“How to eat your way to look like Giselle Bunchen!”
“What Gwyneth Paltrow is having for breakfast!”
“Food to make you sizzle this summer!”
Headlines like these will instantly grab my attention, and occasionally lead me to my local health food store to buy the suggested products, spending an exorbitant amount of cash on a product that I’ve just read about. I’m not proud of it, but I’m not alone.
The Australian Medical Associations say nearly 40 per cent of Aussies are taking self-prescribed vitamins. This equates to us spending around $500 million dollars a year on vitamins and dietary supplements
Vitamins are a fairly new concept. The word wasn’t even heard of until the beginning of the 20th century. A Polish scientist called Casimir Funk created the first ever vitamin by isolating rice husks. The name came from the Latin word vita, meaning life. He would have sold loads more if he had named vitamins after himself. How much more appealing does ‘funks’ sound?
The vitamins, or as I will now call them, funks, were invented to beat old school illnesses such as scurvy and beriberi. In the mid-1930s funks started to appear in our supermarkets, but it wasn't until the 1970’s that they really took off.
Supplements were originally created to fix a deficiency, rather than act as a cure-all. Now when you walk into a pharmacy there is an entire wall dedicated to the multi-million dollar industry.Many health experts believe vitamins and supplements are necessary to help our bodies cope with our modern lifestyles.
“We need to take vitamins [she means funks] because most of our diets are inadequate, or we go through more nutrients than we are able to get in because of the busy lifestyles we lead. We often find out that we have deficiencies after that fact,” said Sue Stevens, a Lecturer in Nutrition at Nature Care College.
And even if we do eat a lot of fruit and veggies it may not be enough. “Sometimes the food is so depleted in nutrients. Our old sandy ancient soils just don’t have the nutrients that they once had so it’s not in the food we are eating,” said the naturopath.
However, Associate Professor Luis Vitetta, from the Centre for Complementary Medicine and Research, says vitamins maybe doing us more harm than good.
"There's a billion dollar vitamin industry based on this idea people can prevent disease when they're actually just putting themselves at extra risk.''
Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that Vitamin A supplements might actually increase mortality risk by 16 per cent.
Then again, vitamin A is good for your vision and your skin, among other functions. So you might be 16 per cent more likely to meet your death, but at least you’ll have a great view of it, and your skin will look beautiful in your open casket.
There’s also been a lot of positive research into vitamin consumption. New research has been done on vitamin B and its effect in slowing the onset of Alzheimer's. And there’s been research linking vitamin D and a reduction in the symptoms of diabetes.
So where the hell does this leave us? It feels like you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. We all want to be healthy and have heaps of energy to live full lives, and some of us dream of looking like Giselle Bunchen.
But maybe we should actually find out what we are lacking before we go DIY in the soon-to-be-renamed ‘funks’ aisle of the pharmacy, spending our entire pay packet.
In the meantime, I’ll continue to down this tasty beverage in the hope that I’ll sizzle this summer.
Note: Claire actually drank this beverage just after the photo was taken.
Photo © 2011 The 7PM Project
Follow Claire on Twitter at @claireftweets
The opinions expressed in The 7PM Side Project blog do not necessarily reflect those of The 7PM Project or the Ten Network.