Are the vitamins and supplements we are taking really doing their job?
Most people who read The Health Coach academy blog are at least somewhat familiar with the idea that whole foods are better for you than refined foods. Although there are numerous viewpoints on what kind of foods we should or should not be eating, as well as the ideal ratio of these foods, everyone from all corners of the diet and nutrition world seems to agree on one thing: No matter which foods we choose and in what ratios we eat them, whole foods are better for you than refined foods.
So it is often puzzling that most allopathic, naturopathic or alternative health practitioners on nutritionists explain about the value of whole foods and how refined foods -- having been robbed of all the extra nutrients they naturally come with -- are not healthy for you, to then prescribe a shopping bag full of isolated, refined vitamins for you to take!
Just like refined foods, these refined vitamins have been robbed of all of the extra accessory nutrients that they naturally come with as well. In turn, like refined foods, they can create numerous problems and imbalances in your body if taken at high levels for long periods of time. They can also act more like drugs in your body, forcing themselves down one pathway or another. At the very least, they won't help you as much as high quality food and whole food-based supplements.
Popping a pill can't erase the health effects of a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle. There is no question that high quality supplements can compensate for some of the damage that we do to ourselves. However, most people take supplements to justify their nutrient depleted diet.
Use food as your supplement and you will see and feel the tremendous results.
Supplements will not fully compensate for not eating properly. Having said that, there are certain clinical conditions that more than justify the need for additional use of nutrients and supplements as drug alternatives. If a person is, however in overall good health and enjoys a balanced diet and active lifestyle, there really is no reason to be taking supplements on an ongoing basis.
Although superior nutritional supplements can somewhat help improve and meet the required nutrient levels, adding them to a poor diet isn’t the answer to optimizing your nutritional intake. Whole foods have enzymes and phytonutrients essential for the absorption and utilization of the vitamins and minerals we take in and man-made nutrients are not a replacement for the ones made in nature.
Not all supplements are created equal.
In this article, I will discuss some aspects you should consider should you need to or desire to take supplements. Specifically, the differences between whole food versus synthetic or isolated nutritional supplements, will be addressed.
Keep in mind that most mainstream multivitamin supplements contain synthetic, not natural vitamins. Synthetic chemical isolates made in a lab: they are created to try and mimic the vitamin benefits that their natural equivalents found in food offer. Synthetic vitamins, however, only provide isolated or fractionated pieces of the whole vitamin. Synthetic vitamins are usually quite affordable though.
Whole-Food based supplements, usually found in health stores and unfortunately at a much higher price, on the other hand are different. The vitamin content of a whole food vitamin is 100% derived from food sources such as: vegetables, fruit, herbs and super foods, with no synthetic or artificial vitamins added.
Vitamins from whole foods come with the additional health benefits of other naturally occurring nutrients – including the added micronutrients, cofactors and phytonutrients naturally found in plants and whole foods that work together to provide you a complete health benefit and “whole” vitamin solution.
First preference always, of course, is to use vitamins and minerals from actual whole-foods because they are more bioavailable than vitamins from other sources and contain ALL of the co-factors/co-nutrients required for optimal assimilation.
If a whole-food source is not available, choose food-sourced vitamin supplements that have the benefit of being from a traditional food source, but may not have all the co-factors required for absorption.
The Health Coach academy, recognizes that you deserve to have all of the information you need to make informed decisions, especially when those decisions have the potential to impact your health and overall wellness. It is our hope that the clarification provided below will help you understand how to evaluate multivitamin products. Most multivitamin formulations contain vitamins and minerals in one or more of these forms:
These are vitamins that are synthesized in labs from industrial chemicals and solvents.
(most mainstream vitamin supplements you find in the aisles of the supermarket or over the counter in the drugstore)
These are synthetic vitamins that are fermented in yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), probiotics, and other nutrients to help transform the synthetic, isolated vitamins to a more bioavailable form.
These are vitamins that are extracted/standardized from food.
These are vitamins that are full-spectrum concentrates of foods naturally rich in those vitamins. A simple way to think of whole-food nutrients is to think of them as sources where “nothing is taken out (except maybe water) and nothing is added.”
Let’s gain a more in depth understanding
Synthetic or Isolated Nutritional Supplements
Isolated nutrients or synthetic nutrients are not natural, in that they are never found by themselves in nature. Taking these isolated nutrients, especially at the ultra-high doses found in most formulas today, is more like taking a drug. Studies show the body treats these isolated and synthetic nutrients like xenobiotics (foreign substances).
Not only are isolated nutrients treated like drugs or other chemicals by your body. Like drugs, they can create problems for you too. Nature does not produce any nutrient in an isolated form. The nutrients in foods are blended together in a specific way and work best in that format. For an isolated nutrient to work properly in the body, it needs all the other parts that are naturally present in the food too.
