy little pill. And there are lots of us in that aisle. Fully half the American population takes a nutrient supplement regularly, collectively spending billions of dollars each year.

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Sojourners Magazine July-August 1995
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