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Humans cannot break the laws of Nature. They can only break themselves against these laws. Consider the human body and the natural laws that determine how the cells are nourished.
The body is composed of between 80 and 100 trillion cells. Approximately one billion cells must be replaced every hour - 24 billion cells a day. A section of skin the size of a quarter, 1/20th of an inch thick, contains: over 3 million cells, 36 inches of blood vessels, 144 inches (4 yards) of nerves, 1,300 nerve cells, 100 sweat glands. Each cell contains 300 to 800 "power plants" - mitochondria. Each mitochondrion in liver cells has about 5,000 respiratory units; in heart cells about 20,000 respiratory units.
The body contains over 1,600 types of protein, each made of a different number and combination of about 20 to 22 amino acids. Enzymes are one type of protein. Every biochemical reaction depends upon a chemical response triggered and controlled by a specific enzyme system. Each cell must contain from 50,000 to 1,000,000 of these enzyme systems ready to go to work in a millionth of a second.
To carry on the life process, each of the 80 to 100 trillion cells must digest constructive food, excrete wastes, repair itself, and carry on other essential functions. Every cell requires all the known and unknown elements of nutrition.
Nutrients in foods are highly synergistic interactive complexes. Synergy means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, that the relationship which the parts have to each other is the most catalytic, most empowering, most unifying, most functional or effective part. Synergy means that 1 + 1 may equal 8, 24, or even 1,600. Synergistic function produces more and better results than any action of any part separated from the whole.
Perhaps ecology can describe the synergism in nature. Ecology is concerned with the interrelationship of organisms and their environment. Everything is related to everything else. It is in the relationship that functional powers are maximized, that balance is maintained, and that health and well-being is enjoyed. If any part of the ecological whole is disrupted or destroyed, it adversely affects all the other parts and the whole. In fact, the whole is changed, altered. Function or effectiveness is in the unity, the interdependence, the teamwork.
For example, a vitamin is an extremely complex organic substance needed in small amounts yet essential for life and metabolic processes (growth, maintenance, repair, energy). Although often considered a single substance, each vitamin is a "group of chemically related compounds." Separating (fractionating) the group of compounds into single, incomplete portions 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.
Research is elucidating the various roles and interrelationships of vitamin compounds or complexes. Though the nature, chemical structure, and composition of most of them is considered "known," and many parts have been isolated and synthesized (manufactured in laboratories), science has only scratched the surface in identifying all the interdependent, interactive components.
The true potency of vitamins is delivered to the cells through the combined effect of the vitamin complex, rather than a single chemical, and is a functioning mechanism. The discovery of hundreds of phytochemicals since 1990 validates this concept. There is still much about food complexes that have yet to be discovered. Whole foods "harbor a whole ratatouille of compounds" that have never been segregated or manufactured by humans because, until recently, scientists did not even know they existed and do not know how many more there are.
Further, every individual human body is unique in its nutritional requirements. One person may require 10 times as much vitamin A complex or vitamin C complex as another person. Dr. Roger J. Williams wrote extensively about biochemical individuality, revealing that "every individual has nutritional needs which differ quantitatively, with respect to each separate nutrient, from his neighbors."
Although each person needs all the same nutrients, the quantities of each nutrient needed daily are "distinctively different." Each has a "pattern of needs all his own" which, in itself may vary due to environmental and circumstantial conditions. Between two young, healthy men of the same race, one may need 4.5 times as much calcium as the other and 6.5 times as much of a specific amino acid as the other. For some nutrients, the range of individual requirements may be even greater.
With natural foods and natural food concentrates the body can choose to assimilate its needs and excrete what it does not need. This is selective absorption. In contrast, fractionated and/or synthetic supplements allow no choice. The body must deal with the chemical in some manner and can suffer consequences of biochemical imbalances and toxic overdose. A food can be artificially isolated into many of its component parts but the body cannot actually use the parts so isolated. Henry C. Sherman, Columbia University, stated: "The chemist could analyze most foods with as near an approach to 100% as he could analyze most other natural things; but could not maintain normal nutrition by feeding the [separated] food constituents which his analysis reveals." To isolate or separate a vitamin, mineral, amino acid or other component and call it a nutrient is just as impractical as isolating a steering wheel, battery, or carburetor and calling it an auto-mobile. It won't work without the other parts. i
The use of non-food, isolated or manufactured "high potency" supplements, whether so-called "vitamins", minerals, trace minerals, amino acids, sugars, or any other component, does not make biochemical sense. This is chemistry. The human body is concerned with biochemistry, the chemistry of living things. Molecules from living things can be isolated and examined individually. They will conform to all the physical and chemical laws of inanimate matter. "Yet living organisms possess extraordinary attributes not shown by collections of inanimate molecules..." Once separated from the living food, the molecules are dead.
