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Pseudovitamins are substances which are not in any sense accepted as vitamins, or necessary for human nutrition, but are peddled as such by hucksters on the Internet and by shady players in the dietary supplement industry. Vitamins by definition are necessary for human health. Substances are not considered vitamins unless a deficiency has been proven to be associated with a known disease.

Pseudovitamins are not necessary for human health, and in some cases are actually harmful to human health. Usually, pseudovitamins are given otherwise "scientific-sounding" names to increase their appearance of being genuine.



These are substances that have never been believed to be vitamins by legitimate dietitians or scientists, and are promoted mainly by quacks.

  • Vitamin B15 — dimethylglycine or pangamic acid, currently being touted as an autism cure. During its previous run of popularity (1978-80), it was touted as a suppressed athletic performance booster used by the Soviets. Dimethylglycine, a component of pangamic acid, is sometimes also called Vitamin B16.
  • Vitamin B17Laetrile, a worthless supposed cancer remedy found in apricot pits that breaks down into cyanide in the body.
  • Vitamin B22 — some unknown Aloe Vera concoction and probably completely worthless. Appears to come from the 1973 book Know Your Nutrition by Linda Clark. Claims that this "vitamin" exists made a comeback in the late 1990s thanks to the Internet.
  • Vitamin O — junk dietary supplement sold on the Internet purportedly containing 30,000 parts per million of oxygen.[note 1] When tested by the Federal Trade Commission, it was found to mainly contain saltwater and germanium. See oxygen therapy and this Sloan-Kettering fact sheet.
  • Vitamin T — infamous quack supplement sold in the past, but nobody seems to really know what it is, which is a good sign to stay well away. It is purportedly found in sesame seeds, egg yolks, and, heh, termites and mealworms. Powdered ground-up termites—yum! This is supposedly a growth factor of some kind. It is unclear whether the T stands for "termite".
  • Vitamin U — S-Methylmethionine, found in raw cabbage juice. This was a health fad during the 1950s and claimed to be a cure for ulcers. It has been debunked since 1983 when it was discovered ulcers were caused not by a deficiency of a "vitamin U", but by the presence of Helicobacter pylori bacteria in the stomach.[note 2] See raw foodism.

Former vitamins[edit]

These are substances once thought to be vitamins, usually in literature dating from the early 20th century when vitamin theory was still unsettled. When first discovered they were given names according to the standard vitamin nomenclature, which is why the gaps in the B-complex and between vitamins E and K exist in currently recognized vitamins. They were reclassified out of the vitamin category when discovered to not meet the definition of a vitamin. Occasionally these will turn up, still being referred to by their quaint and archaic old "vitamin" names.[1]

  • Vitamin B4 — adenine, a DNA metabolite synthesized in the human body which does bind to other B vitamins, but is not in itself necessary for human nutrition.
  • Vitamin B8 — adenylic acid, another DNA metabolite. While no longer considered a vitamin for decades, it has recently been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as an ingredient to block the bitter taste of artificial sweeteners in low-calorie food.
  • Vitamin B13 — orotic acid, manufactured in the body by intestinal flora.
  • Vitamin F — essential fatty acids.[note 3] These are necessary for human nutrition but in large amounts. Initially categorized as vitamin F in 1923, by 1930 it was recognized it made no more sense to classify these as vitamins than it does to categorize water as a vitamin, and these should properly be considered fats and not vitamins. Omega-3 and omega-6 are the two groups of essential fatty acids; omega-3 in particular (occurring naturally in many foods such as fish) has recently gotten much attention as a nutrient.
  • Vitamin J — in old usage referred to catechol, a flavonoid. It has recently come into popularity to refer to choline, which was recently (1998) found to be a vitamin necessary for human nutrition, making choline the only recent true addition to the vitamin category. Since choline is grouped with the B-complex, it is doubtful the "vitamin J" name will be the official name given to it.
  • Vitamin L1 — anthranilic acid. A precursor to the amino acid tryptophan, therefore not a vitamin. It is also nowadays on the government watch list as a precursor to the manufacture of methaqualone, so it is not likely one will find this peddled as a dietary supplement in any case.
  • Vitamin L2 — adenylthiomethylpentose, an RNA metabolite
  • Vitamin O — carnitine. Human cells do use this to transport fatty acids so it is still a popular dietary supplement, particularly in fad diet and bodybuilding woo circles. Not, however, a vitamin.
  • Vitamin P — citrus bioflavonoids. Not a vitamin in any sense and indeed over 1000 different substances exist which are classified as bioflavonoids. Some of them such as quercetin are antioxidants but that doesn't make them vitamins, nor does it make nonspecific "citrus bioflavonoids" vitamins, which could contain any of 1000+ different substances, worth your money.

Vitamins G, H, and M are old names for riboflavin, biotin, and folic acid, which were renamed as B vitamins when found to be part of the B-complex.

None of the above[edit]

  • Ibuprofen, used to treat arthritis and fever as well as a pain reliever, is often called Vitamin I by hikers. Ibuprofen and other NSAIDs can cause gastrointestinal distress such as bleeding.
  • Ned Flanders claimed that one secret to his youthful vitality at age 60 was a regular dose of Vitamin Church.
  • Vitamin P (not to be confused with the Vitamin P above), is a euphemism amongst British veterinarians for putting down an animal, e.g. "I'm afraid Fluffy has lice. Vitamin P is the only solution to her problem."[2]
  • Ritalin (methylphenidate), A prescription attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder treatment and popular black market study-aid on college campuses worldwide, sometimes referred to as Vitamin R
  • In psychiatry, Haldol, an antipsychotic drug, is lovingly referred to as vitamin H
  • One should pay close attention as to what social setting they're in when Vitamin K is being mentioned — it's especially difficult to distinguish between people who are just raving loony about kale (and its rich Vitamin K content) and people with glazed eyes and possibly an erection offering you ketamine.

Alternative medicine[edit]

Popular alternative health books like Earl Mindell's Vitamin Bible have an annoying tendency to list these pseudovitamins together with real vitamins as if there were no difference. Many of these substances are claimed to be "vitamins" by their promoters on the dubious claim that the illnesses they are purported to cure are caused by nutritional deficiencies of the substance in question: cancer by a deficiency of laetrile, ulcers by a deficiency of S-methylmethionine. This is, of course, bogus with no scientific evidence to support it. It is unclear whether termite infestations of your home are caused by a deficiency of vitamin T in your diet, however.

See also[edit]


  1. Humorously enough, compared to the ~200,000 parts per million of oxygen in ordinary air. Perhaps they were counting the oxygen atoms in the water molecules.
  2. Interestingly enough proved by the scientist Robin Warren, who proposed and tested the idea of swallowing a sample of the bacteria and developing ulcers as a result.
  3. I.e. unsaturated fats.


  1. If you were to watch the late-1980s Il Etait Une Fois… La Vie (Once Upon a Time… Life), available in English on YouTube, you would notice that vitamins are depicted in the shape of their letters: Vitamin A looks like a letter "A", Vitamin B like a "B", etc. Most obvious in the episode on the lymphatic system (part 1), when the vitamins are ordered in alphabetical order, Vitamins F, G, H, M, and P feature.
  2. See the semi-fictional memoir Pet Hates by Josh Artmeier.