Alternative To Typical Synthetic Supplements Is Needed, Say Experts
Whole food supplements is currently a topic of worldwide interest. A profusion of evidence has recently come to light suggesting that ordinary synthetic multivitamin supplements may be hazardous to your health. Goran Bjelakovic, a respected scientist from the University of Copenhagen, headed up a massive meta-study that looked at the results of 67 placebo-controlled trials previously undertaken to determine the effects of vitamin and anti-oxidant supplements on longevity. In the end, the study combined observations of 232 000 test subjects. By using such a large population sample, a study can become much more powerful with regards to spotting large-scale trends and overcoming human bias.
The results of the analysis, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, were nothing less than shocking. Looking at patients with diabetes, heart disease and lung cancer, as well as healthy, normal individuals, there was no apparent benefit to taking popular fractionated supplements like Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Selenium, or beta-Carotene. In fact, the results went in the opposite direction – there was an increased chance of death (16 percent) amongst Vitamin A users, a 7 percent higher death rate amongst beta-Carotene users, and a 4 percent mortality increase in Vitamin E users. Beta-Carotene and Retinol, promoted as anti-carcinogenic agents, may promote lung cancer. That’s right – pills marketed as helping you towards a longer, healthier life are in fact correlated with a speedier demise. This study used typical supplements on the market made from synthetic vitamins.
To add insult to injury, a recent study published in the British Journal of Nutrition under the unimaginative title of “Ascorbic Acid Supplementation Does Not Attenuate Post-Exercise Muscle Soreness Following Muscle-Damaging Exercise But May Delay The Recovery Process” indicated that supplementation with anti-oxidants from synthetic sources may reverse many of the beneficial effects of physical training.
Now, this is not to say that anti-oxidants or vitamins are bad for you. Far from it – these supplements were created on the basis of solid science. Anti-oxidants are still believed to protect cells from the ravages of free radicals. The problem, rather, is the idea that you can get those benefits from synthetic isolated compounds. Disease and the aging process are usually far more complicated than test-tube studies can account for. Furthermore, the issue of bioavailability is an ever-present concern. Many typical synthetic supplements include huge amounts of the advertised vitamin, but lack the additional compounds needed to ensure that their key ingredients are actually absorbed by the body. Passing straight through the digestive tract, these ‘miracle health cures’ often wind up doing little beyond giving people expensive urine. To the rescue…Whole Food Supplements.
What the layperson should take from all this is not a sense that we’ve made no progress in the last century regarding uncovering adequate means of personal health maintenance. There’s one thing that nobody is disputing, and that’s the importance of a healthy, well-rounded diet replete in fruit, orange, yellow and dark green leafy vegetables, whole grains, legumes, seeds, nuts, high quality carbohydrates and lean proteins and supplementation from whole food supplements. . When you avoid taking in harmful chemicals such as those in food preservatives, flavorings, flavor enhancers and ‘synthetic vitamin additives’, you’ll not only reduce your intake of toxins. You’ll also be forced to tap into the most nutritionally reliable source available, namely natural nutrition. Human beings have evolved to consume unprocessed plant and animal food sources. Recent research suggests that the superiority of natural ratios and formulations has been massively undervalued.
Whole food supplements are foods that haven’t been processed or refined, or have undergone as little processing as possible for preservation or human consumption. Much as is the case with organic food, whole food supplements call for the avoidance of chemically assisted agriculture. The concept is one of a minimization of human interference with the processes of nature. This is based on the guiding principle that nature’s products make for healthier products than the products of human industry.
While this is a claim met by much resistance from the refined food and pharmaceutical industries, it’s being repeatedly borne out by the results of research. A study of women shifted from a diet high in processed foods to one replete with whole foods and whole food supplements resulted in a 61% decrease in saturated fat intake. They also experienced increases in dietary fiber of 60 percent, a 45 percent increase in vitamin E, a 60 percent improvement in vitamin C intake, and a five-fold increase in carotene intake. The net result of this new phytochemical-rich diet was an induced drop in total cholesterol of 13 percent – meaning less risk of heart disease and stroke, statistically still the biggest killers of people in first world countries. In the short term, they also saw vast improvements in bowel function and overall perceived health. Clearly whole food supplements are preferable to typical synthetic supplementation.
