Maybe it's something to do with being human, but we seem to be on an eternal quest for the magical cure-all, the one elixir that will banish disease forever.
Disease is a response to a complex array of causes and situations, so it seems hard to imagine a one-size-fits-all antidote. But should such a wondrous thing exist, the smart money's on the family of B vitamins.
Latest medical thinking reckons that the B vitamins, and especially folate or folic acid, may have enormous protective powers against cancer, heart disease and birth defects.
The B vitamins can lower homocysteine levels, now recognized as one of the major causes of heart disease. And although the homocysteine theory has only recently been given the credit it's due, governments have been keen to increase the population's exposure to folate for all sorts of health reasons for some time.
The US government sanctioned folate-enriched flour as one way of achieving this, but scientists are concerned that any synthetic form of folate - as put in foods or nutritional supplements - comes in a form known as pteroylmonoglutamic acid (PGA), which is not easily absorbed by the body. As a result, we don't know what the long-term effects are of constant exposure to PGA.
The good news is that B6 and B12 are readily available in any varied diet that includes meat, dairy, poultry and fruits. So the less processed the foods we eat, the more likely it is that we could be getting our B vitamins.
(Source: British Medical Journal, 2004; 328: 211-4).