Living organisms - whether plants, animals, or humans - are complicated and highly organized (organic). They possess intricate internal structures and contain many kinds of complex molecules which all work together. Inanimate matter - whether clay, sand, rock, a fractionated, synthetic supplement - "usually consists of random mixtures of relatively simple chemical compounds".
Every component of a living organism - every compound of each cell - has a specific purpose or function. "But it is meaningless to ask about the function of different chemical compounds in inanimate matter; they just happen to be there." Focus should be on function over and above form. Dissecting a cadaver may reveal structure and content of body parts, but there is no living energy; the organs and tissues do not function. So too, separated or manufactured supplements may have some similar ingredients to whole foods, but they lack the living energy, the function, the synergy of multifaceted, natural food complexes.
Living organisms have the ability to extract, transform, and use energy from their environment (soil, food, sunlight, etc.). This energy enables living organisms to build and maintain their own intricate, energy-rich structures, to do work, grow, reproduce, repair, transport materials across membranes. Living organisms are organized in a continuous process towards equilibrium within themselves and/or with their surroundings. Inanimate matter does not use energy in a purposeful way to maintain its structure and to do work. With time, it tends to decay towards a more random, unorganized, chaotic state. This process is called entropy. Isolated, inanimate chemical-compound supplements are "just there," unorganized, dead matter.
Each food, each nutrient complex, has its own unique structure and biological activity. It is the harmonious functional interaction as a complete organic (organized) system that counts. The complementary nature of these forces shows that the relationships of components are orderly rather than chaotic. Scientists cannot create a living thing - life comes only from life. They can break foods apart, thereby destroying the living synergistic principles. Or they can imitate one or more elements from foods (a mirror image which is not the same). They cannot duplicate nature and probably never will.
Food nutrients function when they are all alive, vigorous, working in combination, in unison. Amino acids always work in affiliation with other amino acids. All the B vitamins function together as a whole and with other associated complexes and co-enzymes. Water-soluble vitamins work with fat-soluble vitamins. Vitamin C complex, for example, works with vitamin A complex and in harmony with vitamin K complex. Vitamin E complex encompasses fatty acids including the essential fatty acids. All vitamins have trace mineral activators and appear in foods with other cooperative minerals.
The active, living energy principles in foods are enzymes, the organic catalysts which stimulate activity. Yet, the word "catalyst" is inadequate. "Catalysts are only inert sub-stances. They possess none of the life energy we find in enzymes. For instance, enzymes give off a kind of radiation when they work. This is not true of catalysts." This radiation is the energy released as they work. When food is cooked - 130° F or above - the life of enzymes is destroyed. Oxygen is lost. The food is dead. Its very fibers lose their magnetism or potential. No chemist can make an enzyme, so no chemist can make a natural vitamin or mineral or protein. This is the difference between isolated, non-food, and synthetic supplements versus natural food complexes: one is a dead chemical and the other is a living thing. As life is dynamic, magnetic, organic, so death is static, non-magnetic, and inorganic.
Nature does not produce vitamins, minerals, trace minerals, or any other food components in concentrated or segregated forms, but merges and blends them - synchronizes them - for the body's needs. The idea that ‘if a little is good, more is better' leads to ingestion of megadoses of "high potency," refined, separated, so-called ‘nutrients', that have been dismantled, disassembled, or artificially manufactured chemical "supplements". This will seem to "work" for a short time - pharmacologically stimulating or suppressing some biochemical process. Eventually this method backfires and causes complications and imbalances. The body works to eliminate the excess and what it perceives as foreign, nonfood. It attempts to combine the isolated chemical with other members of the complex which normally appear in food. This results in taking from rather than giving to the body. Such supplements do not contribute to health. They only disrupt it. Balance and function - not quantity - is the key.
Dr. Charles G. King commented: "The same intake of a given nutrient" - as in fractionated or synthetic supplements - "may be optimum, toxic, or inadequate, depending on the intake of other nutrients." Nature always provides "other nutrients" within whole foods - they are complete, intact packages.
Most so-called "natural" vitamins, antioxidants, phytochemicals, etc., sold today are either synthetic products or crystallized extracts of natural products. They are like refined white sugar (sucrose) which is a far cry from the whole sugar cane or beets from which it was extracted. It may be called "natural" due to its origin, but it cannot be considered a food, as nourishment. It disrupts the biochemistry. The extraction process for most commercial supplements employs powerful chemical solvents such as ether, benzene, and methyl alcohol, precipitants such as barium chloride, lead and aluminum salts, and distillation at high temperatures. These chemical processes denature the nutrients, isolates them from their natural synergists, destroys their related enzymes, and usually leave toxic residues. Bioactive, functional processes are gone. These supplements in no way resemble food. And the body knows it! ii
FRIEND OR FOE?
