WE live in the age of convenience. We have computers, smartphones and the Internet to communicate instantly through electronic means.
We have cars, airplanes, trains and more to travel long distances in a much shorter time. We buy food at the grocery or go to a restaurant. We buy ready-to-wear clothes at the mall or even order them online.
Life is obviously easier now compared with 100 years ago. Because technology has advanced, many of our needs are readily available for us to have a good, happy and comfortable life. But let’s look at some of our very basic needs: air, water and food. Although we face many challenges with these must-haves, let’s set aside the problems of polluted air and the lack of clean, quality water, and focus on food.
The food we eat is vastly different from the food our ancestors had in their time. Nowadays, there are serious downsides to the quality of our food in this modern age. We now consume food of lower nutritional quality, because factory farming focuses more on volume and profitability than real nutritional value. We also have to deal with more processed foods because they are easier and cheaper to transport and they last longer.
I’m not saying that the food we have is necessarily bad. But in the long run, we are not getting the proper nutrients to help strengthen our body and immune system. One way to counteract this is to shift to organic foods and plant-based products to get better nutrients. But for many, this may neither be practical nor convenient. Another way is to take food supplements on a regular basis. Food supplements are not a health fad or a luxury. Considering the low nutritional value from the food we can buy from the supermarkets and groceries nowadays, food supplements are now essential to get our daily nutritional requirements (e.g., vitamins, minerals, etc.).
But, are vitamins really important? What’s the worst thing that could happen if we don’t get enough vitamins?
Let’s take a look at history, when the lack of vitamins as common as vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) affected millions of people around the world. As one of the few species on Earth that cannot naturally produce vitamin C, we must get it from external sources. So during the Age of Exploration or Discovery where people from Europe would sail to foreign lands, sailors had a diet mainly of dried meat, fish, bread and alcohol. Fruits and vegetables, which are rich sources of vitamin C, were not brought on these long voyages since they easily spoil and rot. Sadly, during these times, an estimated 2 million sailors died and more were afflicted with scurvy, a disease caused by a chronic lack of vitamin C. Vasco de Gama in 1499 lost 116 of his 170 men during his historic trip from Europe to India via the Atlantic Ocean. Even Magellan in 1520 returned with only 18 men of 250, most of them dying from scurvy than from fighting natives of newly discovered lands.
Signs and symptoms of scurvy (also known as vitamin C deficiency) include easy bruising and breaking of skin; blisters that would develop into ulcers; bleeding black gums; and brittle bones due to the breakdown of collagen, which is dependent on vitamin C for its production. Vitamin C deficiency can also cause anemia, fatigue and dry skin.
And because we didn’t understand the importance of nutrients as simple as vitamin C, scurvy was still a problem until the early 1900s, affecting even the expeditions to the Artic and Antarctica.
Now, things have changed. Scurvy is a preventable and treatable disease with daily intake of vitamin C, but it still affects the malnourished in many parts of the world. And this also holds true for other vitamins and minerals our body needs. That’s why daily intake of food supplements containing vitamins and minerals is a must these days. To live a healthy, long life, we need to boost our immune system and strengthen our body with a healthy diet and daily intake of vitamin and mineral food supplements to augment the lacking nutrients in our food.
But aren’t food supplements expensive? Not at all. We know that vitamins and minerals are essential to maintain one’s health, and the lack of these nutrients can cause health problems. There are several affordable vitamin and mineral food supplements available that will fit everyone’s budget. We just need to ask our doctors, pharmacists or nutritionists to know more about these products and the benefits they can contribute to our overall health by including them in our daily diets.
Teodoro L. Ferrer or Ted is an advocate of health and wellness and the Chairman of the Generika Group of Companies. After retiring in 2003, he and Julien Bello founded Generika Drugstore–the pioneer in the retail of generic medicine in the country. His advocacy of providing access to quality affordable generic medicine was inspired by his father, who was a doctor in Zamboanga and offered his services to both prominent families and the poor. Today, Generika Drugstore celebrates its 15th year and the commitment to provide access to quality affordable healthcare lives on.