Micro-nutrition and Synergy
The Big Idea Here
It would be too much to ask of you, gentle browser, to read the entire page below without a clear idea of what you’re getting in for.
I imagine myself limited to giving you the Big Idea Here in a text message or two. So here goes:
Micro-nutrients are molecules so important to our bodies’ functioning that, in contrast to other dietary components like protein, fat and carbohydrates, we do not break them down into component parts but absorb them as is. These molecules are like pearls in the ocean, like needles in a haystack; and our bodies have become so attuned to micro-nutrients over the millennia that they handle them in unique ways because of their importance.
Not only does each individual micro-nutrient molecule have many important roles to play in our bodies’ functioning, but they work in concert to define an optimum balance of all of them together. This synergistic optimum, this “sweet spot”, is more than just the sum of each individual nutrient on its own; it is a case of 1 + 1 = 4.
Read on and learn more.
Micro-nutrition and Synergy
I’m going to start this off by quoting the first paragraph of the page on macro-nutrition here. It can do double-duty to introduce my topic here as well:
Macro-nutrition means the bulk of what we eat; or, what we eat in bulk. This is often just referred to as diet, but I want to be a little picky here and draw a distinction between macro-nutrition and micro-nutrition. They are both components of what I’d call diet. That term, to me, includes everything that we consume; and not just those items that we eat in large amounts. What do I mean here? Well, it’s pretty simple. If I eat an orange, I’ll get 85 Calories. This is from roughly 21 grams of carbohydrates (4 gm as dietary fiber and 17 gm as sugars), as well as 2 grams of protein. That’s macro-nutrition from the orange. I’ll also get about 60 milligrams of Vitamin C and 326 milligrams of sodium. That’s micro-nutrition from the orange. I looked this all up on the Interwebs, so it has to be about right. If the units for the nutrients are in grams, then it’s macro-nutrition. If they’re in milligrams or micrograms, then it’s micro-nutrition. If we’re talking about “protein” or “carbohydrates” or “fats” or “fiber”, then we’re talking about macro-nutrtion. If we’re singling out a particular molecule as a nutrient, like a form of Vitamin C (ascorbic acid or a mineral ascorbate), then we’re talking about micro-nutrition. OK. Cool. We’ve got some terms out of the way.
I do not believe that there is much dispute that micro-nutrients like, say, vitamins, are essential components of an overall healthy diet. Vitamins are essential for two reasons: our bodies cannot make them on their own (or in the case of Vitamin D, generally do not produce enough from sun exposure alone), and our bodies will sicken and possibly die without them.
There is something very special about micro-nutrients. In the case of macro-nutrients in our diet, our bodies break those down to their component parts. Proteins are broken down into amino acids. Carbohydrates are turned into glucose. Fats are broken down into fatty acids. Micro-nutrients are like needles in this dietary haystack, like precious gems. Our digestive tracts do not break these molecules down into their components. Instead, they are selected as being special and they are not broken down by digestion. Even if they are not vitamins, that is, even if our bodies might be able to reconstruct them (like CoEnzyme Q10 or Vitamin D for example) they are recognized as uniquely valuable and absorbed as such. This is worth pondering for just a moment, I think. It says that certain molecular components of diet have been singled out (by evolution or by design, take your pick) because, even if our metabolisms can recreate them from other dietary elements, they are too important to our bodies’ functions, or they are too expensive to make, or their atomic parts too rare, so we simply take them in whole.
The value of micro-nutrients has been known for a very long time, even if their exact nature was unclear. Scurvy was known to the British navy when sailors contracted the condition on long sea voyages. The solution, eating citrus fruits, gave British sailors the nick-name “limeys”.
One of the major milestones in nutritional medicine occurred in 1747, when the Scottish naval surgeon James Lind discovered that an unknown nutrient (vitamin C) in citrus foods prevented scurvy, a hemorrhagic disease characterized by spontaneous bleeding, loose teeth, pain, and lack of energy. It was a common and deadly disease – more British sailors were lost to scurvy than to war. In 1753, Lind published his Treatise on the Scurvy. But his findings were largely ignored for another 40 years, during which time 100,000 British sailors died from scurvy. – Jack Challem, The History of Vitamins (web article circa 2008).