The body uses food concentrates as it deems proper, incorporating them into cellular fluids around cells when needed. This is "physiological appropriation". With drugs, isolated or synthetic vitamins, and other xenobiotics, there is no "physiological appropriation" - no control - because the human body was not programmed for chemicals which it cannot recognize as food. Drugs either stop or slow a certain body function or stimulate some other body function. Synthetic vitamins and other isolated nutrients, standardized herbs, etc. - particularly if they are "high potency" - have pharmacological effects. Usually the body strives to eliminate as much of the substance as possible, as soon as possible. The liver detoxifies or renders less toxic that substance and the rate of blood circulation increases to rush the substance through blood vessels, and the kidneys in order to eliminate it from the body as soon as possible in the urine.
That the body treats crystalline-pure vitamins and similar supplements as xenobiotics (foreign substances) has been repeatedly demonstrated. For example, scientists at Beloit College report that the body eliminates much of crystalline ascorbic acid (so-called "vitamin C") within 12 hours after ingestion. The scientists' suggestion was to take ascorbic acid several times during the day because it is eliminated so quickly. The body is trying its best to get rid of this chemical! Why add insult to injury with more of what is treated as alien or detrimental?
High potency concentrations are not really nutrients but, in essence, drugs. Food concentrate supplements, unlike drugs, will not have a drug effect. There is no euphoria, no immediate energy boost, which is often experienced with high-potency fractions. This "high" is a result of the increased heart rate as the body rushes the chemical(s) through the circulation for excretion - the xenobiotic effect.
Conversely, natural complexes do not have drug effects. For example, potassium, calcium, magnesium and related minerals in food form and in physiological amounts can enhance relaxation or sleep, but do not induce sleep nor depress or stimulate or have any other drug effect. True nutritional supplementation helps restore biochemical and physiological equilibrium - nothing more, nothing less. If a person has biochemical and physiological equilibrium, that person has health!
ANTIOXIDANTS & PHYTOCHEMICALS
"Antioxidants" and "phytochemicals" are buzz words nowadays. For instance, beta-carotene is very popular. However: "The Cancer Institute recommends that rather than rely on [synthetic or fractionated] supplements, people eat low-fat diets abundant in fruits and vegetables, whose hundreds of substances combined might be fostering the disease protection that has been sought in beta carotene."
Antioxidants are parts - protective agents for the more complex and functional parts of a nutritional complex. They are like the shell of a nut or the peel of a banana, a means of preventing or delaying oxidation to prevent rapid deterioration or rancidity. Thus ascorbic acid protects the functional components of the vitamin C complex.
The theory that antioxidants protect bodily cells from free-radical damage is based on in vitro - test tube or petri dish - observation. No one has actually "seen" free radicals do damage in live human or animal tissues. Researchers admit that oxidative free-radical damage may be a consequence of tissue injury rather than a cause. When tissue is injured, the damaged or dead cells must be removed so proper repair can take place. Reasonably, free-radicals could play a role in cellular breakdown in order that those damaged cells are eliminated. This is what takes place elsewhere in nature: an apple turns brown (oxidation) when sliced in order to break down the exposed damaged organic matter. Antioxidants can prevent premature or excessive oxidation. For example, tocopherols protect the functional parts of the vitamin E complex in food and in the body. But tocopherols are not the vitamin E complex. They are only a small portion, a segment, a fragment, of the entire complex.
Foods such as fruits and vegetables contain many antioxidants. Antioxidants usually have, not only antioxidant activities, but many other nutritional benefits as well. "A diet rich in vegetables may help prevent age-related mental decline." Benefits to the central nervous system and cognitive behavioral deficits are thought to be due to the antioxidants in foods, yet there are so many other components that can contribute benefits, including phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals, trace minerals, and so on. Whole foods "offer greater protection than individual nutrients." Study participants consuming greater amounts of fruits and vegetables showed significantly less oxidative "damage" (tissue breakdown). "High intakes of fruits and vegetables provide a better source of antioxidants than [manufactured] vitamins." Whole foods provide the comprehensive, intact nourishing package required for health. So-called "natural" supplements like fractionated or synthetic vitamins, single or combination amino acids, isolated inorganic minerals, etc., do not provide the naturally-occurring complexes found in foods. In large amounts they can and do disrupt and imbalance biochemistry. A healthful diet with whole food supplements provide "high amounts of various natural" nutrients which the body was designed to use.
During this decade, hundreds of "phytochemicals" (plant components) have been discovered in foods. Recent studies indicate that these substances, which occur naturally and abundantly in vegetables and fruits "may prevent, subdue, and even obliterate cancerous cells at several stages of development." They are also attributed with protective abilities against heart disease, eye diseases, and many other conditions. Over 4,000 phytochemicals have been identified so far, and "many more remain to be discovered." Of the over 4,000 phytochemicals presently known only about 150 have been intensively studied. Yet each compound is always found to be therapeutically beneficial. They have been in whole foods and whole food supplements all along. They were never part of isolated, fractionated supplements.