So the message, actually, seems to be rather clear. Eat a diet comprised primarily of whole foods and whole food supplements, and you’ll be a shoe-in for long life and a vital, healthy old age. It sounds simple, but there is a problem with that approach, at least in our current era of constant industry and nine-to-five workdays. Progressively, people in developed countries are struggling to keep up with the clock. Even as work-induced stress makes the disciplinary challenge of sticking to a diet more daunting, so spending what little free time one has on grocery shopping can seem like its own special kind of waste. Unlike processed foods, whole foods are not very easily stored, meaning that to eat according to such a diet, you’ll need to visit a farmer’s market and buy your food fresh every few days. This is where well-meaning eaters so often falter in the journey towards health improvement and a trimmer waistline, entering the lifelong trend of yo-yo dieting.
Furthermore, many foods may not even be available in certain countries. Tell someone that lives in South Africa to eat more kale and you might as well be informing them of the beneficial effects of zero gravity.
Bent on finding their way around these obstacles to simple health maintenance, scientists have worked an angle that may sound, at first blush, a little counterintuitive. The goal of pharmaceutical supplementation has always been to preserve or improve upon the nutritional efficacy of whole foods in tablet and powder form. Through a rigorous process of trial and error, it was discovered that, by curing vegetables, herbs and other nutrient sources, grinding them up into powder, and forming that powder into tablets or capsules, it was possible to retain much of their nourishing value .This is only true of whole food supplements that have been processed using little or no heat. And so, it appears, one can finally enjoy the benefits of healthy eating via the simple act of popping a few pills. The benefit over ordinary eating is in the combinations of nutrient sources (and the quantities thereof) chosen, designed to complement each other and aid in the most complete, favorable absorption of the ingredients. Due to the incredible decrease in size that desiccation brings, it’s also possible to consume far more of said nutrients, avoiding the sometimes undesirable need to stuff one’s face with greens.
The effect of whole food supplements has been very favorably contrasted with artificial supplements such as multivitamins. The reason whole food supplements come out on top is simple: your body recognizes the ratios of nutrients in whole foods and processes them far more easily than supplements consisting of isolated or fractionated nutrients.The body recognizes whole food supplements as nutrition and is able to metabolize and utilize them efficiently.
The best idea, say experts, when it comes to determining your whole food supplements requirements is to decide on the readily available foods that you can and will eat consistently, then fill in the gaps from there. A general list of the most highly recommended vegetables with regards to anti-aging and health benefits would include kale, chard, spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, red and green peppers, garlic, onions, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, green peas, asparagus and carrots. At Rutgers University, New Jersey, nutritional and food science Professor Paul A. Lachance headed up a study, published in the Journal of The American College of Nutrition, to evaluate 29 popular fruit, and ranked them in descending order of value according to the benefits they confer. His top ten list read as follows: kiwi, papaya, cantaloupe, strawberry, mango, lemon, orange, red currant, mandarin orange and avocado. To be effective these foods must be eaten raw.
In terms of supplementing beyond this list, when it comes to picking the right whole food supplements for your purposes, you’ll probably want to look for much the same things you might have looked for in artificial supplements in the past – compounds to promote joint health, brain health, immunity and so on, by the use of anti-oxidants like resveratrol, beta-carotene along with other amino acids and vitamins. The difference may not lie in the listed ingredients, but rather in the manner those ingredients were derived – from common (and some not-so-common) plants, vegetables, fruits, herbs and so on. This is how natural whole food supplements companies source their nutrients.
What Supplements Should You Take?
Whether you use vital nutrients as your barometer of what and how much to eat, or the guide in determining what wholefood supplements you need, determining their presence or lack thereof is probably the best way to evaluate a diet. Below are listed some of the vital nutrients most people should consider supplementing in their diets – the ones people are typically deficient in, and those that provide the most benefits. Included are the foods in which those nutrients can be found.
Anti-oxidant supplementation is, obviously, sought after for its promised effects of protection against disease, cellular breakdown, cancer and ultimately aging. In 2004, a study by the USDA revealed the best dietary sources of anti-oxidants. Published in the peer-reviewed publication of the American Chemical Society, the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the study showed that foods like beans and artichokes take pride of place in the anti-oxidant-rich-food hierarchy. The study also demonstrated powerfully beneficial effects from pecan nuts, cinnamon and russet potatoes.