But the history goes back even further. The Egyptians were aware that eating liver could cure or prevent night blindness, which is now known to stem from a Vitamin A deficiency. I highly recommend that you click on that link and read Mr. Challem’s entire page on the history of vitamins. You will certainly learn a good deal about the subject of the title.
Recommended Daily Allowances versus Optimal Amounts
For example, you’ll learn how for the 40 year period between 1910 and 1950, most of the nutritional understanding of vitamins had to do with the diagnosis of deficiency diseases, such as scurvy, beri-beri, pellagra, and so on. It wasn’t until 1944 that DNA molecule was first isolated and a year later that Linus Pauling came up with the notion of molecular disease; that is, cellular disfunction based upon the presence or absence of particular molecules.
Ten years after Pauling’s conceptual leap forward, Denham Harman put forth the concept of the free radical theory of aging. A free radical is a form of chemical species (atom, molecule or ion) that is highly reactive because it has one or more unpaired electrons. Although chemists had known about free radicals for quite a while, it was assumed that none could get into the body. The thinking was based on the idea that free radicals, being so highly reactive, had very short lives. A well-known example of a free radical (and one that our own bodies produce both by accident and on purpose) is hydrogen peroxide, H2O2. We use hydrogen peroxide to treat wounds: pour some on a cut and you’ll see the chemical activity as the H2O2 attacks and destroys invading microbes along with some of your own tissue. That our own bodies produced free radicals (including H2O2) as part of cellular respiration was a significant discovery. That other, externally generated free radicals were stable enough to enter the body (as in cigarette smoke) came as big news as well. This aspect of cigarette smoke was not proposed to the scientific community until 1985.
It was the Nobel laureate, Albert Szent-Gyorgi, who discovered Vitamin C (among other micro-nutrients) who first crystallized what has become a significant debate over the amounts of micro-nutrients we need to take. This is the distinction between what are now called the RDAs (or Recommended Daily Allowances) and “optimal amounts”. Szent-Gyorgi called these optimal amounts by a Latin term, dosis optima quotidiana. That might be translated as “happy optimum amount”. The distinction is between what amount of a micronutrient is the minimum necessary in order to avoid a serious deficiency disease, such as scurvy or beri-beri, and an amount that promotes the most beneficial level of health.
Vitamin C: RDA vs optimum
A case in point is Vitamin C. The RDA is 60 milligrams. This will prevent scurvy. As mentioned before, you will get this from one orange a day. Now, I’m not really sure how many people, even in developed countries where food is plentiful, eat one orange per day, or the equivalent. Vitamin C is water soluble, meaning that we tend to excrete any excess in our urine; and this implies that unless one’s Vitamin C level is continuously replenished, it will be exhausted. That’s what happened to those sailors. However, that is not my main point here. Since Linus Pauling started the ball rolling, optimal amounts of Vitamin C have been quoted on the order of 100s of milligrams and even as high as 1 or 2 grams per day or more. So, the question is, is there a significant health benefit in consuming these larger amounts of Vitamin C on a regular daily basis; that is, at levels up to ten times the RDA? Now we have a debate. There are many who say that these larger amounts are just a waste of money. This opinion, for example, is right up front on the Wikipedia article on vitamins.
Supplementation is important for the treatment of certain health problems, but there is little evidence of nutritional benefit when used by otherwise healthy people.
The referenced article, , that backs up this assertion is
Fortmann, SP; Burda, BU; Senger, CA; Lin, JS; Whitlock, EP (Nov 12, 2013). “Vitamin and Mineral Supplements in the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease and Cancer: An Updated Systematic Evidence Review for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.”. Annals of internal medicine159 (12): 824–34. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-159-12-201312170-00729. PMID 24217421.