Scientists are not -cannot and probably never will be - sure which phytochemicals are responsible for the protective benefits of any particular food. "These substances almost surely act synergistically - that is, in conjunction with other phytochemicals - as well as with vitamins, minerals, fiber, hormones, and other compounds in foods." For instance, research that showed a link between a high intake of tomatoes and a reduced risk of prostate cancer were studies of tomato consumption. Lycopene, plentiful in tomatoes, was assumed to be the protective element. But no one knows if it was the lycopene or the synergistic effect of many or all the elements in tomatoes. So phytochemical supplements do not make sense. Whole, natural foods are the only things that do make sense. iii
The latest update to the above discussion can be found in PLCO News, Volume 17, Issue 1, Winter, 2008 as quoted from the May 2007 issue of Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.
"For a number of years, researchers hypothesized that eating tomatoes could reduce risk of prostate cancer. The reason: lycopene, an anti-oxidant found in tomatoes. But PLCO data say something else. Using blood samples and dietary questions from over 28,000 PLCO men, Ulrike Peters, Ph.D., M.P.H. of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, found no reduction in prostate cancer risk for men who had the highest levels of lycopene in their blood as compared with those who had the lowest level. Of her findings, Dr. Peters says: ‘It is disappointing, since lycopene might have offered a simple and inexpensive way to lower prostate cancer risk for men concerned about this common disease. Unfortunately, this easy answer just does not work.'" Once again, we still see medical/drug researchers trying to get food results from synthetic, isolated "supplements".
Carotenoids are important players among the thousands of phytochemicals. Beta-carotene has been the most studied carotenoid.
Researchers are trying to figure out why foods rich in beta-carotene reduce the risk of cancer, for instance, while high doses of synthetic, crystalline-pure isolate supplements seem to either have no affect or increase the risk. The results of intervention studies have not indicated "any protective action of supplementary beta-carotene with respect to cancer prevention." On the other hand: "Numerous observational studies have found that people who ingest more carotenoids or more fruits and vegetables - the primary dietary sources of carotenoids - have a reduced risk of several chronic diseases" including heart disease, macular degeneration, and cancer. "However, supplementation of pharmacological doses of beta-carotene for the prevention of common chronic diseases is not recommended..." The same may be said for any nutrient. Manufactured, isolated, non-food source "nutrients" do not function like whole nutritive complexes of foods. Fractionated "nutrients" are not really nutrients - they are missing all other cooperative parts, and the body cannot use them for nourishment the way it uses food. The failure of synthetic, separate beta-carotene to provide the healthful benefits of whole foods led researchers to "actualize the question of whether some other substances that are present in fruits and vegetables provide the protection." Actually, it is the whole food with all its active substances working together that supplies the function.
Food forms of carotenoids (carotenes) are "better absorbed, and function better" in the body "than pure, synthetic beta-carotene." A diet low in beta-carotene (and other carotenes in the "package") suppressed at least one marker of immune response. Supplementation with a synthetic beta-carotene did not improve the response. Supplementation with a concentrate of food-derived mixed carotenoids (a complex) corrected the imbalance.
Studies indicate that large amounts of isolated or synthetic beta-carotene contribute to an increased risk of cancer. But people who eat diets high in beta-carotene have less cancer. Taking high amounts of the fraction can result in reduced amounts of the protective retinoic acid. Can one eat too much beta-carotene in foods? "Not at all. Because it's accompanied by over five hundred other carotenoids, beta-carotene is completely safe when it's part of your diet." The whole food complex is always healthful. Only separated or human-manufactured chemicals cause imbalance or detriment. iv
Taking high amounts, "megadoses," of isolated vitamins is often recommended. However, "opinions differ as to the ideal dose and the ideal patient." These vitamins, usually synthetic, are used as drugs, not nutrients. "There is considerable debate over whether megadosing is healthy and safe for the average person." It is well known that high doses of fractionated vitamins "pose some risks." Foods and food concentrates never present such risks.
Large doses of ascorbic acid (so-called "vitamin C") can cause diarrhea, can increase urinary oxalate excretion which can cause kidney stones in some people, cause excess absorption of iron, enhance aluminum absorption, and cause rebound scurvy (easy bruising, excess bleeding). Tissue accumulation occurs over time; all biochemical disruptions are not yet known. Several studies show the body works to excrete ascorbic acid via the kidneys - just as it excretes any other foreign or toxic substance. Scientists often conclude that lower doses of ascorbic acid should be taken or the doses should be spread out throughout the day because they view ascorbic acid as vitamin C (the "drug" mentality) rather than seeing the obvious: vitamins are conglomerations of many components working together. One study's bottom line was: "there is no pharmacokinetic [drug action] justification for the use of megadoses of ascorbic acid."
Foods are the best source of vitamin C complex. No wonder studies that have tested isolated nutrients "have been inconclusive." Fruits and vegetables with their complex chemistries consistently show far superior benefits. "It now looks like a combination of ascorbic acid and other vitamins, minerals, and plant chemicals - all found together naturally in plant foods - are the ticket to optimal health protection." Bioflavonoids, rutin, tyrosinase (organic copper), vitamin K, and other nutrients always appear in foods as constituents of vitamin C complex. Not so with most supplements. Bioflavonoids added to synthetic ascorbic acid do not constitute a natural complex. This is simply placing two separate chemical compounds together. "Get as much vitamin C (and other nutrients) from your diet."