If the parts are not all there from the start, they are taken from the body's stored supply. This is why isolated nutrients often work for a little while, then seem to stop working. Once your body's store of the extra nutrients is used up, the isolated nutrient you're taking doesn't work as well anymore. Worse yet, a deficiency in these extra nutrients can be created in your body.
And, because most nutrients are isolated from the foods they come in -- using a wide array of potentially nasty solvents and other chemicals -- taking high amounts of these products can also expose you to these potentially toxic chemicals, if care is not taken to remove them. With the burden we are already facing from the high number of chemicals in our environment, why would anyone want to add more?
Whole Food Supplements
Whole food supplements are what their name suggests: Supplements made from concentrated whole foods. The vitamins found within these supplements are not isolated. They are highly complex structures that combine a variety of enzymes, coenzymes, antioxidants, trace elements, activators and many other unknown or undiscovered factors all working together synergistically, to enable this vitamin complex to do its job in your body.
Nutrients from within this complex cannot be taken apart or isolated from the whole, and then be expected to do the same job in the body as the whole complex is designed to do.
The perfect example of this difference can be seen in an automobile. An automobile is a wonderfully designed complex machine that needs all of its parts to be present and in place to function properly. Wheels are certainly an important part of the whole, but you could never isolate them from the rest of the car, call them a car or expect them to function like a car. They need the engine, body and everything else.
The same analogy applies to the vitamin C (ascorbic acid) or vitamin E (delta tocopherol) you can find on most health food store shelves. They are parts of an entire complex that serve a purpose when part of the whole. However, they cannot do the job of the entire complex by themselves.
With similar logic in place, one can analyse what a typical multivitamin truly is. The automobile equivalent of creating a multivitamin would be going to a junk yard, finding all of the separate parts you would need to make up an entire automobile, throwing them together in a heap (or capsule in terms of the multivitamin) and expecting that heap to drive like a car!
Obviously, there is a difference.
Science cannot create life. Only nature can create life.
Not all supplements promote Synergy and Potency
The various parts of a natural vitamin complex work together in a synergistic manner. Synergy means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Separating the group of compounds (in a vitamin complex) converts it from a physiological, biochemical, active micronutrient into a disabled, debilitated chemical of little or no value to living cells. The synergy is gone.
In other words, the automobile, in its original form, will drive better than a pile of its individual parts. Unfortunately, most of us don't follow this logic when examining a nutritional supplement.
Supplement manufacturers typically try to stuff as much as possible in a capsule, telling us that the more we take, the better it is for us. This is simply not the case. As you now know, it is not necessarily the amount of a nutrient you ingest that is important, but its form and how much is bioavailable that counts the most. In fact, remembering that ingesting single nutrients can actually create imbalances in the body, logic would dictate the higher the level of a single nutrient that you take in, the quicker this imbalance will occur.
What all of this means that he potency of a supplement has much more to do with synergy than with actual nutrient levels. It is a combined and structured effect of all the parts, rather than the chemical effect of a single part, that is most important.
A quick look at daily values
One last thing we would like to touch on, is to look at its daily value (DV) percentages. This is especially true of a multivitamin. When most people look at a label and see that there are 20+ vitamins and minerals on the label that have 100% DV they think “sounds great”. However, if you are getting 100% of all of these vitamins and minerals from these two capsules what will happen to the ones that come from eating actual food and why am I putting so much of these into my body at one time? As our bodies can only process so much at once, and since synthetic vitamins are laced with indigestible minerals, what am I putting my body through? Studies have shown that some synthetic vitamins, taken over long periods of time, have actually caused strokes, heart attacks, and other health problems due to their synthetic and there for incomplete nature.
So, let’s go back to basics
All of this talk of vitamins and supplements -- food-based, isolated or synthetic – should not detract from the most important part of health and healing. A proper nutrient dense diet, an active life style, regular detoxification, mental emotional and spiritual equilibrium as well as sound structure of thought and mindful, present living must all be in place for true healing of the body to occur. No vitamin supplement will work on its own and deliver miracles, if these foundations are not firmly in place.
Curious to find out more about your individual nutritional and supplement needs, we invite you to book a Nutrition & Health Consultation with The Health Coach academy team or join our Health Coaching Program, we will assist you to develop your personalized path to good health and vitality.
Results may individually vary. Information and statements made in articles of The Health Coach academy Blog are for education purposes only and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. The Health Coach academy does not provide medical advice, prescribe medication and treatment plans, or diagnose illness. The views and nutritional advice expressed by The Health Coach academy are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service. Should you have a medical condition or health concern, consult your physician.