We use the word “vitamin” on a near daily basis and we’re told they’re “good for” a number of aches and pains but what exactly is a vitamin? Why is something called a vitamin in the first place?
It’s not based on a “home remedy” or an “old wive’s tale.” It’s science in the truest sense of the word. In fact, Wikipedia states that a vitamin is a compound “discovered in an effort to find the dietary substance that was lacking in a disease.”
So why don’t medical doctors prescribe vitamins or minerals when their patients are diagnosed with a disease? Why don’t they even, at least, prescribe vitamins in addition to drugs or surgery?
Before we unpack that issue, consider the history of “vitamins.” Again, coming from Wikipedia (and basic encyclopedias), “the value of eating a certain food to maintain health was recognized long before vitamins were identified. The ancient Egyptians knew that feeding liver to a person would help cure night blindness, an illness now known to be caused by a vitamin A deficiency.” Liver contains high amounts of vitamin A but that would be determined many years later.
Wikipedia continues, “In 1747, the Scottish surgeon James Lind discovered that citrus foods helped prevent scurvy, a particularly deadly disease in which collagen is not properly formed, causing poor wound healing, bleeding of the gums, severe pain, and death. In 1753, Lind published his Treatise on Scurvy, which recommended using lemons and limes to avoid scurvy, which was adopted by the British Royal Navy. This led to the nickname Limey for sailors of that organization.” We now know scurvy to be a vitamin C deficiency.
In many historical cases of research on vitamins, observations were made by medical doctors on assignment with a military such as the Japanese Navy, the British Royal Navy or other groups who were able to isolate men to one particular food or to prevent them from eating a certain food and then observing their level of health and the number of deaths and sicknesses. In some cases, years after the study the specific substance in the removed food was determined to be what was lacking that caused the disease.
Why Aren’t Vitamins Prescribed Today?
This brings us full circle to the question above. If we know what vitamins are missing that cause a disease and, in fact, classify a substance as a vitamin for that very reason, why don’t medical doctors prescribe vitamins for diseased patients today?
The answer to that is complex and even alarming. Most medical doctors are well meaning, but we would be burying our heads in the sand if we failed to consider that pharmaceutical companies are the ones who, for the most part, provide funding for medical schools (source), hospitals (source, source) and so-called clinical trials and research on drugs (source and source).
So, the pharmaceutical industry:
Funds (influences) the institutions that train doctors
Chooses only to fund research on their own products (drugs)
And funds the place where those drugs are administered (hospitials)
No matter what you think about the medical/drug industry or medical doctors in general, you have to admit that the potential exists for a major conflict of interest. It could even be said that such a conflict of interest is probable if not obvious.
A pharmaceutical company is a business and, therefore, they can’t afford to do research or clinical trials on vitamins or natural substances. Why? Because someone else could sell the vitamin that was determined to cure or improve a disease. A pharmaceutical company would have a difficult time staying in business if they couldn’t patent and thus monopolize the market on a certain drug that was developed in their labs. They own exclusive selling license to their products but wouldn’t be able to claim that for substances found in nature (vitamins, minerals, herbs). Doing research on vitamins wouldn’t work in their business model because they’d be funding research that their competitors could use to develop a product to be sold for a cheaper price. That’s why vitamins come with statements such as, “This product has not been evaluated by the FDA and is not intended to treat or cure any disease.”
Oh really? Medical journals state that vitamin C, for example, cures scurvy. So why not put that on the label? Or vitamin A for night blindness to name just a few of the many? Why wouldn’t the FDA want to provide that information? It could be because pharmaceutical companies pay the FDA fees to “review and vote on new drug applications” (source). The FDA doesn’t get money to “review and vote” on vitamins. The entire industry that encompasses medical schools, hospitals and even the research groups are directly connected. They decide what substances are studied and then to be prescribed for certain conditions. And the only substances that will be researched and recommended are the ones they can make the most money on – drugs. Vitamins, minerals and herbs aren’t even given consideration except on rare occasions by a nonprofit organization conducting research and, though they use scientists and medical doctors with the same credentials as the ones conducting pharmaceutical studies, their results and conclusions aren’t given more than lip service from the medical industry or else your doctor would be prescribing vitamin D for bone cancer and leukemia (source, source) or fish oil for heart problems and blood sugar issues (source, source, source) or the herb turmeric for arthritis (source).
Sometimes, however, we can find a medical study on substances other than drugs. But it’s usually comparing that substance to a drug in hopes or expectation that the study will be favorable to the drug. When the results aren’t favorable to the drug, the study is usually released to little media fanfare and to virtually no correction by the medical establishment. For example, the Archives of Internal Medicine found that omega-3 fish oil was far better than their statin drugs in preventing cardiac deaths. But if you go to a medical doctor with cardiac blockage or disease, what will he/she prescribe to you? Omega-3 Fish Oil which, as their own studies say, is better than statin drugs? No. They will still prescribe you a statin drug. And on every bottle of fish oil you will still find a message saying that the FDA hasn’t evaluated it and that it isn’t intended to “treat” any disease.
Natural substances that can’t be patented, like vitamins, no matter how effective, aren’t even give real consideration. Pharmaceutical drugs, which only mask the real problem of a vitamin or mineral deficiency in most cases, are what will be given. Your doctor, no matter how well meaning, is far too caught up in the circle that pharmaceutical companies have spun around him. He’s educated by them and all the information given to him is based on their drugs and little more. Your doctor simply doesn’t have the knowledge and isn’t given the tools to be able to tell you that what you really need is a vitamin or mineral. By design, all he knows is drugs. Only about 6% of doctors have training in nutrition and diet (source, source, source, source).
Gone are the days of science defining the action of the medical industry. Gone are the days when the fact that a vitamin is a substance lacking when disease is present was even a consideration. Now it’s a matter of what pharmaceutical representative (salesman) has been by your doctor’s office and which brand provides the best incentive package to “encourage” the doctor to write prescriptions for that drug.
Nowadays, you have to be your own doctor and go back to the forsaken medical encyclopedias to see the real cause of disease and sickness. It’s not a drug deficiency. It’s usually a vitamin deficiency or else the substance wouldn’t have been identified by scientists as a vitamin in the first place.