"It is well known that vitamin C complex is strongly influenced by the amount of vitamins E and A complexes present in the system, as well as by bioflavonoids and other naturally occurring substances." The vitamin E complex, for one thing, helps protect LDL (so-called "bad") cholesterol from premature oxidation (breakdown). Vitamin C complex in the form of freshly squeezed orange juice maintained vitamin E complex levels in the body and significantly reduced LDL oxidation. These nutrients function together, protect each other, and are both - in conjunction with other nutrients - important to fat metabolism, cardiovascular health, conversion of bile salts, immune system response, and many other healthful services. Other nutrients working with vitamin C complex include coenzyme Q10, other coenzyme Qs, selenium, glutathione, and copper.
According to one scientist: "A pecking order exists among synergistic antioxidants, therefore a variety of water-soluble and fat-soluble antioxidants offer maximal protection." It would appear he is describing food!
D-alpha tocopherol is called "vitamin E", by the FDA's definition, but it is only one of many tocopherols, all of which protect - preventing immediate oxidation or breakdown - the functional aspects of the complex that always appear in foods. Most studies with "vitamin E" have used the synthetic form (dl-alpha tocopherol) since it is least expensive and most widely available. "Natural vitamin E" (d-alpha tocopherol) is produced when vegetable oils are refined. Neither form contains all the normal food ingredients.
Nevertheless, the "natural" fraction from refined, processed oils is still superior to the synthetic form according to a review of more than 30 published studies. "Not only is there a chemical difference in the structure of the molecules, but research shows a significant difference in how people assimilate and retain natural and synthetic alpha tocopherol."
However, taking alpha-tocopherol, even in its "natural" form - an isolated tiny portion of the whole complex - can create imbalances. It increases the need for gamma-tocopherol and other tocopherols. Gamma-tocopherol possesses even more antioxidant qualities than alpha tocopherol. What of the other components that occur in the whole complex? Many researchers recommend increasing the consumption of foods that contain nature's complete package of vitamin E complex.
"Potency reflects the functional response of a compound..." (Emphasis added) The issue is how well a food or supplement works or functions, NOT how much is absorbed or shows up in the bloodstream. (Refer back to the PLCO study.) Unfortunately, in most scientific studies, the amount in the blood is the usual "measure" of success. Notably, "changes in bioavailability can result in varying efficacy." Can the body's cells use the compound as nourishment or is it treated as an alien substance, a drug and rushed through the bloodstream? Thoughtful researchers agree that "new methods have to be developed to reassess the potency factor in humans," and, in the case of vitamin E, "perhaps based on an enhanced understanding of vitamin E function." Alpha-tocopherol without the rest of the E complex, especially in high doses, can cause leaching of calcium from bones, increase the risk of hemorrhagic strokes, cause excessive bleeding, headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, nausea, and other problems. Fractionated or synthetic forms of "vitamins" C, E, and beta-carotene do not improve immune response. Synthetic dl-alpha-tocopherol can adversely affect immune balance and be harmful to people with immune system disorders. Alpha tocopherol does not lower the risk of heart attacks, but vitamin E-rich foods - even if high in fat - do prevent heart attacks. Study results "suggest that an excessive amount of [alpha]- tocopherol supplements can cause more harm than good." Tocotrienols, another fractionated compound attributed with "vitamin E activity," have "no marked favorable effects" on cholesterol or triglyceride levels or platelet function as claimed.
The same theme occurs with all vitamins. "Too much [fractionated or synthetic] vitamin D can be toxic, but it's nearly impossible to get too much from food, and it is impossible to get too much from sun exposure." Nicotinic acid (niacin, synthetic vitamin B3), used pharmacologically to lower blood cholesterol levels, often causes gastrointestinal irritation and, among its many other adverse effects are intense dental and gingival (gum) pain, flushing, blurry vision (maculopathy), and itching. Megadoses of synthetic B6 (pyridoxine) can cause sensory neuropathy with pain, numbness and weakness in the limbs, peripheral neuropathy, particularly numbness and tingling of the hands and feet, muscle weakness and bone pain.
Excessive intake of synthetic folic acid contributes to vitamin B12 deficiency and can cause progressive neurological damage in people with B12 deficiency. Large amounts of separated or manufactured choline can cause low blood pressure and a fishy body odor. The "vitamin B12" used in most all supplements is cyanocobalamin, an "artifact of the original extracting process" which "does not exist naturally." There is a "theoretical risk of toxicity" because cyanide "in sufficient concentration is of course a poison." Small amounts are used so as not to cause immediate serious problems, though acne and other side effects have been reported. This means cyanocobalamin is treated like a drug by the body, not as a nutrient.
