WHOLE FOOD NUTRITION -vs- SYNTHETIC NUTRITION
IS THERE A DIFFERENCE?
"Americans have been taking multivitamin/mineral (MVM) supplements since the early 1940s, when the first such products became available. MVMs are still popular dietary supplements and, according to estimates, more than one-third of all Americans take these supplements. Sales of all dietary supplements in the United States totaled an estimated $36.7 billion in 2014." From our government's National Institute of Health (Vitamin and Mineral Supplements)
Virtually no one would argue that in our pedal-to-the-metal chemically polluted society, none of us could benefit from better nutrition. For many of us, that nutritional help comes in the form of supplements -- often in the absence of a healthy diet. On top of this, the prevailing attitude with vitamins seems to be that if a little is good, a lot must surely be better. And a whole heck of a lot should be even better yet. As is true in most areas of life, when it comes to nutrition, this is rarely true. It's certainly not accurate when it comes to CALORIES, and it's not true when it comes to vitamins either. I have talked previously about synthetic B-vitamins (some of which are derived from coal tar and sewer sludge) and their whole-food counterparts (HERE). The same principle holds true for other vitamins as well (HERE are some vitamin side effects).
It is the chief reason that if you go to peer-review to look up the benefits of vitamins, the majority of the studies not only show no benefit, but actually show a negative benefit (Vitamin E is a great example). How can this be when we are bombarded by the message --- usually from those selling vitamins --- about how good they are? The result of this process is often people who have no real idea about nutrition (DOCTORS INCLUDED) taking way too much synthetic nutrition. In fact, it is my contention that many (again; maybe even most) people end up taking nutritional supplements in the same way they would take medications --- in the form of "MONOTHERAPIES". In other words, what vitamin should I be taking for (insert your disease dujour here)? These monotherapies, however, have some problems --- serious problems.
Although foods may be 'rich' in certain vitamins or minerals, the same vitamins and minerals are never found in high potency in said foods. This is because even though vitamins are certainly important --- even critical --- for our good health, we don't really need large amounts of them to do the job they are supposed to do. Vitamin supplements that contain megadoses (1,000 mg Vit C tablets are a great example --- the RDA is 60mg) are always synthetic crystalline fractions that are missing their synergists and co-factors (more explanation can be found HERE). An example of this would be the difference between raw local honey, and WHITE SUGAR (or HFCS). Yes, both can seriously jack your BLOOD GLUCOSE LEVELS, but few would argue that there is no difference between the two. Whole Food nutritional expert Dr. Janet Lang wrote this about synthetic nutrition back in 2003
"Crystalline means that a natural food has been treated with various chemicals, solvents, heat and distillations to reduce it down to one specific “pure” crystalline vitamin. In this process all the synergists, which are termed “impurities,” are destroyed. There is no longer anything natural in the action of crystalline “vitamins”—they should more accurately be termed drug. Synthetic means that a chemist attempted to reconstruct the exact structure of the crystalline molecule by chemically combining molecules from other sources. These sources are not living foods, but dead chemicals. For example, Vitamin B1 is made from a coal tar derivative, and d-alpha tocopherol (so-called Vitamin E) is a byproduct of materials used by the Eastman Kodak company to make film. However, it is not legally necessary to give the source from which the synthetic “vitamin” is derived. Synthetic “vitamins’ should more accurately be called drugs."
Part of the problem is that in order for your body to utilize these high doses of crystalline fractions, it must use up its stores of synergists. This is why people taking synthetics will often get a big initial "boost" in energy and symptomatic relief, followed by a steady decline in both. One of the biggest names in the "Whole Food" movement is Judith DeCava; a disciple of individuals like doctors WESTON PRICE, ROYAL LEE, FRANCIS POTTENGER and numerous others. Her book, The Real Truth About Vitamins and Antioxidants contains some excellent information on this topic.
"Natural food concentrates will show a much lower potency in milligrams or micrograms. This is frequently interpreted to mean they are less effective, not as powerful. Unfortunately, the `more is better’ philosophy is far from nutritional truth...... Vitamins are part of food complexes and must be associated with their natural synergists (co-workers) to be properly utilized and be a potent nutritional factor. In other words, a minute amount of a vitamin that is left intact in its whole food form is tremendously more functional, powerful, and effective nutritionally than a large amount of a chemically pure, vitamin fraction. 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."
A recent study, 2013's Synthetic or Food-Derived Vitamin C—Are They Equally Bioavailable? from the journal Nutrients, disagrees. Although the authors claim that the, "majority of animal studies have shown differences in the comparative bioavailability of synthetic versus food-derived vitamin C, or vitamin C in the presence of isolated bioflavonoids," they also say that the human experiments show the opposite (synthetic C is just as good as what comes from food). I am not really sure that "bioavailability" is the whole issue here. XENOHORMONES are tremendously bioavailable, but bioavailability is not the only issue in play in this debate. All of which brings me to the interesting pictures found in this post.
When I was in Ethiopia for the adoption of OUR DAUGHTERS, I was extremely intrigued by the third-world's method of constructing ten or even twenty story buildings (HERE is an amazing example). Everything was propped up and scaffolded with sticks. The concrete was poured in small batches that were typically mixed by hand. Each floor was poured with re-bar sticking up in various places for support pillars, which were themselves formed up and poured. However, once finished and covered over with stucco (walls) and tile (floors), the average person would never know the difference in the finished product (see pics below). Not that there is not a difference mind you (recall the results of the Haitian earthquake five years ago), but it is not readily noticeable unless you know what you are looking for.
One of the many things that sold me on the concept of Whole Food Nutrition was the fact that even though the chemical structure of the synthetic vitamins was identical to the chemical structure of the natural whole food vitamin (think about Tinker-Toy like molecular models here), the crystalline structure of the same vitamins as seen under an electron microscope is very different (pics available in Dr. Robert Thiel's excellent article -- HERE) ---- something I learned about at one of Dr. Lang's many nutritional seminars I attended years ago.
In the same way it is simple for third world builders to largely disguise their work, it is fairly easy for unscrupulous manufactures to disguise the differences between synthetics and whole food. Much of this has to do with they language they use to describe their products. Because words like "natural" are not defined by the FDA, they can mean virtually anything. For instance, one could market a supplement made from grass, rocks, and purified manure, as 'all natural' because it is all natural (and maybe even "organic" to boot). CALCIUM SUPPLEMENTS are notorious for being described with weasel words.
The takeaway is that you should be getting the vast majority of your nutrition from whole foods, and the rest from Whole Food Supplements (HERE). The only time you should be using synthetic fractions is for short periods of time to accomplish a very specific metabolic purpose. There is nothing wrong with using very high dose C or SUPER HIGH-POWERED ANTIOXIDANTS for a time. Just understand that they are essentially a drug, and like drugs, come with their own unique side effect profile.
(Side Note: if you click on the pic of Addis below right, you will notice a building going up in the background, just in front of the red "skyscraper".)