A catchy title that captures our obsession with vitamins and our belief that getting plenty of them will ensure our good health.
However, freelance journalist Price has produced a book much broader in scope than the title indicates. The author provides a history of the discovery of vitamins (the word was not even coined until 1912) and of the finding that certain diseases—e.g., scurvy, pellagra and rickets—are caused by vitamin deficiencies. She also makes clear that there is still much uncertainty about what these chemical entities actually do and how much of them our bodies require. The larger story, however, is about the thousands of dietary supplements that are widely marketed even though very little is known about them. Public interest and confidence in vitamins has led to a similar relationship with supplements of all kinds; according to the author, there are some 85,000 different dietary supplements on the market. Price’s research into the regulation of dietary supplements reveals the forces that created the present situation: Why there is no FDA approval process for supplements, and why they do not need to be tested for safety or efficacy. Consequently, it is nearly impossible for consumers to identify high-quality supplements. So, how does one stay healthy in the midst of all this uncertainty? Price’s answer is simple: Eat fruits and vegetables and other nutrient-dense foods that are naturally high in vitamins. Avoid overprocessed foods from which natural vitamins have been removed and which are then artificially enriched with synthetic vitamins. If you do choose to take a nutritional supplement, try to learn what is in it, and let your doctor know, too. Appendices provide specific data about the nature and function of each of the vitamins, and tables list the recommended daily intake based on age and sex.
Though Price doesn’t provide much new information, the reading is easy and the message is clear and significant.