Most vitamin supplements on the market are synthetic. Ascorbic acid is synthesized from refined corn sugar - a "natural" product - but "the synthesis requires a virtual array of industrial chemists." This is NOT a food. Some B vitamins are produced through bacterial synthesis - strains of bacteria are cultivated to excrete large amounts of these chemicals - a "natural" source (bacteria), but not really food for humans. Most so-called "whole food" supplements are a mix of synthetic and/or isolated vitamins, minerals, and amino acids with a bit of dehydrated foods.
The word "natural" on a label has little or no meaning. The real question is whether a supplement is truly a whole food complex or compilation of single chemical substances. Is the purpose of the supplement one of cellular nourishment to support biochemical equilibrium, or to obtain "quick" drug effects? "Too frequently the vitamin industry and its critics take single vitamins or other nutrients and treat them as if they were drugs or medicines." When many single, denatured vitamins, non-food minerals, or other fractions are combined in a supplement, the intent and effect is still "polypharmacy," not nutrition. v
Mineral supplements "come from a variety of natural and unnatural sources." For example, some calcium supplements are derived from oyster shells - a "natural" source though not usable as food - or calcium carbonate (chalk or rock) - another "natural" source but certainly not food. Some are produced industrially. Generally, citrates such as calcium citrate (citric acid and calcium salt), aspartates such as zinc aspartate (L-aspartic acid and zinc salt), and chelates such as magnesium glycinate (L-glycine and magnesium salt) are considered to be better absorbed than "inorganic" mineral compounds such as sulfates like iron sulfate (sulfuric acid and iron salt) or oxides like magnesium oxide (Milk of Magnesia, maglite, mineral rock). Calcium lactate (lactic acid and calcium salt), if prepared by neutralization of lactic acid from fermentation of molasses or whey (rather than dextrose or another refined sugar or starch) is easily absorbed. The question is: are they food complexes? Can the body use them as food? Minerals or trace minerals never appear in foods by themselves or combined with merely one amino acid or one other compound. From a nutritional viewpoint, mineral elements may appear in one or more of four general forms: organic or inorganic, colloidal or crystallloidal.
An organic mineral is "in some chemical combination that is peculiar to the reactions of a living cell" - it has been acted upon by plant or animal life. Such a combined mineral may be either crystalloidal or colloidal. For example, phytin in wheat bran is crystalloidal and lecithin in wheat germ is colloidal, yet both carry organic phosphorus and magnesium.
An inorganic mineral is in a form that must be acted upon by living cells. Plants take inorganic mineral elements from the soil, water, and air, and convert them into live organic elements. The most vital factors in this conversion process are enzymes and the influence of the sun's rays which generates chlorophyll. Inorganic mineral forms may be used by living cells of both plants and animals, but they are not live - enzyme-active - and must be converted to organic forms.
Studies indicate that inorganic minerals can be taken into the body and will serve a specific function. However, about 10 to 20 times more of them are needed to get the same effect as from organic minerals. Taking large quantities of inorganic minerals presents a "risk of overload" - of upsetting the delicate metabolic balance and taxing the system to combine with real nutrients and, utilize, or excrete the excess. Ferrous sulfate, for example, is an inorganic source of iron most often prescribed by MDs for iron-deficiency anemia. Black stools, nausea, heartburn, and constipation or diarrhea are common effects since very little (about 5%) is absorbed and it is irritating to the gastrointestinal tract. Iron in food complexes is absorbed much easier without adverse effects, and is needed in much smaller amounts.
A colloidal mineral is dispersed in some medium, often viscous. It may be either organic or inorganic. The crystalloidal form is the "pure" mineral substance, and will form crystals. To form colloidal minerals some other substances must be present. The difference is in the molecular makeup; the colloid molecule is composed of a group of perhaps 50,000 crystalloid molecules. This is why it will not pass through a cell wall or other organic membrane. When in unaltered foods, colloidal minerals can be converted into smaller, usable components. "Colloidal mineral" supplements are usually a mixture of clay and water - not a food. [See the article Weight Loss and Diet Products.]
Many colloids in living cells are proteins. In plants, mineral molecules are attached to proteins. Raw milk contains a colloidal form of calcium compound which is protein in nature. Heat denatures proteins and destroys enzymes, so cooking destroys the colloidal form of plant minerals, and pasteurization destroys the availability of calcium from milk. Despite the millions of dollars in advertisements (got milk?) there is no -bioavailable- calcium in pasteurized milk.
Minerals function in the body in numerous forms, so the "best" supplement is a matter of controversy. Calcium lactate, for example, often produces "spectacular results" in some symptoms of calcium deficiency (e.g. fever, fever blisters, cramping) but may fail for some people or fail in other situations. Associated nutrients may be needed (such as magnesium, manganese, boron, vitamin complexes A, C, D, or E, unsaturated fatty acids, etc.) or another form of calcium. Food complexes always contain related, cooperative nutrients. It is best to obtain nutrients from a variety of food sources since individual foods differ in content.