Without delving too deeply into a critical review of that article, I can tell you that it is a “meta-analysis”; that is, the authors did no new data gathering themselves, rather, they reviewed the existing literature for previous research that had gathered data of interest to them. In this way, they aggregated a large amount of information of a more or less similar sort. They considered studies that had looked at one or more of Vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, B12, C, D, and E; calcium; iron; zinc; magnesium; niacin; folic acid; β-carotene; and selenium. These could be used singly or in combinations; for example, as components of a multivitamin.
There were some very large studies involved in this analysis. Let me quote a couple of the results straight from the paper:
PHS-II found that multivitamins reduced overall cancer incidence after 11.2 years of follow-up (Appendix Table 1) (54). SU.VI.MAX did not find that multivitamins affected total cancer incidence after an initial follow-up of 7.5 years or during posttreatment follow-up for an additional 5 years (51) (Figure 3). This study stratified randomization by sex and tested for a sex–by–treatment group interaction, which was statistically significant (P = 0.02). The sex-specific subgroup analysis showed a protective effect among men (adjusted relative risk, 0.69 [CI, 0.53 to 0.91]) but not women. When SU.VI.MAX’s findings in men were pooled with the PHS-II results, the unadjusted relative risk for all cancer incidence was reduced over 10 years of follow-up (unadjusted pooled relative risk, 0.93 [CI, 0.87 to 0.99]).
Now “PHS-II” is the Physicians Health Study and it tested the efficacy of a 30-ingredient commercial multivitamin among 14 641 U.S. male physicians. SU.VI.MAX (SUpplementation in VItamins and Mineral AntioXidants Study) was conducted among 13 017 men and women living in France and examined a 5-ingredient multivitamin. Well, the authors go on to analyze a broad variety of results that purport to show little if any value in larger doses of single vitamins or minerals, or pairs of them, in terms of reducing cancer, cardiovascular disease, and so on. In this context they state
The results of vitamin supplementation trials have been disappointing at best, despite having a solid mechanistic basis (73). One explanation for this result could be that the physiologic systems affected by vitamins and other antioxidant supplements are so complex that the effects of supplementing with only 1 or 2 components is generally ineffective or actually does harm (74). This hypothesis is compatible with our finding that the best support for benefit of supplementation came from 2 multivitamin trials that used physiologic doses of a wider variety of agents.
Well, there is something that I want to say about this; but it will require a journey into a different rabbit hole for a brief adventure.
The Gold Foil Experiment
I have a background in physics. In my undergraduate training, one of the central experiments of 20th century physics is the Gold Foil Experiment, sometimes called the Rutherford Gold Foil Experiment or the Geiger-Marsden Experiment. The experiment is interesting for several features. Notably, it demonstrated the existence of the nucleus of the atom and was a great leap forward in understanding the inner structure of matter. At the time, there was a popular model of matter that suggested that electrons, which had already been discovered, swam around in a uniformly distributed sea of positively charged matter. Geiger and Marsden, working under the supervision of Rutherford, took a very thin layer of gold, a foil beaten down to the thickness of a single atom, and fired alpha particles at it. Now, alpha particles are the nuclei of helium atoms. That was not quite understood at the time. What was known was that alpha particles had a positive charge and they were much heavier than electrons.
Here is a schematic of what would have happened if the atomic nucleus did not exist, and what actually happened:
What was observed was that almost all of the alpha particles traveled through the foil with almost no interaction. They were diffused or scattered somewhat, but that was not the revolutionary aspect of the experiment. The revolution was the small but measurable incidence of particles that were completely scattered backwards off the foil. This implied that there had to be extremely small, extremely dense, and extremely fixed centers of matter within the foil. Most of the time, the alpha particles passed through thin air. Occasionally, they encountered an atomic nucleus more or less head on, and were bounced backwards.
Another interesting feature of Geiger and Marsden’s work was that in their first experiments, they did not even set up a detector to check for back scatter of the alpha particles. Everyone was so certain that the particles would pass right through more or less unaffected. It was an extremely small number of missing particles in these early experiments that seemed unusual. You don’t have to be a complete physics geek to appreciate what happened here, although reading the Wikipedia article might prove a little exhausting. Just skim it.
