History of Vitamins
Although their scientific discovery dates back to the beginning of the 20th century, vitamins have always been perceived as indispensable and necessary for our organism.
Indeed, Hippocrates himself, in the fifth century BC, had already stated: “The food will be your medicine and the medicine will be your food.” Of course, he did not know that vitamins were actually vitamins. He had already realized that our food contained important things that our body could not synthesize. It was therefore necessary to bring them from the outside. Foods were used for therapy but also for prevention to maintain good health.
A Rewarding Expedition
Much later, in the second half of the 19th century, Dr. Christiaan Eijkman traveled to the Dutch East Indies. He wanted to study a disease that was raging at the time in the colonies of rice-growing countries: beriberi (a very severe disease that causes heart failure and affects the nervous system.) He worked on the feeding method and was able to evidence of a link between the consumption of husked rice and the appearance of the disease. The latter is actually due to a vitamin B1 deficiency that is actually found in the plant envelope.
Another equally famous example of the use of food to treat or prevent disease was vitamin C and British sailors in the 18th century. The crews of the Royal Navy were decimated by scurvy, a serious disease caused by a significant deficiency of vitamin C. It had taken such a magnitude that this terrible evil was more feared than the enemies of the crown!
James Lind, a Scottish doctor, was the first to link the consumption of citrus with the healing of sailors. Indeed, he set up a kind of clinical trial: he conducted an experiment with 12 British sailors suffering from scurvy, which he divided into a group of two individuals. Each group was given the same general food and an additional compound on a daily basis: cider, sulfuric acid, vinegar, a concoction of herbs and spices, sea water and oranges and lemons.
Results of the Experiment
Only the duo of sailors who received oranges and lemons were cured of scurvy; as for the others …
James Lind showed a link between citrus consumption and the prevention (and cure) of scurvy. From then on, the sailors received a daily ration of lime juice to prevent the onset of the disease. Vitamin C served as a medicine.
These different experiences were continued later. With the rise of molecular biology, scientists have been able to identify vitamins, name them, and describe their use in our bodies.
The Benefits of Vitamins
This is how we know that vitamin A intervenes in the vision but also in the protection of our nervous system against radical attacks. Vitamin D, which we have heard a lot about lately, is important in calcium metabolism.
The exact role of each vitamin is not yet defined very precisely. Little by little, researchers have highlighted a very wide range of functions. It appears that vitamins are involved in most functions of our body. When I use the word “function”, I think of course all our biological functions, measurable by quantitative tests such as a blood test; but also cognitive functions, more difficult to quantify than a blood test result that gives us a number.
Certainly vitamins allow us to be healthy. Our body is working well, so our mind should be fine too.
In order to verify this, British researchers worked on different projects that had as a common denominator the link between vitamins and cognitive functioning.
Three Major Studies on Vitamin Supplements
- Crystal F. Haskell, Andrew B. Scholey, Philippa A. Jackson et al, « Cognitive and mood effects in healthy children during 12 weeks’ supplementation with multi-vitamin/minerals », British Journal of Nutrition, 2008.
- David O. Kennedy, Rachel Veasey, Anthony Watson, Fiona Dodd et al, « Effects of high-dose B vitamin complex with vitamin C and minerals on subjective mood and performance in healthy males », Psychopharmacology.
- Crystal F. Haskell, Bernadette Robertson, Emma Jones, « Effects of a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement on cognitive function and fatigue during extended multi-tasking », Human Psychopharmacology, 2010.
In these different studies, individuals received vitamin supplements for a given period of time. The researchers evaluated their cognitive functions by having them respond to tests. These medical tests are already being used to evaluate patients with mental illnesses or the nervous system. They allow to analyze in a precise way the state of the intellectual functions like:
- the ability to respect a deposit,
- the ability to change during the year,
- object recognition,
- problem solving etc.
Results of Research on Vitamin Supplements:
- men taking vitamin B complexes: increased cognitive performance, less mentally fatigued.
women taking vitamin and mineral supplements: greater accuracy and higher speed to perform multiple tasks.
children aged 8 to 14 years show greater concentration.The results are therefore in favor of an increase in cognitive functions in subjects consuming daily vitamin supplements.Although these results are positive, we must remain objective. Keep in mind that these studies have some shortcomings:First, the participants were presumed healthy. However, there was no blood test to evaluate the major biological functions such as kidneys, liver …
Secondly, serum vitamin levels have not been evaluated either. Perhaps there were any deficiencies in the subjects?
It is therefore necessary to do further research because this is only the beginning.
However, it is certain that vitamins are essential for us so that our body and brain function as well as possible.
Before embarking on hypervitamin supplements, I think it is essential to start with a balanced and diversified diet. So we will get all the vitamins we need. In addition, the advantage of vitamins from our diet is that there is no overdose. If you eat 10kg of carrots, the overdose of pro-vitamin A does not wait for you, by cons some intestinal disorders … Why? Because your body will only keep what it needs, which is not the case with supplements …!
So be careful: Pills, powders and pills are not always the solution. In addition, a good balanced meal shared with family is not it a better moment of conviviality than a tablet effervescent in a glass … See you!