The Truth About Vitamins

“Adam and Eve ate the first vitamins, including the package.” – Author unknown

Should you be taking Vitamin O? Are you sure you’re getting enough Vitamin U? What about Vitamin T?

Before you ponder these questions for too long, let me tell you this: These vitamins do not exist.

We define a true vitamin as a complex, organic substance found in food that is essential for the normal functioning of the human body — and there are very few of them. There are also a few nutrients that are not true vitamins but are sometimes mislabeled as such. These include:

* Vitamin B-15, which is better termed pangamic acid

* Vitamin F, which is sometimes inappropriately used to refer to fatty acids

* Vitamin P, another name for the bioflavonoid hesperidin

* Vitamin B-x, a misnomer for para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), a biochemical that is in many multi-vitamin products

* Vitamin B-17, another name for laetrile or amygdalin

Though these “not-quite” vitamins may have some health benefits, they do not fit the definition of a vitamin.

But “Vitamin O” doesn’t even come close. It is made of distilled water, sodium chloride (salt), trace minerals, and oxygen molecules. (Sounds like saltwater to me.) “Vitamin T” and “Vitamin U” are two other fakes. Manufacturers call Vitamin T (a chemical found in sesame seeds) the “sesame-seed factor” and claim it helps blood disorders. And they say Vitamin U — a substance called S-methyl-methionine that is found in cabbage — treats damaged tissues and ulcers.

In fact, scientists have done so little research on these substances that it’s difficult to say whether they have any health benefits at all. But that doesn’t stop the makers from selling them.

Products like these are making a mockery of alternative medicine. The outrageous claims made about them taint true alternative therapies. They provide ammunition for the medical and pharmaceutical industries to insist on a drug-based solution for every health problem. And they distract people from pursuing real solutions.

You can’t ignore this. The choices you make are too important for your health — and your wallet. The main thing is that you know what you are getting. Unfortunately, the marketers of pseudo-vitamins use pseudo-science to make it difficult for you to tell.

Here are some tips to help you peel back the layers of marketing hype and distinguish fraud from fact in the supplement industry:

* Don’t believe anything that is too good to be true. Believe it or not, the manufacturers of Vitamin O sold over 1 million bottles.

* Look for scientific evidence to back up the claims. Manufacturers should provide research citations and studies.

* Check to see if the supporting studies are reputable. Look for recognized and respected publications. Also, look at the credentials of the researchers.

* Beware of pyramid schemes. These can involve real and serious products, but I have never liked vertical marketing in medicine. The financial incentive can be distorting.

(Ed. Note: Dr. Al Sears is the editor of Health  Confidential for Men, a publication devoted to men’s health.)