Yay! we’re back to micro-nutrition
Coming back to that meta-analysis… The investigators here fire a lot of vitamin and mineral particles at a broad range of serious degenerative diseases. We’re not talking the Vitamin C & the common cold here; we’re aiming our guns at cancer, heart attacks, mortality from all causes. They shoot Vitamins singly and in pairs and with the occasional mineral thrown in for good measure in various permutations and combinations at the thin human gold foil. Most of the time, the vitamin particles appear to pass right through without hitting a cancer or a heart attack or any other mortal cause. But when they put together 5 or more, they see an effect. They hit something.
Conclusion Option 1
There is nothing solid in the human gold foil. Or, in less abstract terms, vitamin supplements do nothing for otherwise healthy people.
Conclusion Option 2
Those larger multivitamin particles are bouncing off something in there. Again, less abstractly, a proper blend of vitamins and minerals may have long term benefits against degenerative diseases.
Which would you pick?
Well, the authors of the study and clearly the person who wrote that sentence in the Wikipedia article chose Option 1. I am more inclined to say that if some commercial multivitamin seemed to have a benefit over other single vitamins, then maybe we should do some additional work on what is happening with the use of vitamins & minerals in combination. But hey, I’m just a physicist and engineer. (If you’re interested in general relativity, quantum mechanics, wireless communications, and other such esoterica, drop over to my other web site.)
What is synergy? It refers to a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Here is an example of what synergy is not:
On the chart above, if you run along the input axis by 1 step and then by 1 more step, you’ll rise up by 2 steps on the output axis. In contrast, here is an example of what synergy can be:
On this chart, if you run along the input axis by 1 step and then add 1 more step, you’ll rise up by more than 2 steps. In this chart, you’re up by 4 steps. What common items are like this? Since we’re talking about food here, let’s consider a sandwich.
We have a couple of slices of bread. Our sandwich is OK with one slice, better with two, some have three, by the time you’ve added four, it may be overkill. Let’s take filling. Say we add some ham. One slice. That’s OK. Maybe two is better, and by the time you’ve added four or more, it’s overkill again. Perhaps one slice of ham and a few slices of salami. Good. Now how about some garnishes? Some lettuce. Nice. Not too much. Some slices of tomato; not so that they are falling out all over. Something just about right. Some salt and pepper. Not a teaspoon of each, just a dash. Now for some condiments. Some people like mustard. Some like mayo. Take your pick and put a thin layer over one of the slices of bread. Not a half cup, just a thin layer. You can overdo it with the condiments.
Perhaps you get the point here. Our sandwich is an optimal blend of a variety of ingredients. Too much of any one of them starts to detract from the entire picture. Too little or none at all makes the final result less than it could have been. Sure, it’s still food; but it’s much better with a little bit of each. Anyone that’s order at Subway knows what I mean. You choose the bread, the fillings, the cheese, toasted or not, garnishes to taste, salt & pepper, some condiments, perhaps even some side items and a drink. Now you have a meal. Interesting concept. A meal. We’ve put together a variety of food items and constructed a meal. Not a basket of pharmaceutical drugs to cure a disease; rather, a meal.
This might be a model for a meal, in chart form:
Too much of anything spoils the dish. There’s a “sweet spot” on this chart at around 5 on the input side. More than that, and things go to hell in a hand basket. By the time you’ve gone up to 10, you’re actually worse off than if you’d done nothing at all: you’ve gone into negative territory. Lot’s of things in life are like this. Turn up the volume on the TV or stereo and things get better, for a while. Too much volume and you’re getting blood dripping from your ears and the police are pounding on the door (you can’t hear them though). Perhaps, just perhaps, micro-nutrition is like a meal. Hmmm. What a concept? Perhaps eating ham every day isn’t good for you. Maybe taking nothing but Vitamin C supplements is similar.
