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Are “Food-Form” Vitamins Really Better?

Written by Wellness Club on March 20, 2008 – 3:47 pm -

By Dr. Myatt

Long-time Wellness Club member Julie posed this question:“We’ve been taking a multi from another company, but are reevaluating for the new year. The reason we haven’t been taking Maxi-Multi is because we believe that it is important to be as whole-food based as possible, rather than using synthetics or isolates, and we’ve never seen this issue addressed by Dr. Myatt / The Wellness Club...it’s not only about source, but also about isolating vitamins and minerals from other cofactors in their natural food environments…

I already know that your formula contains a better array of vitamins and minerals in one product, which is why I’m thinking of returning to it. And I also know how attentive you are to sources and quality control, which I value highly. But if the elements in the multis are not assimilated and utilized properly, it really doesn’t matter what’s in it. And if the cofactors in the whole foods are needed to help the isolated elements be utilized properly, then I want my supplements to be as close to whole foods as possible.”

Good questions require good answers! Here are my replies.

This isn’t a single question, so let me dissect these comments and answer what I think Julie is asking.

Are whole food supplements are better than synthetics or “isolates”?

Let’s begin by defining some terms for clarity.

A “whole food supplement” would be, for example, getting iron from dehydrated whole beet powder. An “isolate” might be getting the iron from beet powder, but with fiber and non-iron portions removed. And a synthetic would be a source of iron that does not occur in nature, like swallowing a nail for iron supplementation. (Don’t laugh. The “ferrous” form of iron prescribed in conventional medicine is equivalent to swallowing a nail).

The “whole food” argument sounds reasonable, but it’s more marketing ploy than fact and here’s why.

First, many of the ingredients in whole foods actually interfere with vitamin and mineral absorption. Here are some classic examples.

Oxalic acid (found in soybeans, kale, spinach, rhubarb, beet greens, almonds, cashews, chard, and cocoa) interferes with calcium absorption.

Fiber, found in almost all fruits, vegetables and grains, interferes with vitamin and mineral absorption. Fiber is good at “binding” substances, including the nutrients you may be trying to get from food or supplements. This is why I recommend taking fiber supplements away from meals.

Tannins, found in Apricots, Bananas, Berries, Cherries (red), Currants, red and black Dates, Eggplant, Grapes, kiwi, Nectarines, Peaches, Persimmon, Pomegranate (juice), Blackberry, Blueberry, Cranberry, Gooseberry, Raspberry, Strawberry, Black walnuts, Cashews, English walnut, Pecans, Pistachio, Alfalfa (herbal supplement base), Barley, breads with barley flour, Chocolate (Cacao bean), Carob, Chicory and many herbs (and many more too numerous to list!), interfere with mineral absorption.

This list could go on for days, but you get the idea. Substances in whole foods actually often decrease absorption, not increase it, as many of the “whole food source” vitamin manufacturers claim. The claim that whole food vitamins are “better assimilated” does not have scientific validation.

Next, we have the problem of dosage.

Scientific studies, not “by guess and by golly,” guide my decisions about optimal dosages. For example, studies show that for every additional 100mg of magnesium a person gets per day, their risk of type II diabetes drops 15%. And a dose of 340-500mg seems to be ideal for most adults.

Truth is, it’s difficult if not impossible to obtain therapeutic doses of most vitamins and minerals from food sources alone. Even in concentrated form, Maxi Multi’s are still a 9 caps per day formula. You’d need a lot more than 9 caps of food-form supplements to obtain the optimal doses shown in studies to be beneficial.

Finally, there are NO SYNTHETIC vitamins or minerals in my formulas. In fact, the ingredients in Maxi Multi actually ARE “food form.” They just don’t contain all of the “other stuff” (tannins, fiber, calcium oxalate) that could impede absorption. Here are some examples.

Maxi Multi’s vitamin A is from palm oil, a complex of alpha, beta, gamma and lycopene carotenes that closely mirrors that patterns of vitamin A found in high-carotene foods. Palm oil carotenes are absorbed four to ten times better than synthetic carotenes.

Maxi Multi beta carotene (which is also a mix of carotenes, not just beta carotene), is from Dunaliella salina, a micro-algae found in sea salt fields. It has one of the highest concentrations of carotenoids and is extremely well-absorbed.

I could go down the ingredient list, but this answer would be a mile long! Other vitamins and minerals in Maxi Multi are in forms that occur in nature. Most are chelated — meaning bound to a protein molecule — to aid absorption. I have also included digestive enzymes to boost absorption even further.

There is something to be said for a few “natural complexes, ” and I’ve included those, too, when they are relevant to health.

For example, in nature, most vitamin C occurs in combination with bioflavonoids (the white “rind” in citrus is an example of bioflavonoid food), and the vitamin C is found in the “meat” of the fruit. Bioflavonoids have distinct health benefits, with or without vitamin C. But if you were to eat an orange, hopefully you’d be eating the “white rind”, too, and you’d get both nutrients.

So… this is an example of a “food form” containing two beneficial ingredients. Look at your Maxi Multi label and you’ll see that we’ve got citrus bioflavonoids in the formula, not just vitamin C.

If you search for scientific studies which show that “food form” supplements are superior to natural but “isolated” nutrients (as in Maxi Multi), you’ll come up empty-handed. That’s because no credible study — not even ONE that I can find — has actually compared “whole food” vitamins to isolates. But there ARE a lot of studies performed with individual nutrients, and these studies show that positive benefits are obtained with “isolates,” even in people who have weak digestions.

Let me offer a few caveats and cautions to look for when choosing nutritional supplements.

1.) Capsules are easier to digest and assimilate than tablets, with rare exception. This is because the “entabelating process” require high compression of ingredients followed by a vegetable shellac. Many older people (50% over age 50) have decreased stomach acid productions. Tablets can pass through without being broken down, but capsules always quickly dissolve even in weak digestive tracts.

2.) Look for unnecessary ingredients. Artificial colors, binders, excipients and “fillers” can add a bunch of useless — and possibly even dangerous — junk to a formula. If a manufacturer doesn’t know enough to leave this kind of junk out, I’d be suspect of the entire formula.

3.) “One a Day” vitamins. Hahahaha! You can’t get optimal doses of nutrients — including calcium and magnesium (which take up a lot of space) — and high-potency antioxidants — into one or even 6 capsules. I know. I’ve tried. Nine capsules per day, in divided doses with meals, is the smallest “capsule count” you’re going to be able to take and still get optimal — not just minimal — doses of nutrients.

Julie, I hope I’ve answered your questions. But if not, I trust you’ll tap me back and let me know what I’ve left out. And thanks for asking about this. It’s an important issue and people should understand it. After all, not everything that makes “hot copy” (a good ad) is true. But as the competition in the nutritional foods industry continues to grow, you’ll see more and more “arguments” about “why our product is best.”

Everyone is looking for a unique angle to try and stand out from the crowd. I’ve never used a “sexy” angle to try and sell Maxi Multi’s or any of our other products. I believe that people like you who take the time to search for facts will find that our formulas are “the real deal.”

More information about Dr. Myatt’s Maxi Multi can be found here.

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