In a recent survey, ninetynine percent of the people questioned had heard of vitamins. Nowadays we hear a great deal about vitamins as there is hardly one which does not have a controversial aspect. Many of the vitamin requirements were established decades ago but claims are now being made for large doses of vitamins which are said to cure or prevent different diseases. The most well known example is the claim that vitamin C taken in doses, thirty times the recommended intake, will prevent colds. This has been widely researched, and the protagonists claim successful results whilst other workers have found no difference. It is probable that during illness the body does need a little more vitamin C, but the value of megadoses is doubtful.

Other poorly substantiated claims are made for vitamins such as vitamin E and linoleic acid which are said to cure eczema; vitamin A for curing warts, insitol to cure baldness, and vitamin B6 to prevent tiredness, irritability, depression and dandruff. In fact wonderful qualities have been ascribed to all the B vitamins which have been recommended for everything from skin to gut disorders.

The trade in preparations of yeast, liver, multivitamins and other preparations amounts to several millions of pounds per annum, but it is doubtful whether this way of eating is any more natural than a conventional diet. We are prone to thinking today that we have come a long way since our ancient forbears, but if we are honest our lives are still dictated by our hopes, fears and prejudices.