The B-Vitamins play a highly important role in cell metabolism. Once thought to be a single vitamin, these were later discovered to be a group of chemically distinct vitamins that frequently coexist in particular foods. Health supplements that contain the full roster of eight B-Vitamins are called Vitamin B Complex supplements. These vitamins help to maintain good muscle and skin tone, promoting cell growth, particularly of red blood cells, and thereby providing protection from anemia. They support and increase the rate of metabolism, meaning that they can also assist in maintaining a healthy weight. Notably, they decrease the risk of pancreatic cancer, but only when consumed as a whole food, not as a synthetic fractionated tablet. Most B-vitamins must be consumed daily, as any excess is speedily excreted in the urine. Good sources include potatoes, bananas, lentils, chile peppers, brewer’s yeast, whole food supplements, molasses, tuna, animal livers and meat. Since the vitamin B12 cannot be produced by vegetable sources, deficiency in this nutrient is of particular concern for vegetarians, who need to get it by consuming supplements or fortified breakfast cereals to avoid possible ill consequences on health. For the more omnivorous amongst us, good sources are fish, meat, poultry and eggs.
A famed member of the antioxidant family, Beta-Carotene is worth mentioning alone, especially for its assistance in the uptake of vitamin A. It’s the substance that colors carrots orange, and assists in the buildup of epidermal retinol, responsible for protecting the skin from sun damage. It’s abundant in crude palm oil and Vietnamese gac, which have the highest Beta-Carotene content of any vegetable or fruit. These are, unfortunately, often filtered for clarity before sale, a process which removes all carotenoids. Other sources include papayas, mangoes, carrots, yams, spinach, kale and sweet potato leaves and quality whole food supplements.
It’s the fifth most abundant element in the earth’s crust, but that doesn’t mean that conscientious calcium consumption shouldn’t be a concern of anyone looking to live to a sturdy, healthy old age. Calcium is essential for many essential cellular processes. “Calcium plays an important role in building stronger, denser bones early in life and keeping bones strong and healthy later in life,” says the National Osteoporosis Foundation, and it’s a recommendation that has been hammered into us through media to the point of filtering into commonsense and popular culture. Prolonged calcium deficiency leads to rickets, poor blood clotting and an increased risk of fractures.
The best known sources of calcium are dairy products. Unfortunately, lactose intolerance is far from a rare disorder, and various other ailments and personal philosophies (such as veganism) keep certain individuals from consuming dairy products. Luckily, there are numerous good vegetable sources of calcium, including nuts, seeds, seaweed, oranges, figs, beans, broccoli and fortified products like soy milk. One poorly recognized sources of calcium is ground eggshell. For information on the calcium content of foods, visit the USDA National Nutrient Database online. The easiest way to consume calcium that the body will recognize as food is to take whole food supplements.
It plays a vital role in regulating neuromuscular activities, most notably those of the heart. It assists in maintaining good blood pressure, healthy muscle tone and good skin pallor. It helps us metabolize calcium and vitamin C, and as such deficiency in magnesium can result in calcium depletion, kidney stones, muscular irritability, nervousness and confusion. Yet the stunning fact is that the majority of people on earth (around 80%) are known to be deficient in Magnesium. Typical rates of intake are between 143 and 266 mg per day – significantly lower than the FDA’s recommended daily intake of 350 mg. Deficiency in Magnesium has also been implicated in the development of chronic diseases like asthma, osteoporosis and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Good food sources include nuts, seeds, spices, bran cereals, quinoa, soybeans, coffee, cocoa, tea and green, leafy vegetables. It has been speculated that the reduced intake of dietary magnesium in developed countries can be correlated with the rise of food refinement and the use of modern, magnesium-free fertilizers. Amongst dietary supplements, magnesium citrate has been regularly proven as the most bioavailable, beating the oxide and amino-acid chelate forms for its rate of absorption. Synthetic supplements can not be absorbed: use whole food supplements to maintain proper levels.
Better known as vitamin C, L-ascorbic acid is perhaps the most popular of supplements, and has been used to treat disease ever since the French explorer Jacques Cartier boiled the needles of the arbor vitae tree to treat scurvy in 1536. The resultant tea was later shown to contain 50mg of vitamin C per 100 grams. Like Magnesium, without regular uptake vitamin C is quickly eliminated through the urine, so it’s easy to become deficient without supplementation. While oranges are famous for their vitamin C content, the more obscure but vastly more potent sources, such as kakadu plums, camu camu, rose hips and Indian gooseberries are slowly gaining popular recognition, as are common sources like blackcurrants, red peppers, parsley and guava. Animal sources of this nutrient include oysters, pork, beef, calf and chicken livers, cod roe and, as unpalatable as it may sound, lamb brain. The easiest way to maintain proper levels is with whole food supplements.