Perhaps it might be good to put together micro-nutrients in the same way that you would put together macro-nutrients: like you would any meal, with an aim for finding that sweet spot of optimal overall taste and nutrition. Perhaps micro-nutrients are not drugs. If we study them like drugs, and they don’t behave like drugs, perhaps they are not drugs. Perhaps they are part of an optimal and happy blend of nutritional components, just like, say, a meal.
Dosis Optima Quotidiana
The best daily amount… How could we possibly discover what might constitute an optimal and synergistic blend of micro-nutrients that just hit the sweet spot? Would that sweet spot be the same for every person? Would a 20-year old female Olympic athlete have the same target sweet spot as a sedentary 60-year old man who just got told by his doctor that he’s nearing Type II diabetes? If their macro-nutritional requirements are very different, why wouldn’t their micro-nutritional requirements be equally distinct?
Let’s go back to my work horse here, Vitamin C. Poor old C is pulling my wagon down this well-worn road today. Read that Wikipedia article that I’ve linked to and you’ll begin to appreciate the complexity behind the simplicity of the name, “Vitamin C”. Like so many other vitamins, C comes in a broad variety of chemical forms; e.g., ascorbic acid and “L-ascorbates”. You’ll see that there are different isomers (molecules with different shapes but the same chemical composition) and some of these isomers behave in very different ways in some biological reactions. Some are effective, some are not. Notably, the food industry uses forms of Vitamin C because it prevents the oxidation of food. (Hold that thought.)
Vitamin C is both an anti-oxidant, meaning that it can prevent or restore damage cause by free radicals, such as reactive oxygen species (ROS) like hydrogen peroxide. It also participates in the production of collagen, our connective tissue (representing 25% to 35% of our protein content). That’s why too little of it leads to scurvy: no Vitamin C, no connective tissue being rebuild, and your teeth fall out of your mouth. Bad thing that. We want to keep that amount of our protein happy, don’t we?
Many plants and animals can make Vitamin C. Along the way, we happy primates lost that ability. To keep our collagen intact, among other things, we need Vitamin C in our diets. Not much argument on that point. The question then is how much and, possibly, along with what else? Read further in that Wikipedia article, and you’ll notice that Vitamin C is used in a variety of metabolic reactions besides the production of collagen. For example, it is used to produce some of the neurotransmitters in the nervous system. It is important for scar tissue, blood vessels, and cartilage.
It also is an anti-oxidant and plays a role in the immune system. Immune cells have a high concentration of Vitamin C, and this is rapidly depleted as the immune system fights infection. It might be useful to observe at this point that the immune system uses free radicals to kill and destroy invading germs. There are two mechanisms by which this happens. Free radicals are introduced into the targeted invader. Also, the invading cell’s own anti-oxidant barriers are destroyed, thereby releasing an internal flood of its own free radicals from within its mitochondria (its energy producing chemical engines). Both of these mechanisms release free radicals into the “battle ground” of an infection. It does not take too much imagination to recognize that our own immune cells have evolved some anti-oxidant defenses against the potential damage caused by their own chemical warfare weapons being used on the invaders.
The article states also that “at-risk” individuals, such as smokers, show higher requirements for Vitamin C than the average population. This makes a ton of sense since other work has shown that cigarette smoke is full of free radicals in the form of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species as well as chemicals called quinones. These free radicals deplete the anti-oxidant resources in the lining of the lungs and allow for the degenerative effects of oxidative stress to continue unabated. [More on oxidative stress elsewhere here.]
The article adds that higher doses of Vitamin C might not reduce the rate of infection with the common cold; for example, but can reduce its duration. Hmmm. What would having a high Vitamin C status (that is, the amount circulating in the blood stream) have to do with one encountering a viral infection? Not much, I’d think. You’re going to encounter a virus or not, and that event can’t have anything to do with how much Vitamin C is stored in your body. Interestingly enough, and consistent with the observation that immune cells are one of the places that store higher concentrations of Vitamin C, and that these are depleted when the body fights infection. Less Vitamin C status, longer time to ward off infection. Sounds reasonable.
