The startling story of America’s obsession with vitamins—and how it keeps us from good health

Should I take a multivitamin? Does vitamin C really prevent colds? Can I get enough vitamin D from the sun? Are dietary supplements safe? How much of each vitamin do I need?

There’s no question that Americans are fascinated by vitamins and nutrition – we think that vitamins are always good for us, and that the more we can get, the better. But how much about vitamins do we really know? And how might the answer to that question affect the way we eat?

When it comes to vitamins, it turns out that the experts themselves are surprisingly short on answers. Yes, we need vitamins; without them, we would die. Yet despite a century of scientific research (the word “vitamin” was coined only in 1912), there is little agreement around even the simplest of questions, whether it’s exactly how much of each vitamin we each require or what these thirteen dietary chemicals actually do.

The one thing that experts do agree upon is that the best way to get our nutrients is in the foods that naturally contain them, which have countless dietary chemicals beyond vitamins (think phytochemicals, or antioxidants, or omega-3s) that may be beneficial. But thanks to our love of processed foods and dietary supplements, this is exactly what most of us are not doing. Instead, we allow marketers to use the addition of synthetic vitamins to blind us to what else in food we might be missing, leading us to accept as healthy products that we might and should otherwise reject.

Vitamania reveals the surprising story of how we became so obsessed with vitamins, and what this obsession is doing to our health. In so doing, it both demolishes many of our society’s most cherished myths about nutrition and challenges us to reevaluate our own beliefs.

Impressively researched, counterintuitive, and engaging, Vitamania won’t just change the way you think about vitamins. It will change the way you think about food.


Advanced praise for Vitamania:

"[A] hidden, many-faceted, and urgent story... a commanding, meticulously documented, and riling exposé rich in dramatic and absurd science and advertising history, lively profiles, and intrepid, eyebrow-raising fieldwork" 

--Booklist (STARRED)

"Catherine Price gives us a journalist’s entertaining romp through the fascinating history of the discovery of vitamins, and their use and marketing as objects of health obsession.  Faith in vitamins, she advises, should be tempered by scientific uncertainty and dietary complexity, and the understanding that foods are better sources than pills."

--Marion Nestle, Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University and author of What to Eat. 

"This entertaining and informative book traces the history of vitamins and nutritional diseases. . . .  Readers interested in health, and those who enjoy Marion Nestle’s books will want to read this work. VERDICT An excellent addition to collections in public and consumer health libraries."

--Library Journal