Natural Health Products: The Intelligent Choice
|Although it's assumed by countless individuals that they get "everything" they need from food alone without supplements, no study has ever confirmed this notion, at least with respect to standards needed to achieve optimum health and prevent the premature degeneration of the mind and body, or prevent the disability we all can see in the geriatric population. "Need" is generally confined to the prevention of classical disease, such as scurvy or pellagra, as opposed to enhancing quality of life, optimizing energy balance, attaining ideal body composition or maximizing peak physical performance. Therefore when someone says, "I get everything I need from food", in the context of classical disease, they may be right. However...
How many times have you heard someone say that they get everything they need in food, yet it's obvious by looking at their skin, over-all appearance and body composition, that they are definitely lacking in some or many of the basic ingredients? Yes, it's true; they don't appear to be "dying" from scurvy or "going blind" due to a deficiency of retinol (vitamin A), although in the context of time as a continuum, that perception may or may not be true in the absolute sense. But it still doesn't mean they are truly well.
Wellness is defined by much more than not suffering from scurvy, keeping in mind that health is the presence of function, which can be measured and compared to an optimum or sub-optimal standard, whichever you prefer.
I can tell you this much for certain. I've never seen anyone come close to receiving optimum amounts of essential micronutrients from food alone, day in and day out, long term, and this is based on extensive evaluation of thousands of dietary profiles. And yes, this includes people who eat health foods, including organics, and are training. Remember, optimum is the highest possible level that you as an individual can achieve, as opposed to the lowest. Instead of creating reference standards that make the weak, tired and overweight look "okay", I prefer to use standards that make the strong, high-energy, lean, and muscular look "normal".
If you put your mind to it, and spend some time in research, you'll find literally hundreds of surveys and clinical investigative studies, performed in dozens of countries by specialists in complimentary medicine that prove that our population is suffering because of simple dietary deficiencies that cause malnutrition, including sub-optimal intakes of trace elements, and insufficient quantities of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. The correlation between this reality and the high incidence of degenerative disease is undeniable.
In my experience as a clinician and health consultant concerned about optimizing form & function and preserving life, seldom have I seen anyone come even close to achieving an excellent dietary profile. Most people find the discipline associated with eating well an incredible challenge, and for most athletes committed to sport and exercise, their diet is by far their weakest link. Why? Because it's easier to train once you're committed to training than to eat with the same devotion and discipline. It's also extremely difficult to apply something you don't know, appreciate or thoroughly understand.
By analyzing literally thousands of diets presented by athletes and men and women troubled by health concerns, or people who want more than baseline health, who want to feel and look good, I have yet to find anyone not lacking in at least one or several of the essential micronutrients, especially the minerals. And of course, mineral nutrition is just one of several variables related to diet that influence our health and function and resistance to disease. Once you get into things like glycemic indexing, the biological value of protein, water consumption, prescription drug use, omega 3 & 6 ratio's or the concept of acid & alkaline balance, it not only gets much more complicated, but also really obvious that we (as in the majority of the population) are incredibly off-track when it comes to eating correctly.
How many of us actually know how much selenium or zinc we have obtained in any given day or week? How many of us know where these trace elements are found, or what they even do? How much zinc is required to maintain a healthy prostate or prevent infection? How about your iron profile ladies? Are you satisfying your biological demand or are you slowly creating a massive deficit of ferritin.
Yes, you can get a food almanac and calculate an estimate, but this standard doesn't take into account where your food came from, how it was prepared, how well you digested it, the state of your gastrointestinal health or metabolic uniqueness. Suffice it to say that each person is genetically unique and therefore requires different quantities of the same nutrients to function in a state of wellness. That 'family bowl' might have worked for some members of your family, but for others it leads to crippling disability and immune system impairment, because for certain individuals, the family bowl just can't supply their "biochemical needs".
In fact, based on Dr. Abram Hoffer's vitamin dependency model, no amount of food could. From the viewpoint of genetics, imagine the possibility that some individuals require specific amounts of magnesium for example, which is beyond what any diet could supply, but is required to catalyze a specific enzyme essential to the production of any number of organic metabolites. Without sufficient magnesium, these individuals can't fulfill the equation of life and energy, eventually creating symptoms frequently treated with prescription drugs.
What if much of the heart disease, cancer, diabetes, mental illness and defects in thyroid function we see in North America are actually caused by insufficient micronutrient supply, as opposed to a germ, virus or bacteria? Or maybe due to incomplete nourishment, exposure to immunization and antibiotics as children, we're simply "set-up" for chronic illness? In essence, most of us assume the nutrients we "need" are present in our food to the same degree as the text references provided, but this is wishful thinking and definitely not true. Variance in micronutrient density in food obtained from different regions of the world is a scientific given, and without actual chemical analysis, it's impossible to know for sure what's actually in food. In other words, you can't tell by looking at a tomato if it contains any chromium, molybdenum or vanadium. Let me give you a hint. If it isn't organic…it doesn't.
How can our food base possibly sustain us with "everything we need", if the soil upon which it is grown is infertile, eroded and stripped through years of "forced mass production"? Without selenium or chromium in the soil, there won't be any selenium or chromium in the asparagus or spinach grown on that particular soil. Plants and people can't create minerals out of thin air.
Without a reliable food supply, and based on the current science of nutritional pharmacology, it makes perfect sense to supplement the diet. "Getting everything I need" from food alone is possible, but only in the context of achieving the lowest possible standards of life, as opposed to the highest level of health and athletic performance. Even the very best food choices cannot compete with what vitamin C, E and lipoic acid supplements can achieve against Sick Building syndrome, smog, second hand smoke and the chemical toxicants in the water supply.
Many people assume they don't need to take anything unless they're sick, but that very assumption is what limits their ability to maintain or achieve the best of health or better their performance, or both, especially as Masters level athletes (>40). It also denies one of the most important tenets of biological medicine, which emphasizes the prevention of illness, infection and disease through sound nutrition and added antioxidant protection. The idea is not to passively wait for disease to strike, rather the key is to take action and control the outcome of your life and health.
When livestock are raised, additional quantities of nutrients are added to their feed. Why? Because fortified food protects animals against deficiency, increases production yield and reduces profit loss due to infection and stress. This is scientific fact, and yet, when it comes to the human animal, dietitians and medical experts somehow perceive that we are exempt from the same laws of cause and effect. Hell, our budgies eat better than we do, yet all the animal care experts I've met still recommend extra vitamins in addition to their "ideal diet" of distilled water, millet and raw seeds. And our budgies don't smoke, snack on junk food or sit in front of a computer for hours on end.
By the way, you don't have to believe in dietary supplements to benefit from them, anymore than you have to believe in the force of gravity to be affected by it. "Belief" in anything, no matter how great the pressure from people around you does not necessitate or imply (in itself) actual truth, and more often than not in the realm of nutrition, most people rely on what they've "heard" rather than what they've actually studied.