But hey! Don’t you be thinking you need higher doses than you’re going to get in an orange once a week or so. That’s a waste of your money! Especially not if you’ve just fought off one infection. Don’t believe that your Vitamin C resources are depleted and your immune system might need to replenish those resources! That can’t be true. (Pssst. Pass the grapefruit, would you? Shhh. Quiet. Don’t tell anyone on me.)
Ever know one of those families where the kids bring home some virus from school and it passes around the children and the parents for weeks. After everyone has had the virus, it starts to make the rounds again; or maybe the next virus begins to circulate through them all. Imagine for a second what their Vitamin C resources are like. If you know a family like this, (or if it’s your family), take a look at what sort of multivitamin they all use. Gummies from the local grocery store. Nothing at all. Are they getting real oranges in their diet? Eating salads for dinner? Or do the kids pick the tomato slices out of their hamburgers at the fast food place? (Who wants salad on a burger, they ask.)
And after this family has crawled its way through the flu season, what does their skin look like (collagen)? How well do they heal after a minor cut (scar tissue)? What do their joints and back feel like in the morning (cartilage)? And what is going on internally with the lining of their blood vessels? But no one in the medical profession should be telling those folks that they could maybe use a little more Vitamin C. Those pills are a waste of money. Not like the antibiotics that those same medical professionals will happily prescribe when the parents bring the kids in after their third upper respiratory tract infection (known as URI in the medical biz). Those antibiotics are covered by health care these days and they are real wonder drugs. The mere facts that they’ll do nothing for viral infections and they are leading to the evolution of resistant bacterial strains is OK. The doctor does recognize that a child’s immune system that’s been depleted in fighting a virus is more likely to succumb to a bacterium. Better write a scrip for an antibiotic (don’t breathe a word about Vitamin C though, that crap is bogus).
That Wikipedia article refers to many studies that show inconsistent results in the use of higher Vitamin C doses in the treatment of various conditions. Why might this be? Well, were there any controls at all for the Vitamin C status of the participants before the study began? Was their any consideration of how depleted some of the participants might have been due to other causes? Was there any consideration of the quality of the supplements; that is, provision of other cofactors necessary for Vitamin C to function? Here is a scientific paper (that link will open in a new window) that, arguably, does present a solid case for the value of Vitamin C together with zinc as a cofactor in the prevention and treatment of the common cold.
Not only does this article point out the efficacy of higher doses of Vitamin C (1000 mg/day) taken together with zinc (10 mg) in treating the common cold, it also points out that the primary reason for the current perception that Vitamin C is ineffective in treating the common cold is due to a 1975 review article by Chalmers. Unfortunately, this paper was bad science. Harri Hemilä has debunked the Chalmers work many times. Still, in spite of the poor original science, the perception persists that Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling got it wrong.
Here we see a solid example of that synergy in combining two micro-nutrients together to achieve a more positive effect than either one alone. It is achieved in the “gold standard” of experimental designs for this sort of work: double-blind, placebo controlled, with controls for all sorts of factors that could confound the results. And what do those results say: a statistically significant benefit in the combination in treating the common cold over the placebo group.
You don’t have to work it out for yourself
It’s been done for you. It’s not that all science professionals are of the opinion that a healthy diet will give you all of the micro-nutrients you need under every possible circumstance. For example, there is (or was) Jane Higdon at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. Her book, co-authored with Victoria Drake, An Evidence-Based Approach to Vitamins and Minerals, is a classic in the emerging field of micro-nutrition. There is also Dr. Ray Strand, who had his own personal conversion when his wife’s fibromyalgia was finally defeated by nutritional supplements after years of failed medical interventions. The recommendations of these two people and ten more professionals have been blended together to yield a current best-estimate of that elusive sweet spot of micro-nutrients. Not too little, not too much. Nothing past the breaking point. Just enough Vitamin C (1,500 mg) together with, say zinc (25 mg) and selenium (150 µg), to get you right where you need to be. And so on.
This recommendation has been published on a regular basis in the Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements, which is in its 5th edition at the time I’m writing this. Authored by Lyle MacWilliam, it is available through Nutrisearch in both a consumer and a professional version.