An oil-soluble, vitamin-like substance found in most plants and animals, CoQ10 is responsible for supporting the process of ATP generation, responsible for ninety five percent of the human body’s energy. The organs with the highest energy requirements – such as the liver and heart – thus require the most Co-Q10. Known for this strengthening effect on the heart muscle, CoQ10 has been used to treat many forms of cardiac condition, although the extent of its role in energy production is still not fully understood. It has been shown to have beneficial effects on sufferers of migraine headaches, to lower blood pressure, reverse gum disease, and aid in weight loss. It is known for its ability to slow the shrinkage of the thymus gland, thus preventing the weakening of the immune system that typically accompanies old age. It is also being investigated for its potential to mitigate the effects of cancer.
The best dietary sources of CoQ10 are sardines, mackerel, the livers of beef, pork and lamb, eggs, spinach, broccoli, peanuts, wheat germ and whole grains. The easiest way to maintain levels is with whole food supplements for rapid absorption.
While it might be a bit of stretch to call it a nutrient, dietary fiber or ‘roughage’ is vital to the health of the digestive system, and thus to the efficacy with which all other nutrients get absorbed. Roughage is comprised of the indigestible parts of plant foods that easy the progress of food through the digestive system, easing defecation.
Good plant sources of fiber include psyllium seed husk, bran flakes, legumes, oats, rye, barley, prune juice, plums, lentils, beans, quinoa, berries, bananas, broccoli, carrots, artichokes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, whole grain foods, wheat, corn bran, flax seed, green beans and tomatoes.
Soluble fiber or probiotic supplements can also be beneficial to easing the symptoms of diarrhea, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome. The FDA reports that studies have found that “diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in fiber are associated with a reduced risk of certain cancers, diabetes, digestive disorders, and heart disease.”
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
The nutritionally important Omega 3 fatty acids – Alpha Linoleic Acid (ALA), Eicosapentanoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexanoic Acid (DHA) – have been credited with supporting cardiovascular health, circulation and healthy vision, as well as promoting better function of the brain and immune system. DHA and EPA are made by microalgae which, living in seawater, are consumed by fish and plankton, accumulating to high levels in their internal organs.
Use of omega 3’s in the form of fish oil has been shown to reduce risk of heart attack, lower blood pressure, and offset the effects of arthritis. It also causes a decrease in LDL, the ‘bad’ form of cholesterol. Additionally, there is some evidence that it helps in ameliorating depression and anxiety. Amongst cancer patients, fish oil clearly reduced tumor growth, increased survival times, and help patients retain muscle mass during treatment. It has also demonstrably reduced the symptoms of sufferers of mental disorders, including chronic aggression and ADHD.
The best dietary source of omega 3’s is probably fish. However, a much publicized risk of regular fish ingestion lies in the potential for heavy metal poisoning by the accumulation of toxic elements in the gut – notably mercury, lead, nickel and arsenic. However, a 2004 study by the FDA has indicated that, of the 44 popular commercial fish oils tested, all passed contaminant safety standards. Thus it is recommended that health conscious individuals get their omega 3’s this way – by mixing fish oil into their foods, or taking gel supplement capsules. Omega 3 supplementation has turned into a food marketing trend, with many companies selling everything from fortified yoghurts and juices to milk, eggs and pasta. Flax seeds, which produce linseed oil, also have a very high omega 3 content, and are probably the most widely available botanical source of omega 3. Other sources include chia, kiwifruit, perilla , lingonberry, butternut, black raspberry, broccoli and strawberries. The best and easiest way to obtain this is by taking exceptionally pure, cold processed oils in whole food supplements.
These plant secondary metabolites are best known for their antioxidant activity. This impression may be a little inaccurate. The massive increase in the antioxidant capacity of the blood after the consumption of flavonoid-rich foods is most probably due to increased levels of uric acid. In essence, the body sees flavonoids as foreign, invading compounds, and does its best to eliminate them. This induces the activity of Phase II enzymes, which help to eliminate carcinogens. Cancer researchers at UCLA found that people who eat foods containing certain flavonoids appear to be virtually immune to lung cancer. The best among these appear to be strawberries, green and black teas, Brussels sprouts, apples, beans and onions, parsley, pulses, red wine, and gingko biloba. Evidently, only small quantities of such flavonoids is required to see the desired effects, an overindulgence can reverse them into negative territory. Other applications of flavonoids includes the treatment of easy bruising, hemorrhoids and varicose veins.
Discovered by Japanese virologists at Tokyo University in the 1950’s, interferons are cell-signaling proteins produced by the immune systems of vertebrates in responds to viruses, parasites and other threats. They assist the response of the immune system by dampening viral replication, thus increasing the resistance of host cells to infection. This is an effect that can be used protectively by the administration of interferon drugs. Interferon therapy is commonly used as a treatment for cancer, as well as in the treatment and control of autoimmune disorder and multiple sclerosis.