Minerals (including trace minerals) are usually best consumed in organic form, particularly in raw foods. When foods are cooked or processed, the minerals are converted into inorganic forms and cannot as readily furnish nourishment for the cells.
Manufactured magnesium preparations "may give the more or less immediate results claimed for them" - especially when large amounts are administered for a pharmacological effect - but "such results are purely temporary." Real nourishment comes from real, whole, living food. Overuse of Milk of Magnesia is "risky". In large amounts, isolated, nonfood sources of magnesium (particularly in antacids, laxatives, and analgesics) "can interfere with the functioning of the heart and other organs, and can eventually lead to kidney failure." Signs of overdose may include confusion, drowsiness, nausea, and vomiting. Natural food sources of magnesium are known to benefit the heart and other organs, musculoskeletal system, lung tissues, nervous system and other areas.
‘Overdosing' on food magnesium is unknown. Naturally-occurring magnesium in water has a protective effect against cardiovascular disease. It is important in enzyme systems, energy metabolism, vascular tone, and cell membrane transport. Nature does not provide nutrients in foods or water that disrupt or harm biochemistry. Human manipulation or production usually does and sometimes fatally so.
Some clinicians recommend taking isolated magnesium "to bowel tolerance" - until loose stools or diarrhea appears - which can be any amount over 500 milligrams (mgs), depending on the individual. Not only is this a sign of overdosing, but a sign of rejection. Such nonfood magnesium is not well absorbed so causes diarrhea. Whole foods can be used by the body for needed detoxification, yet they are not treated as alien substances.
Supplementation with isolated calcium has been shown to inhibit iron absorption and can lead to iron deficiency. Yet calcium and iron - in their natural complex form - appear together in many foods and are both properly absorbed and used. Excess isolated calcium supplementation may contribute to bone brittleness - too much of one mineral imbalances other minerals and nutritives. In this case, magnesium levels may become too low, protein binding may be affected, trace minerals as manganese may be lowered, and so on. Whole foods provide the whole nutritional package and allow for selective absorption. High doses of isolated manganese (over 10 mgs a day) can cause disruptions and imbalances including zinc deficiency. Some clinicians recommend 50 mgs a day! But there are no cases of manganese toxicity from "dietary intake" of foods.
Large amounts of iron can negatively affect zinc absorption. "However, when iron and zinc are given in a meal, this effect is not observed." Iron deficiency anemia is often treated with nonfood and unnatural iron sources; administration is either given daily or intermittently. "Side effects" (unwanted effects) with intermittent supplementation are less severe than daily supplementation. This reveals the xenobiotic or pharmacological effect. Giving "non-therapeutic doses" - either lower or proper physiological amounts - reduces "the risk of iron-loading pathologies." More people these days - including a full 13% of participants in the Framingham Heart Study - test positive to iron overload. The primary sources? Nonfood supplements and "iron-fortified" foods. Ascorbic acid increases absorption of iron. An overload stresses the liver, immune system, heart, and other areas. Ironically, "functional" iron deficiency is still prevalent. Chemicals are not the answer. Food complexes are - they work nutritionally, not pharmacologically.
The typical American diet is zinc-deficient. Large doses (over 50 or 60 mgs) of zinc can cause copper, iron, and other mineral deficits and other imbalances. "There are drawbacks and dangers in zinc supplementation." Megadoses can impair formation of red blood cells and depress normal cholesterol. Doses as small as 50 mgs can have adverse effects such as nausea and gastrointestinal problems. Thus it "pays" to get as many nutrients as possible "from your diet," emphasizing organic foods because organic soils are richer in minerals than conventional soils.
Copper is frequently in multivitamin/mineral supplements and "fortified" cereals in nonfood form. Copper pipes add copper to water. A copper excess or imbalance can develop. Too much nonfood copper can deplete stores of zinc. It can cause skin problems, loss of hair, hypothyroidism, reduced libido, insomnia and other sleep disorders, nervous disorders, immune dysfunction, and other disruptions.
Clinicians sometimes recommend high doses of nonfood selenium. High daily doses of 800 micrograms (mcgs) or more "can be potentially fatal or toxic, causing hair loss, nausea, gastrointestinal upset, tooth and nail problems, liver and respiratory problems. A dose of 200 mcgs a day is "within the normal range of dietary intake..." Noteworthy is the admission: "Inorganic forms of selenium [selenite, selenate] cannot be metabolized in the body the same way as organic forms and can be highly toxic." The best way to get trace minerals - and all other nutrients - is from natural food sources. vi
Amino acids are the simplest structural units of proteins. An amino acid is never found alone in any whole, natural food. In live foods, enzymes (proteins) contain various combinations, amounts, and configurations of amino acids. At least six amino acids are denatured by heat; cooking disrupts or degrades proteins so they cannot be used in the same manner as unaltered proteins. Hydrolyzed proteins (such as the soy in many protein powders) are heated, processed and not used as proteins; rather, they are metabolized more as sugars.