Do yourself a favor (or a favour) and buy a copy. Read it cover to cover and then start using it as it is intended, comparing the value of commercial offerings of nutritional supplements to support your own personal micro-nutrient needs.
This impressive volume’s recommendations address 18 areas of overall health support:
- Completeness: is a full spectrum of micro-nutrients included?
- Potency: is there a sufficient amount of each micro-nutrient?
- Mineral forms: are minerals bioavailable?
- Vitamin E forms: is Vitamin E present in its most bioactive forms or in its ineffective synthetic form?
- Immune support: is sufficient beta carotene, Vitamin A, B1, B2, B5, B6, B12, C, E, iodine, zinc & selenium present?
- Antioxidant support: is sufficient beta carotene, Vitamin A, C, E, alpha lipoic acid, lycopene, and Coenzyme Q10 present?
- Bone health: is sufficient Vitamin D, K, C, B6, B12, folic acid, boron, calcium, magnesium, silicon & zinc present?
- Heart health: is sufficient Vitamin D, E, iodine, beta carotene, CoQ10, calcium, magnesium, l-carnitine, procyanodolic oligomers, phenolic compounds, & lycopene present?
- Liver health: is sufficient Vitamin C, B2, B3, iodine, cysteine, and selenium present?
- Metabolic health: is sufficient Vitamin B3, B6, B12, C, D, E, iodine, biotin, CoQ10, chromium, magnesium, manganese & zinc present?
- Ocular health: is sufficient beta carotene, carotenoids, Vitamin A, C, E, lutein, & zeaxanthin present?
- Methylation support: is sufficient Vitamin B2, B6, B12, folic acid, & trimethylglycine present?
- Lipotropic factors: is sufficient choline, lecithin, and inositol present?
- Inflammation control: is sufficient eicosapentanoic acid (EPA), docosahexanoic acid (DHA) (omega-3 fatty acids typically from fish oil), gamma tocopherol (a form of Vitamin E), alpha lipoic acid, Vitamin C, D, iodine, flavonoids, procyanidolic oligomers and phenolic compounds present?
- Glycation control: is sufficient Vitamin C, E, alpha lipoic acid, & l-carnosine present?
- Bioflavonoid profile: is a mixture of bioflavonoids present, including citrus, billberry, hesperidin, quercetin, quercitrin, rutin, soy, silymarin, grape seed extract, hawthorne berry, pine bark, pycnogenol, & resveratrol?
- Phenolic compound profile: is a mixture of phenolic compounds present, including cinnamon bark, cranberry, curcumin, fenugreek, ginger, green tea, olive, papaya, pomegranate, & rosemary?
- Potential toxicities: is there too much Vitamin A, iron, etc?
For the time being, don’t worry if you haven’t got a clue what some of this stuff is. [I’ll get around to delving into each of these areas on this site in the future.] For now, consider the simple fact that the recommendations of a dozen highly trained professionals in the area of micro-nutrition have been combined to yield these results. Your own personal physician might tell you that none of this is of any value and that you can take it if you want, but you’ll be (insert rude word for excretion here) it down the drain. My guess is that your doctor will have read less on the topic than you have just by browsing through this page and glancing at my references. Honestly.
If you put together a package that incorporates all of these components, (back to my gold foil experiment analogy) you are firing a pretty big gun at degenerative diseases as well as at simple problems like the common cold. This is much more than what you’ll find in the usual brands of nutritional supplements. Of course, you could run down to your local health food store and come up with a blend that nailed all of these 18 health support factors yourself. That turns out to be rather expensive.
But here’s another question:
Could you do it with diet alone?
No. In a nut shell, no. Why not? Back to my work horse today: Vitamin C. Get 1,500 mg of that from diet; oranges or orange juice. You’ve just packed in around half your daily Calories in the form of oranges and you haven’t gotten around to eating what you need to get your 1,000 IUs (an IU is 40 µg) of Vitamin D (preferably as D3). You could get your Vitamin D from cod liver oil, like I did as a child (ick, still makes me shiver). A tablespoon of that stuff will get you just over 1,000 IUs. But that’s supplementing, not natural diet; so tough! Eat your fish. About a half pound of sockeye salmon a day will do the trick! We’ve got our C & D in just 15 oranges and a good chunk of salmon. Every day.