Throughout Eastern Europe and Russia, interferon is taken intranasally as a means of preventing and treating respiratory diseases of viral origin, like flu and cold. Good food sources of this substance include quark cheese and flax oil, but the best method of ingestion is probably by supplementation. The only natural compound formula created by the discoverers of interferon is a Shaklee exclusive Nutriferon recommended dose is 2 tablets daily. For more information visit
Crucial to the functioning of all known organisms, Iron is a vital component of hemoglobin, the compound in blood responsible for delivering oxygen from the lungs to other parts of the body. It also plays an important role in enzyme reactions in various tissues. Iron deficiency is the most common known form of nutritional deficiency, and is most prevalent in children and pre-menopausal women – an estimated 90% of women fail to get the recommended daily amount. The outcome is iron deficiency anaemia, which results in fatigue, impaired concentration, impaired immune function and a sallow, yellow pallor, among other unpleasant maladies. Infants and pregnant women typically require iron supplementation for optimum health.
Good whole food supplements sources of iron include red meat, fish, poultry, tofu, beans, lentils, leafy green vegetables, peas, and fortified products like bread and breakfast cereals. In supplementary terms, the most bioavailable form of iron is that which has been chelated into amino acids. This is often referred to as iron glycinate.
This is one of those dietary components that most people haven’t heard of. It’s got a difficult name, and there are no major illnesses associated with deficiency in it. However, the potential benefits to consuming it are tremendous. Think improved liver, brain, reproductive and cardiovascular health. In fact, it’s sometimes marketed as a nootropic drug for the improvements to neurotransmitter efficacy that it can bring. Research indicates that phosphatidyl choline is intimately involved in the mediation of mood, memory and cognitive function.
The most widely available source of this nutrient is lecithin, which can be derived from soy or egg yolks – in fact, the phosphatidyl choline component of this substance is so great that the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably. Other foods rich in phosphatidyl choline are beef, veal, chicken and turkey livers, brewer’s yeast, fish, peanuts and cauliflower.
As with a lot of the vitamins, Vitamin E is the collective name for a set of related tocopherols and their corresponding tocotrienols, which have been tied to colon, heart, prostate and immune system health.
Food sources highest in Vitamin E include avocado, asparagus, egg, seeds, nuts, palm oil, spinach, milk, vegetable oils, wholegrain foods, wheat germ, rice and olive oil.
This phytoalexin, which is produced naturally by several plants when under attack by pathogens, has been correlated with a decreased risk of cancer, increased life expectancy, and lowered blood sugar levels in diabetics. It has also been seen to impact on the four major signs of aging. It is found in the skin of red grapes (and the seeds of muscadines), and as such can be had easily enough by drinking a glass of red wine, which accounts for the cardioprotective effects of the popular beverage. However, it turns out that rather high doses are required for strongly positive effects on humans – levels typically only reached by means of supplementation. The fruit of the mulberry has also been shown to contain notable levels of resveratrol. The most potent and bioavailable form is VIVIX. This is a Shaklee exculsive anti aging tonic and is 10 times more effective than taking resveratrol alone. Only available from an independent Shaklee distributor. See the above link to the Nutrition Nurse.
Over two hundred enzymes in the human body depend on zinc for their function. An essential mineral responsible for promoting normal growth, development and immune function, zinc is nonetheless not present in sufficient quantities in the diets of most people in the developing world, two billion of whom are estimated to be zinc deficient. Zinc deficiency is associated with many diseases, including, amongst children, delayed sexual maturation, growth retardation, diarrhea and susceptibility to infection. In fact, zinc deficiency has been linked to the death of over eight hundred thousand children every year.
Zinc levels in food vary according to the levels of essential nutrients in soil, a level which must be maintained by soil conservation. Assuming that levels of zinc in soil are equal, the most zinc-rich plants are wheat germ and bran, seeds, beans, nuts, and blackcurrants. Many cereals are also fortified with zinc sulfate and oxide. Nonetheless, many people supplement this element in their diets as an insurance policy against poor eating habits.
The Bottom Line
Planning and developing a diet so as not to be deficient in any of the vital nutrients can be a challenging, some might say virtually impossible task. Indeed, it’s probably only by the combination of right eating and a strong base of supplements that an ordinary person can ensure that they’re getting everything they need to live a long, healthy, happy existence. Remain aware of the limitations of both whole foods and synthetic pills, and you’ll have gone a long way towards making that future yours. Clearly the prudent course of action is to initiate a regimen including quality whole food supplements.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
By Anthony Antolics RN,BSN The Nutrition Nurse