Just as vitamins and other nutrients in foods must be in their natural, complex, unaltered form to be effective, so too with amino acids. They must be ingested in a complete, natural form to be successfully utilized. The human body is a machine or power plant designed to operate with biochemical fuel. Fractions or isolates of vitamins or amino acids or any other nutrient are not live complexes - they disturb physiological equilibrium.
Supplemental single amino acids or combinations of isolated amino acids are often prescribed. The "natural" forms are identified by the letter "L" before the name and synthetic forms are identified by the letter "D". Nature makes only the L-form and the body can use only the L-forms nutritionally. Yet nature never places one amino acid in any food without additional amino acids, other associated nutrients, enzymes, coenzymes, and other co-workers. Single amino acids "are no more than drugs and the prescribing of amino acids in individual mega-doses is no more than pharmacological folly." Any amino acid supplement, taken in large amounts, can significantly alter brain biochemistry and cause other problems.
Large doses of tryptophan cause a serious depletion of pyridoxine (vitamin B6) and an abnormal excretion of xanthurenic acid, leading to an elevated level of urate in the blood with a potential for depleting molebdenum and iron-containing flavoprotein. The artificial sweetener aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet, Crystal Light), a combination of amino acids, will lower levels of the neurotransmitter, serotonin. It can seriously damage nerve fibers, cause metabolic acidosis, and contribute to other disturbances. In this country today there is an epidemic of multiple sclerosis and lupus erythematosus whose origin is a medical mystery, but non-medically it has been traced to aspartame. The MS form is reversible but the lupus form is not.
Large doses of L-carnitine can cause gastrointestinal upset and body odor. Large amounts of L-arginine can lower blood pressure and upset calcium metabolism, increasing susceptibility to recurrence of herpes outbreaks. Large doses of L-lysine can increase serum cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Glutamine supplementation "might create inappropriate neuroexcitatory stimulus" - nervous system side effects such as mania. The supplement, 5- hydroxy-tryptophan (5-HTP) has sedative and hypnotic effects (drug effects); with consistent use it can cause forms of insomnia, gastrointestinal effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and other problems. Creatine in large doses may cause increase in plasma or serum creatine and renal function deterioration in susceptible individuals. Phenylalanine can cause - in people sensitive to high doses - heart palpitations, shortness of breath, headaches, anxiety, high blood pressure, insomnia, and hyperactivity.
The synthetic form of carnitine (D-carnitine) in any dose can cause neurological damage (degeneration). No wonder many doctors "recommend avoiding all forms of synthetic amino acids." Whether in natural or synthetic forms, it is known that "increased amounts of isolated amino acids can have adverse effects on the body." vii
Isolated, nonfood, or synthetic supplements have a limited effect compared to their natural complex counterparts found in whole-foods. They can have drug-like - rather than nutritional - effects and can produce symptoms from constipation and headaches to kidney and liver damage. They can and do create biochemical imbalances which are worse than deficiencies.
All vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes, co-enzymes, phytochemicals, and any other forms of nourishment found in nature come "packaged" with an abundance of other nutrients in an interrelated, balanced arrangement to ensure their optimal absorption and use (function) in the body. This is the safest, best way - Nature's way - of providing nutrition. Chemists, try as they may to duplicate Nature's way, cannot do so. Compared to fractionated or manufactured supplements, a much smaller quantity of food complexes are required - "high" potency is absolutely not needed for the most effective function. Nature is the best chemist.
Whole natural foods and food supplements (if properly processed) are enzymatically alive (Greek, bios). Human-made (synthetic) or separated (dissected) supplements are dead chemicals. Ingestion of lifeless chemicals which the body may treat as toxic, and which can cause deficiencies, imbalances, or other adverse reactions, will not really build health. Human health requires live bio-chemicals that are readily accepted and used for maintenance, repair, energy, and function. Does the body know the difference? Absolutely! It is a matter of chemistry versus biochemistry. viii
This website has excellent nutritional protocols for your health problems which are available in conjunction with the Symptom Survey. Take the Symptom Survey to discover specifically what nutrition you need for your individual health problems. I want to emphasize that the whole-food nutrition I recommend CANNOT be purchased in any retail store: so-called "health food" store, drug store, super market, etc. The whole-food nutrition I recommend will help rebuild your body and help restore your health. Those other products will only give you a pharmaceutical (drug) effect. They will attempt to deal with your symptoms, which is the ONLY thing any drug can do, while leaving the state of your health unchanged.
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viii A. Wigmore, Wheatgrass Book, pp.26, 38, 39; J. DeCava, Real Truth About Vitamins and Antioxidants, p.279.
Originally published as an issue of Nutrition News and Views, reproduced with permission by the author, Judith A. DeCava, CNC, LNC.