Want another one? Let’s check the 5,000 IUs per day of Vitamin A? This one isn’t too bad; about ¼ cup of carrots will do the trick. Easy peasy.
How about the 63 mg of Vitamin B6? Here’s a good one: you’ll get just under 2 mg of B6 from a cup of sunflower seeds (which is a great natural source by the way). So around 30 to 35 cups of seeds a day will hit the sweet spot!
And now, let’s drop the matter, shall we? The answer is no.
You could maybe, just maybe, construct a diet that gave you the RDAs of the commonly-blessed vitamins and minerals in a complex diet. I’ve seen diets like this. It’s not that they are bad; don’t get me wrong on this point. Check out Thinner This Year by Chris Crowley and Jennifer Sacheck for example. A great book. I love Crowley’s books. And Sacheck’s diet recommendations are hard to fault.
But by the time you ate enough macro-nutrition to hit the sweet spot of a dosis optima quotidiana of micro-nutrition, you’d have ingested enough Calories any given day of the week to feed a football team. [And it doesn’t matter whether that’s American, Australian Rules, European, Canadian, or anything else. Or maybe one sumo wrestler? Not sure about that.]
Get that book on nutritional supplements. Borrow a copy if you have to. Find it in your library. The most recent, 5th, edition considers over 1,300 brands available in the US and Canada. Several are available internationally. Look inside. You’ll see that each brand is ranked on a system of 5 stars against the 18 criteria I listed above. Out of the 1,300 brands, fewer than 1% achieve 5-star ratings. Only three of these 5-star products appear in the top 30 brands by market share. Most brands are made by a small group of manufacturers and sold under a variety of names by retailers with little interest in more than having product to fill their shelves at the lowest possible price points. Such brands score 1 or 2 star ratings, typically. Some very well-known brands rank at ½ star. Not much synergy in those packages. That’s a waste of money at any price.
In addition to ranking the supplements on the basis of their performance against the Nutrisearch blended standard, the manufacturers are also ranked against a variety of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). These GMP standards include:
- US Pharmacopoeia Dietary Supplement Verification Program
- NSF International Dietary Supplements Certification Program
- Health Canada’s Natural Health Products Directorate (NHPD)
- Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)
- Independent International Standards Organization ISO 17025 analysis
What this means to a consumer is that what is on the label is what is in the bottle, and nothing else is. Nutrisearch does not analyze all 1,300 products on offer itself. Its star ratings are based solely on the manufacturer’s claims on the label. If there is no quality control over a 1-star product that is sold under 10 different retail brand names, how can one trust that it really has what the label states? How can you trust that it doesn’t have some impurity or toxin, like mercury contamination of fish oils?
Manufacturers who meet all five GMP criteria achieve a Gold Medal ranking. Interestingly enough, all of the organizations who achieved the Nutrisearch Gold Medal also ranked with 5-star products. Out of 1,300 we come down to four (4) only with both the Gold Medal and 5-star products that hit the sweet spot of micro-nutrition.
One of these is made in China and available in the US through Amazon. One is made in Canada and available in the US through cross-border shipping. One is available in the US through affiliated health care practitioners. One is sold in the US, Canada, Mexico and around the world (South America, Europe and Asia) through network marketing professionals. One costs $3.73 per day, another $3.33, another is $2.45 and the last comes in at $1.68 per day. The lowest priced product is the one most widely available internationally, sold through network marketing professionals, and provided by a company that’s been in business for over 20 years. If the Olympic athletes who used this brand at the Sochi Games had represented a single country, they would have come second in overall medal count and tied Russia for the number of gold medals.
If you are interested in knowing what that brand is, how you can buy it, and how you can build your own personal business around it, contact me.
If you’re interested in learning more about micro-nutrition, how you can buy it, or how you too can resell it, let me know.
I’m here to help.