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“Vitamania” Book Review: A Canadian Nutritionist’s Perspective

    Do we have “Vitamania”, an obsessive quest for nutritional perfection???  Are we obsessed with nutritional shortcuts?   Vitamania takes us on a ride, starting a few hundred years ago right up to the present day situation of mass appeal and (lack of US) regulation of most supplements.  The word “supplement” has become almost interchangeable with the word “vitamin”, even though supplements can include not just vitamins, but minerals, enzymes, amino acids, antioxidants, and other non-pharmaceutical compounds. Several chapters start with historical accounts of serious and deadly vitamin deficiencies such as scurvy (vitamin C), beriberi (vitamin B1) & pellagra (vitamin B3), and how the quest to cure these diseases eventually led to the slow discovery of vitamins.  We have to remember that, before we knew about vitamins, people believed that diseases were caused from air rising from the ground, or laziness, or other causes that we now know are not true.  Eventually we discovered germs and the “germ theory”.  It took some time, and much trial and error to determine that there were critical factors in our food that, when deficient, caused these diseases.  And thus vitamins were discovered.  Slowly.  One.  At.  A.  Time. As a nutritionist, it is fascinating to understand a time where the entire concept of vitamins was foreign; yet we clearly got where we are now, by what we’ve learned along the way. Nutritional Status of Canadians   Holistic nutritionists primarily recommend eating more whole foods and fewer processed foods (good advice!).  Some of those canned, packaged, and ready-to-eat foods are enriched and fortified with essential nutrients.  Enrichment is replacing the micronutrients that were lost from the food during processing, (e.g. replacing niacin in whole grains products); and Fortification is adding in new micronutrients that were not there before (e.g. adding vitamin D to milk). I