It happened—again. More time and money has been wasted on the same old, tired story, rewritten in yet another way. And all to promote a nonsensical idea.
What is this story? Simply another article trying to convince us that nutritional supplements are a waste of money at best and dangerous for our health at worst. Read it for yourself here.
Like clockwork, a version of this “article” comes out once or twice a year, always drawing the same conclusions. By now you would think it is settled science. Just put a final nail in the coffin and move on. But there is always another side to the story, and anytime you hear the words “settled science,” alarm bells should go off in your head that make you question what you are told even more.
The devil is in the details. Hundreds of supplement companies have products on the market, but it is worth noting that most of them are owned by one of only 14 different mega-corporations, including drug companies like Pfizer and Bayer. The main focus of these corporations is obviously on their much more profitable (not to mention dangerous and deadly) pharmaceuticals, but that does not mean they are willing to miss out on their slice of the 160 billion-dollar global supplement sales pie. You could even get in on the action yourself. Just find a compounding pharmacy that can custom-create any mixture you want. Slap your own label on it, and you are suddenly in the supplement business! It really is that easy.
The problem with most supplements on the market is limited thinking—the idea that vitamins and minerals only have to resemble something natural. For example, ascorbic acid is often called vitamin C, but true vitamin C is a full complex of synergistic elements, all of which are required for it to be used correctly. Or take calcium carbonate, which shows up in many supplements even though the body cannot digest this form of calcium. Also consider that different forms of vitamin B (or something that resembles it) can be converted from coal tar and petroleum waste products. Quality doesn’t matter. Whatever the supplement, it need only be similar enough to what is thought to be the chemical structure of its nutrients.
How is it that all of these articles come to the conclusion that supplements are a waste of money? Are they based on controlled clinical studies of every single supplement on the market designed to address the individual needs of a variety of patients? Of course not. Most of these studies simply take a random sample of supplements and look at the results after a relatively short period of time. There is nothing about these protocols that would pass muster in a clinical setting such as at our office.
Then there are the supplements themselves. Do they contain actual nutrients or synthetic chemicals? Are the nutrients altered in any way when processed into a tablet or powder? To put this in context, let us imagine a similarly designed study that sets out to answer this question: can the type of shoes players wear affect their performance in a basketball game? Hundreds of companies produce thousands of types of shoes, but this study will take a sample from the market and look at wooden clogs, bedroom slippers, ballet pointe shoes, five-inch stiletto heels, and steel-toed work boots. After several trials, our findings show that none of the shoes improve running or jumping ability as it relates to basketball. Therefore, we conclude, buying new shoes is a waste of money. Is this a fair and balanced conclusion? How could the study be designed to get better results in the future? Obviously, we could start with a better premise. All shoes are not made the same, just as all supplements are not made the same.
At least this article hints at the right idea, saying that “it is reasonable to think key vitamins and minerals could be extracted and packaged into a pill—saving trouble and expense of maintaining a balanced diet.” The reality is that a supplement should be “supplemental” to a good diet, and the best nutrients do indeed come from natural whole foods. Nature knows what she is doing when she packages our nutrition in various ways. We need fiber, enzymes, trace minerals, and the full complex of nutrients. We even need the dirt and bacteria that come with some foods!
Nature has already done the work, but we never give her any credit. We are always trying to reinvent the wheel, believing we can do it better. Though articles like this one prove that we will never outsmart nature, there was one human who had a shot at it: Dr. Royal Lee. He was a rare genius who had the wisdom to work with nature rather than against it. When Dr. Lee started Standard Process, he used minimal processing and kept the foods as whole as possible. Nothing synthetic, nothing foreign. This approach reflected the philosophy that defined much of Dr. Lee’s career—nature alone can provide natural healing potential to a living body.
For a deeper dive into why your doctor would even think about using whole food nutritional supplements (hint: because they work), check out Why Your Doctor Offers Nutritional Supplements. And when you are in the market for a trusted healthcare practitioner for yourself and your family, keep these ideas in mind and find one who uses the kind of high quality whole food supplements such as those made by Standard Process.
Images from iStock/Katsiaryna Voitsik (main), kadmy (pharmaceutical company), wildpixel (whole food supplement).