Vitamins: Spreading The Message3 Oct 2014
The benefits of Vitamin C (not strictly a vitamin) were known as early as the eighteenth century when limes were used by the British Navy to ward off scurvy (hence the name ‘limeys’). But it wasn’t until 1912 that the term vitamin (vital amine: a nitrogen-containing compound) was coined by Polish biochemist Casimir Funk. Thereafter, […]
The benefits of Vitamin C (not strictly a vitamin) were known as early as the eighteenth century when limes were used by the British Navy to ward off scurvy (hence the name ‘limeys’). But it wasn’t until 1912 that the term vitamin (vital amine: a nitrogen-containing compound) was coined by Polish biochemist Casimir Funk. Thereafter, progress was rapid, and by the 1930s 13 had been identified: Thiamin, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin D (D2, D3), Vitamin E, Niacin, Vitamin B12, Biotin, Vitamin K, Pantothenic ac., Folate, Riboflavin and Vitamin B6. In 1934, industrial production commenced.
Within the scientific community, much research has been carried out into the properties of vitamins, and continues to yield proof of their specific health-giving properties; so much so that, in 2008, the Copenhagen Consensus concluded that of 30 specific solutions to combat some of the world’s most pressing problems, addressing micronutrient deficiency amongst children would be the single best investment. Many programs, coordinated by agencies such as the World Food Program and the United States Agency for International Development, have been instrumental in delivering fortified foodstuffs to specific groups where malnutrition is a well-recognized phenomenon, mainly in the developing world.
But what about the western, relatively affluent, world?
Here, the choice of food is abundant. The shelves are packed with everything our eyes tell us that our bellies will desire. And still, large proportions of our populations do not meet the dietary intake recommendations of our respective countries. The result: senseless malnutrition that manifests itself in a whole host of health problems – either immediate…or waiting to gang up on us in later life.
If a doctor tells you that you have high blood pressure, you take a pill. High cholesterol, take a pill. DVT, take a pill… Take a pill, take a pill, take a pill. The question is: how do we get consumers to recognise the benefits of a well-rounded diet, and what supplements they need for specific circumstances? This brings me to my point. How do ingredients manufacturers and food producers get to the market? There’s no sense in making foodstuffs that are ‘ever so’ scientifically proven to be very good for specific aspects of your health if the end consumer doesn’t understand and buy them.
What’s the answer? Manufacturers of health ingredients and foodstuffs segment the market, generally by specific function, age or target groups such as athletes. But how should we spread the message? Surely, as one prong, we need a really simple labelling system that makes the benefits of vitamin supplementation easy to understand. How about a comprehensive international system to differentiate product benefits by logo and/or colour, (not just salt content, sugars etc.), depicting positive messages for the heart, eyes, muscles, joints, brain, bones and so on? The small print should be left for the magnifying glass. (Am I showing my age?) I am genuinely interested in your views on this subject and will be speaking to many ingredients suppliers at the Hi Europe and Ni show in Amsterdam.
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