For thousands of years, people have known that certain foods contain special substances that protected them. For example, the ancient physician Hippocrates prescribed liver for night blindness. By the end of the 18th century, British navy ships carried a mandatory supply of limes to prevent scurvy among sailors (thus the nickname “limey”). Later on, the Japanese navy gave its sailors whole-grain barley to ward off beriberi.
Nobody knew why these prescriptions worked until 1912, when Polish biochemist Casimir Funk identified substances in food that came to be known as vitamins. The following year, Funk suggested that some medical conditions such as scurvy and beriberi were simply deficiency diseases caused by the absence of a specific nutrient in the body. Adding a food with the missing nutrient to one’s diet would prevent or cure the disease.
Minerals derived from the earth or oceans are also a necessary part of the human diet. Moreover, minerals are our link to the universe – we’re literally composed of the same chemical elements that were once part of a star.
Although deficiency diseases are rare these days, surveys show that many of us are lacking optimal amounts of essential nutrients. Vitamin D is a perfect example. Current statistics show that up to half the general population is vitamin D deficient.
Vitamin D is sometimes known as the “sunshine vitamin” because we can manufacture it in our skin when we absorb sunlight. The problem is, we spend more time indoors these days, and when we do go outside we wear sun block or cover up. I can tell you that many of my fellow musicians don’t get up until the crack of noon, and get out just in time to make their gig at night.
Normally we think of vitamin D as important for strengthening bones and preventing rickets. However, it is currently one of the more promising anti-cancer nutrients. Sixty-three different studies suggest that getting more vitamin D – either with a supplement or through food sources such as fish and eggs – could cut our cancer risk by 50 percent!
There are many good reasons to eat right and supplement your diet. Most importantly, your choice of diet can influence your long-term health prospects more than any other action you might take. Since no one has a perfect diet, I suggest a multivitamin/mineral supplement.