Some people were upset, confused and maybe even a little bit frightened recently when an article suggested that multi-vitamins don’t have the power, for the most part to prevent chronic diseases. Today, I’ll take a closer look at that: The study was published in the Annuals of Internal Medicine late in 2013 and it added to a list of several other articles that drew similar conclusions.
As our knowledge of nutrition has increased throughout the years, we’ve come to realize that there are far more essential nutrients than the 13 vitamins that were discovered over 100 years ago. Why should we believe any group of things we discovered from 1902-1937 is or could be complete?
Yet, unfortunately the myth continues, perhaps in part because we haven’t adopted a single-letter recognition for most other essential nutrients . Further, it’s hard to qualify what is essential and what isn’t. It’s obvious if someone gets Beri-beri or Scurvy they are missing an essential nutrient, but other nutritional deficiencies may not yield as obvious of a response and may take much longer to become visible. Yet it doesn’t make the substance any less essential.
Another basic fact is that we now also understand that most diseases and conditions are multi-factorial so the lack of one or several nutrients alone is not likely to cause anything. Cardio-vascular disease, for example usually involves a combination of poor eating habits, lack of consistent exercise, increased stress, being over-weight or obese, having high blood pressure, genetics, high cholesterol, smoking and more; not any ONE of these is mandatory for the condition and a lack of several doesn’t necessarily absolve one from the danger either.
All this to say, the basic fact remains that our bodies require whole real food, with its thousands of nutrients, even IF we don’t understand what each molecule in that food does. And maybe that’s the entire point: part of the fault lies in the Western Society’s desire to break things down into components (deductive reasoning) and pretend that the whole is nothing more than the sum of its parts as if we really had the capacity to analyze all of the parts. “The whole may be equal to the sum of its parts but it is never equal to just some of its parts,” a mentor of mine used to note.
We now know that there are literally thousands of nutrients in food and our bodies require ALL of them. For example, there are almost 10,000 nutrients that have been discovered in the apple. Here’s an analogy: let’s say that the apple was a 10,000 piece jig-saw puzzle and you were going to put it together (essentially what your body does) where would you start? If you’re like most people, you start with the known quantity; the corners and edges. Our known quantity in the nutrition world are the vitamins & minerals; easy to find, we know what they do, etc. But just like the puzzle is more than the edges, our nutritional requirements are more than just the vitamins. Now here’s another part ‘part of the puzzle’: What if I took away the last 500 pieces when you just about finished with the puzzle but gave you an extra 10,000 corners and edges to ‘try to make up the difference’? You can begin to see what a hard time your body has in utilizing these nutrients to produce optimal health.
This is why when I choose a supplement, I choose a whole food one, like Juice Plus+; a supplement made from fresh fruits & veggies without additional isolated nutrients. How do you know the difference? Check the label, does it have a “Supplement Facts” label like vitamins or does it have a “Nutrition Facts” label like food? Many/most green powders also have a nutrition label.
So in conclusion, it’s easy to see why the addition of 20-40 nutrients makes little or no difference and may actually make the body work harder to produce what it really needs to be healthy. The more we return to relying on basic whole food, the healthier we will be. If I can provide you with further guidance, please contact me.