The Vitamin Complex

Pages: 352
Subject: Popular Science
Imprint: Oneworld

The Vitamin Complex

Our Obsessive Quest for Nutritional Perfection

Catherine Price

A dynamic exploration of our vitamin obsession and what it's doing to our health
9781780748351 (7 Jan 2016)
RRP £8.99

The Book

The discovery of vitamins changed our world dramatically. Terrifying diseases such as scurvy, which had claimed the lives of millions, became preventable and curable. But before long word of these ‘miracles' had spread from the laboratory and into the hands of food marketers. Decades of over-hyped advertising later and we've accepted as fact the idea that dietary chemicals can be used as shortcuts to improving our health.

Award-winning journalist Catherine Price goes in search of the truth about vitamins, taking us to vitamin manufacturers, food laboratories and military testing kitchens. In this page-turning investigation of the history, science and future of nutrition, she reveals just how much we still don't know about vitamins - the way they work in our bodies and the amounts we really need. Engaging, witty and personal, The Vitamin Complex proposes an alternative to our obsessive vitamin-driven approach to nutrition - given our lack of knowledge, the best way to decide what to eat is to stop obsessing and simply embrace this uncertainty head-on.

Additional Information

Subject Popular Science
Pages 352
Imprint Oneworld


About the Author

Catherine Price is a food and environment reporter whose articles have appeared in Men's Journal, the New York Times, O: The Oprah Magazine, Salon and others. She is a past winner of the Gobind Behari Lal prize for science writing. She studied journalism with Michael Pollan at the Unversity of California, Berkeley. She lives in Philadelphia.


'An excellent book...10/10...a deeply satisfying masterpiece of nutrition science writing'.

- NHD Magazine

‘Gets to the nub of how we have become nutritionally idiotic… alarming' 

- Sunday Times

‘Engaging… makes a compelling case for the importance of eating real food' 

- BBC Focus

'Measured, funny and fascinating. . . . If you need vitamins to survive (you do), you should read this book.'

- Scientific American

'[An] absorbing and meticulously researched history of the beginnings and causes of our obsession with vitamins and nutrition.'

- New York Times

'Behind the bizarre disconnect between rigorous drug regulation and a ‘whatever' approach to dietary supplements are industry lobbying, Oz-like doctors and politicians on both sides of the aisle whose states benefit from the thousands of jobs provided by the multi-billion-dollar supplement industry. It is not a new story, but Ms. Price gives it a vigorous retelling. She also reminds us that the prophets of vitamania, and their political allies, would all be powerless if it were not for a peculiar kind of deficiency in ourselves that keeps us reaching for ‘a salve against uncertainty.' Faced with such primal fears, it seems, science is powerless.'

- Wall Street Journal

'[Price's] investigation, full of scurvy-ridden sailors, questionable nutritional supplements and solid science, is both entertaining and enlightening.'

- Discover

‘Well told' 

- Spectator

‘A much-needed critique of the nation's obsession with nutritional supplements. Price exposes the less-than-scientific roots of what has become a multi-billion industry, along with the inadequate regulatory oversight that drives unsavory marketing practices. The book concludes with this refreshing advice: get your nutrition from eating real food.'

- Michele Simon, President of Eat Drink Politics, and author of Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How to Fight Back

‘This is a fascinating look at what we know - and mostly what we don't - about vitamins. You'll never look at the a bottle of multivitamins the same way again.'

- Emily Oster, author of Expecting Better

‘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 . . . An excellent addition to collections in public and consumer health libraries.'

- Library Journal

‘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

'Price's sharp wit, skillful and vivid translation of science into story, and valiant inquisitiveness (she insists on tasting synthetic vitamins and gets buzzed on the military's caffeinated meat sticks) make for an electrifying dissection of our vitamin habit in contrast to our irrevocable need for naturally nutrient-rich food.'

- Booklist