Our Amazing World

The Human Body: A Finely Tuned Machine

by Joe Selzler

Have you ever given much thought to your body and how it works? Some of our body's functions are open and obvious, we can easily observe them. Things such as hearing, seeing, feeling, smelling, breathing and the like are things that we see and experience daily. However, there are millions of functions that take place below the surface of our skin that are not obvious to us and that we only know of because medical science has told us about them. As we cannot see these internal functions as easily as the external ones we are not aware of how important they are - that is until one of them goes wrong and we need to seek medical help.

In truth, the human body is a very finely tuned machine. It is so balanced that if one of its functions is interrupted or diminished it begins to fail. The truth of this is illustrated quite convincingly by the nature and purpose of vitamins. Medical scientists learned in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that vitamins had a very important role in the human body. They figured out that many of the common diseases that people experienced were a result of vitamin deficiencies. Therefore, if you restored the right amount of a vitamin to the patient you could cure their disease.

Deficient

A brief example will illustrate this quite well. It comes from the website of Dr Diana Mirkin. "Vitamin C is found in fruits and vegetables, and Scurvy, caused by lack of vitamin C for many weeks or months, wasn't identified until people were separated from plants for long periods of time -- and that first occurred when they built ships that could go on long voyages.

"The crew of Magellan's voyage around the world in 1519 got scurvy, and in 1600 a British report showed 10,000 sailors had died of scurvy in 20 years. In 1747, James Lind, the ship's physician aboard the HMS Salisbury, conducted an experiment on 12 sick men. He divided them into six groups and fed them all the same diet, but gave each pair a different supplement: apple juice, sulfuric acid, vinegar, a mix of spices, sea water, or citrus fruits.

"The two men given the oranges and lemon recovered immediately and were back at work in 6 days. The men who had apple juice improved, but not enough to work. None of the others got any better. Lind's report led to lemon juice rations on long voyages -- and sailors called `limeys.'" 1

The More the Merrier

Such dramatic results as these were experienced in other areas of medical research into vitamins and resulted in people beginning to think that if a certain amount of vitamins helped cure you of diseases then a larger quantity would help prevent those diseases. Today many people are using basic vitamins in large quantities every day to ward off even some of our most feared diseases, such as cancer. The popularity of vitamin supplements in the last few decades has been phenomenal. In the UK in 2000-2001 the population spent more than £400 million per year for vitamins. However, Americans far exceeded that by spending more than $15.7 billion. In a National Health Interview Survey of the US2 in 2000, more than 6% of adults used a vitamin supplement daily. You may know someone in your own family or circle of friends who takes one or more daily supplements. They do it on the promise that these vitamins will protect them from colds, cancer, and other health problems and even prolong their lives.

Too Much of a Good Thing

Current research is beginning to show that taking these supplements may not have the benefits that people are hoping for, and may even be dangerous in the levels that they are being consumed. One such vitamin is Vitamin A. It is known that vitamin A can help to reduce something called free radicals in your body. These free radicals are linked with cancers and other diseases. Vitamin A also helps night vision, the skin, your eyes and your mucous membranes. However, our bodies only need a little of this vitamin to function properly. Taking too much can cause many serious health risks, such as damage to the liver and spleen, weak bones, growth retardation, hair loss and possible birth defects. Eating a normal diet is usually enough to get all of the vitamin A your body needs.

Carrots are a good source of Vitamin A. This form of the vitamin is called "beta-carotene" and it is what gives them their orange color.

The following illustrates some of the myths that surround vitamin supplements. "Although the primary vitamins have been known about for nearly a century, many aspects of their functioning remain mysterious. For instance, while vitamin B2 deficiency clearly causes cracked skin and lips, the biochemistry of this effect remains unclear. There is a lot of mythology about the properties of vitamins. It is almost universally believed, for example, that vitamin C cures colds. But at least 16 double-blinded studies have found almost no benefit. A classic study by the University of Toronto divided 3,500 people into eight groups. Six of the groups received 250, 1,000 or 2,000 mg of vitamin C daily or twice daily; the final two groups received a placebo. It was found that the vitamin C supplementation showed no ability to prevent colds, and that the most that could be said was that 250mg of vitamin C slightly decreased symptom severity for some. The higher doses produced no additional benefit.3"

Just Right

Our body is a finely tuned machine. It has to have the right balance of everything in order to function properly. When we get things out of proportion by overdoing our intake of a particular vitamin, we can cause ourselves serious problems. This brings to mind a question that I think about quite often. Can chance really be responsible for the development of our bodies? Can blind chance create something so finely tuned as the human body? Consider for a moment another finely tuned machine, one that has taken over 100 years of research and development to perfect; the Formula 1 racing car. Can you imagine what Michael Schumacher would think if he came to work one day at the race track and his Ferrari mechanic said, "we are just going to let chance tune the car for you today Michael." He would get himself another team to work for him. Our finely tuned bodies are evidence that we have a Creator who has made us and who cares about us.

1. SCURVY - VITAMIN C DEFICIENCY By Dr Diana Mirkin http://www.drmirkin.com/nutrition/N247.html
2. National Heath Interview Survey Home Page:
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhis.htm
3. Gus Cairns, Positive Nation, 2000-2001

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