“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.)

Al Sears has written six books and more than 500 articles in the fields of alternative medicine, anti-aging and nutritional supplementation. He enjoys a worldwide readership of millions spread over 123 countries and has appeared on more than 50 national radio programs, ABC News, CNN and ESPN. In The Doctor’s Heart Cure, Dr. Sears exposes the real causes of the modern epidemic of heart disease with practical how-to advice for building real heart strength and resistance to disease without drugs. It is available in nine languages and remains a bestseller three years after its publication. His 12 Secrets to Virility sheds light on the huge environmental and nutritional problems with virility in our modern world and gives men a step-by step guide for maintaining health, strength and masculinity as they age. It became a bestseller during its first month of release. His latest book Your Best Health Under the Sun addresses the myths of the sun’s dangers and gives readers an action plan for restoring this important natural resource for better mood, strength, energy and nutritional health.Dr. Sears is board certified as a Clinical Nutrition Specialist and was appointed to the international panel of experts at Health Sciences Institute, (HSI) a worldwide information service for alternative nutritional therapies. A master gardener and herbalist, Dr. Sears maintains an herbal apothecary of more than 250 organic herbs used for research, education and treatments. Dr. Sears is the founder and director of The Wellness Research Foundation, conducting original research evaluating natural alternatives to pharmaceutical therapies.Dr. Sears is a member of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine and is board certified in Anti-Aging Medicine. As a pioneer in this new field of medicine, he is an avid researcher and sought-after lecturer to thousands of doctors and health enthusiasts. He is a member of the American College of Sports Medicine and the National Youth Sports Coaches Association. As well as being a sports and fitness coach and a lifelong advocate of exercise programs, Dr. Sears is an ACE-certified fitness trainer. He maintains his integrative clinic and research center in Florida, where he has developed novel exercise and nutritional systems transforming the lives of more than 20,000 patients.

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