While we are surrounded by an ever increasing number of nutritional supplements and health products, we often know surprisingly little about them. In this blog post we want to take a closer look at some little known facts and misconceptions surrounding vitamins and supplements.
5 surprising facts about vitamins
1. Origin of the word vitamin
Have you ever wondered where the word “vitamin” comes from?
Originally word “vitamine” was coined by a Polish biochemist named Casimir Funk in 1920.
He called the substances 'vital amines'. He put the two words together making 'vitamines' and later the 'e' was taken away.
The word was derived from the Latin “vita”, meaning life, and “amine,” because vitamins were originally thought to contain amino acids.
2. Most popular vitamins/supplements in the world
The most popular vitamins in the western world include multivitamins, vitamin C and magnesium. Other products that are very popular include vitamin D and B, fish oil and multivitamins.
Interestingly the situation is quite different in Asia. In Vietnam and Korea Ginseng is one of the most popular herbal dietary supplements.
3. Iron deficiency is most common worldwide
The most widespread nutritional deficiency worldwide is iron deficiency, which can lead to anemia.
Iron deficiency is particularly prevalent in developing nations in Africa and Asia. Common causes are poor diets and certain health conditions. Women are the largest at-risk group for iron deficiency.
Another very common nutrient deficiency is vitamin D deficiency. People in all geographical locations can be affected. While there is a lack of sunlight in higher latitudes, people in sunny countries might not get sufficient vitamin D due to cultural habits and changes in lifestyle.
In our industrialized world people around the world tend to spend more time inside air conditioned offices. Many are also avoiding sun exposure because they are afraid of skin cancer.
4. Too many supplements leads to…
Taking too many supplements and vitamins can lead to unwanted side effects, such as nausea, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. Other side effects include hair loss or even liver damage.
As a general rule of thumb remember: Fat-soluble vitamins are more likely to cause toxicity, although water-soluble vitamins can do so as well. This is due to the fact that water-soluble are easily excreted from the body.
Our recommendation to avoid “mega-dosing”: Choose supplements carefully based on your personal requirements. Talk to your physician, always stick to the dosage on the package and don´t randomly mix various supplements and fortified foods.
Like Paracelsus famously said: “The dose makes the poison.”
5 Myths about vitamins and supplements
1. Taking a multivitamin can make up for a poor diet and prevent disease
This is false. There's no magic pill that can replace a healthy diet and prevent all disease.
Supplements simply can't replicate all of the nutrients and benefits of whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables.
2. Supplements don’t interact with medications
A common misconception is that vitamins are all natural and thus the same like any other food. While supplements often contain natural ingredients they can in fact interact with medications
Certain supplements may interact with prescription and over-the-counter medications. You should always share the list of supplements with your physician and pharmacist to avoid unwanted effects.
3. Supplements are always natural
This is not true. In fact, The majority of supplements available on the market today are made artificially. That means that they are made artificially in a laboratory setting or industrial process.
When choosing supplements it is important to read the product description carefully and not blindly trust pretty images or marketing messages.
4. Supplements are always safe
While vitamins that are sold in pharmacies and supermarkets are generally safe here in Europe, it doesn't mean that you should blindly take supplements, especially if they are bought from foreign countries. A 2018 study found that there were unapproved and even dangerous ingredients in 776 (!) dietary supplements. Most of these products were for sexual enhancement, weight loss, or muscle building.
You should always be suspicious when manufacturers make claims about miraculous effects. We recommend sticking to trusted brands and products that are approved in the EU and reading product labels carefully. Be especially careful with products from the internet.
5. All supplements are pretty much the same
A common misconception is that all vitamins and supplements are created equal. This is not the case. There are big differences in the quality and purity of the used ingredients, between synthetic and natural components, manufacturing standards and testing.
For example, vitamin D supplements come as either vitamin D2 or vitamin D3.
Most vitamin C supplements on the market use synthetic vitamin C or ascorbic acid instead of natural vitamin C.
How to find accurate information?
Finding the right information on the internet can be confusing. Even leading doctors and health experts may have very different views on certain topics related to vitamins and supplements.
If you are looking for reliable sources of information we recommend checking the official websites and recommendations of health authorities in your country and talking to medically trained professionals to determine the most appropriate product for you.
Here at AAVALABS we believe in maximum transparency. That's why we provide certifications for our products upon request. You can also find comprehensive product information on our website.