The Nature of Things explores the “Curious” world of vitamins and supplements

We’re told that if we stick to Canada’s Food Guide and supplement it with vitamins, we’re getting enough good stuff into our systems to lead healthy lives. But is that truly the case? Self-professed former fat kid turned health nut/filmmaker Bryce Sage plotted to find out.

“The Curious Case of Vitamins and Me,” airing on The Nature of Things this Thursday, is an entertaining journey across North America to find out if what we’re eating and taking is enough … or if things like multivitamins are doing more harm than good. Beginning with evolutionary history, the entertaining Sage—he reminds me of an even geekier Alton Brown—visits the San Francisco Zoo to find out how what primates eat compares to humans. He quickly discovers that we’re not able to manufacture all of the 13 essential vitamins needed to survive (Who else grew up reading “12 essential vitamins!” emblazoned on their cereal boxes?), so they must be found in nature. It’s not long until Sage discovers we’re deficient when it comes to vitamins C, A, D, E and B-9 and digs deeper into the Nutrition Facts box we find on everything nowadays.

Turns out those boxes are cobbled together by a panel of Canadians and Americans. In place since the Second World War, they were originally designed to help soldiers ensure they were getting the recommended daily dose of the 13 essential vitamins to fight. Now they’re used in our everyday lives, a guide to the base amounts of each vitamin to ensure we don’t suffer from vitamin deficiency.

The most fascinating part of “The Curious Case of Vitamins and Me” was watching Sage—armed with a nutritional textbook—head to the grocery store to purchase everything needed to fulfill those daily requirements. He soon learns exactly what those “fortified vitamins” are contained in cereal, and it isn’t good news. Also cool? Sage’s visit to an organic farm, where he discovers modern farming may result in fruits and veggies with less nutritional value than heirloom varieties. Those interested in how vitamins and supplements are made—and where the ingredients are sourced—get their fix when Sage drops by NutraLab Canada.

Far from fear-mongering, “The Curious Case of Vitamins and Me” is a fun, funny and educational guide to making sure you and your family are getting enough out of their diet to be healthy.

“The Curious Case of Vitamins and Me” airs on The Nature of Things, Thursday at 8 p.m. on CBC.