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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Roytas

Are vitamins real things?

No one has ever observed a vitamin in a food. The only place they see these things is in the bottom of a test tube after a bunch of chemicals have been mixed together.

For the sake of discussion, let’s talk about vitamin C. Once upon a time, sailors on ships became ill with scurvy. Their teeth fell out, their gums bled, their skin decayed, and their internal organs began to shut down. It was eventually discovered that by eating a lemon, the scurvy could be reversed. It was assumed that a deficient intake of some kind of essential compound within fresh fruits and vegetables caused scurvy.

We are told the substance responsible for this effect is vitamin C, but how was this proven scientifically? To prove this experimentally, the thing in the food needs to be isolated, given to humans or animals with scurvy and then be shown to reverse scurvy. It also must be shown the isolated compound is the same thing present in food.

How was vitamin C first isolated? This might be a familiar story for some of you.

1.  Take 400 cc of fresh lemon juice

2.  Add lead carbonate to decitrate the juice

3.  Add lead acetate to decitrate the juice

4.  Precipitate with dilute ammonia

5.  Undertake resolution with acetic acid

6.  Repriciptate with ammonia

7.  Remove lead with hydrochloric acid

8.  Extract waxes with butyl alcohol

9.  Add in ethyl alcohol

10.  Evaporate remaining moisture

11.  Add in pure acetone

12.  Evaporate to remove acetone

13.  Remove the active ingredient with acetone

14.  Evaporate the acetone solution again

15.  Add in petroleum ether

16.  Give the substance to animals

17.  The substance either prevented or reversed scurvy in animals

18.  Analyse the substance

19.  Conclude that this isolated compound (ascorbic acid) is the same thing found in food

Voila! Vitamin C!

Well here’s the problem with this entire process as I see it. In order to be scientific, it must be proven that the methodology / procedures employed and the constituents added to the lemon juice did not confound the end result.

In other words, how did they control for the effect of each step? How did they show that the original substance in the lemon that reversed scurvy was indeed the same as the end product? How did they prove that the addition of these toxic chemicals did not impact the results?

How can this be used as proof that the end product is the same thing that’s in the lemon? This is pseudo-science because they did not control for every single step of the process. Don’t you first need to know the qualities and characteristics of the thing you are trying to isolate? Otherwise how can you know that you have isolated it?

People will argue that because animals with scurvy got better when given the isolated substance, it proves that the final compound resulting from this experiment is the thing in the lemon. The effect cannot be used to prove the cause. In other words, just because animals with scurvy got better when given this ‘isolated substance’, does not mean whatever it is they were given, was the thing originally present in the lemon.

Mixing a bunch of chemicals together in a test tube and then getting an effect, proves nothing. This does not satisfy the scientific method because each step along the way was never properly controlled.

This is, in my opinion, purely antiscientific.

What actual scientific proof are we relying on to show vitamins exist in food the way we have been told?

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Below is a review of Daniel Roytas' new book, Can You Catch a Cold?

Listen to Daniel's interview on the DivInspiration Series, Jab Rehab:


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