Know the game “Fortunately Unfortunately”? Here’s a quick example:
Fortunately my wife and I are relatively healthy people who don’t get ill often. Unfortunately Ellie and Samuel both got colds a few weeks back. Fortunately I didn’t get it. Unfortunately I got one a week later. Fortunately Ellie and Samuel both made steady recovery. Unfortunately I didn’t. Fortunately I work from home and run my own business, so I didn’t have to use up any sick leave. Unfortunately I still had to take a couple of days off work because the cold was that bad. Fortunately I tend to recover from colds fairly quickly, and without the aid of medication. Unfortunately on this occasion I was forced to take a barrage of pills to try to combat the symptoms. Fortunately they have been working and my cold is now nearly gone. Unfortunately I am still left with a bit of a sniffle and a rather heavy cough.
There, that was fun.
So yes, the cold is now thankfully on its way out, which is good because I really don’t like being ill. I’m not the sort of person to admit defeat, and I definitely don’t accept the concept of the so-called “Man Flu”. Still, the pills have been useful, if only to help me sleep. In fact, during a phone call home my mum recommended that I take some multivitamins, just in case that helped. So we went to Tesco and had a look at the range. I was quite surprised at what I found on the shelf.
The last vitamin tablets I had would have been when I was in my early teens. We had some Vitamin C tablets as a family, which we had with breakfast each day. They were small round balls that were sugary, tasted of oranges, fizzed satisfyingly on my tongue, and were more akin to sweets than medication. I also have fond memories of teddy bear shaped Vitamin C tablets, which tasted a bit like Refreshers. Since then, though, I have shunned tablets in general, not because I’m afraid of them but because I have some strange theory that my body can cope with anything, and that medication is like giving in too easily. Even if I have a headache, I’m more likely to reach for a glass of water and put up with the discomfort than break out the paracetamol.
Tesco has quite a range of different medicines for all sorts of ailments and discomforts. It may only be one aisle, but it feels much like wandering through the gift shop of a pharmaceutical wonderland. Pretty much every common or garden illness is represented on the shelves, from flu to heartburn, from hayfever to sun cream, from Mister Men plasters to do-it-yourself amputation kits. Okay, maybe not that last one. But even for just one everyday condition, a common cold, there are a plethora of different options for relief. The same is true when it comes to vitamin supplements, too.
What surprised me, however, was not the range of different products. Nor was it the various combinations of vitamins available. What surprised me was the concentration of vitamins in some of the pills. We ended up getting a bottle of multivitamins, normal everyday ones that don’t taste of sherbet or liquorice, which proudly tell us that each tablet contains 100% of the RDA (Recommended Daily Amount) of each of the vitamins it contained. So, of everything I eat during the day, that tablet will give me everything I need, vitamin-wise, and what I get naturally through the food is a bonus. That just seemed wrong to me.
But not as wrong as some of the other examples on the same shelf. One bottle of Vitamin C tablets claimed to have 833% of your RDA. 833%. That’s masses of vitamin. That’s like eating a whole bush of oranges in one go. That’s an overdose of Vitamin C, surely? Apparently not. In fact, there was another pot of something very similar on the shelf above, which had around 1100% of your RDA. And no, I’m not making this up.
Now, call me old-fashioned, but I tend to prefer any medication I take to be good for me in some way. Sure, if I’m not eating any citrus fruit then I might be lacking in Vitamin C, but surely having 11 times the amount you’re supposed to, every day, has got to have some negatives? Do I really want to be pumping my body full of minerals I don’t need? And do we really want to be encouraging our supermarkets to be producing such things, with ever-increasing quantities of excessiveness?
My answer was no, unsurprisingly. We got the multivitamins that provided a measly 100% of everything. I expect I’ll survive.