Whole food supplements

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Template:Tfd Template:Cleanup Whole food supplements comprise a unique class within the food supplement industry. But the distinction must be made to avoid confusion over the differences between foods, food supplements, whole food supplements, vitamins, multivitamins and herbs. Few consumers Template:Whorecognize the difference and are more swayed by promotion and advertising than by demonstrable evidence.


By definition, whole food supplements are foods that have been compressed into tablet form, poured into capsules or powdered. The word “whole” indicates that the end product — a supplement — does not contain parts of foods, or synthetic or isolated vitamins. Ideally, the foods comprising these supplements have not been subjected to irradiation, contain no pesticide or herbacide residues, contain no GMO (genetically modified organisms), have not been sterilized, and do not contain animal products that have been subjected to steroids, antibiotics or other drugs. The belief being, the closer to nature, the more benefit foods provide the consumer.

Further, whole food supplements should not contain isolated minerals, amino acids, carotenes or any other substance that is not native to, and still intact within, the original food. Thus, a supplement that contains foods plus a mixture of isolated (also called “fractionated”) vitamins, minerals, amino acids and other substances, does not constitute a whole food supplement. Examples of whole food supplement ingredients may include carrots, broccoli, kale, alfalfa, wheat grass, acerola cherry, cauliflower, kelp, wild pansy, spirulina, bovine liver, bovine kidney, radishes and quinoa.


Food researcher Vic Shayne, PhD, writes,

Since the above types of food ingredients are natural, they contain a host of nutrients that exist within a “complex.” A food complex includes not only vitamins and minerals, but also many cofactors (helper nutrients) that are found in nature’s foods as a result of the evolutionary process. Cofactors and food complexes therefore cannot be made in a laboratory nor can they be duplicated by scientists. Many nutritional doctors and researchers conclude that cofactors are often more valuable than vitamins and minerals, and that food cannot be duplicated due to its complexity, dynamism and energy. Cofactors within nature’s foods (which are found also in whole food supplements) include, but are not limited to: vitamins, minerals, terpenes, trace mineral activators, enzymes, co-enzymes, chlorophyll, lipids, essential fatty acids, fiber, carotenoids, antioxidants, flavonoids, pigments, amino acids, whole proteins and more.

The human organism is biologically suited to ingest and utilize nature’s whole foods for its sustenance, including the optimal functioning of cells, and for the processes of healing and prevention. Because vitamin and mineral pills are merely comprised of isolated chemicals, the body often regards these as foreign invaders. Many vitamins, minerals and amino acids produce toxic side effects ranging from skin itching and flushing (niacin, for example) to liver impairment (vitamin A palmitate, for example).

The ingredients within foods operate on a system of synergism; in other words they work as ‘teams’ to feed cells. The interwoven, interrelated and complementary functions of food particles represent some of Nature’s most wonderful properties of synergistic power and function. Synergism is defined as ‘the interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects: working together.’[1]

Where marketing interferes with health. Although the term “whole food supplement” should denote that the product’s ingredients are only made of whole, natural foods, this is not always the case.[verification needed] Instead, many products on the market contain not only foods, but are also infused with isolated vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Therefore, mixed in with the foods such as broccoli, et.al, (as indicated on the label) would also be mentioned —for example — zinc chelate, ascorbic acid, vitamin A palmitate, d-tocopherol, mixed tocopherols, vitamin C ascorbic acid, ester C, pyridoxine, thiamin, riboflavin, rutin, pantothenic acid, potassium, glutamic acid, beta carotene, iron, folic acid, etc. Wherein real, whole foods contain these nutrients naturally, some supplement manufacturers add the isolates to the foods, yet paradoxically claim their products are “whole foods.” This amounts to a contradiction of philosophy.[verification needed] Essentially, these manufacturers mislead the public and are involved in the practice of “standardization,” which is a term used to mean that a certain amount of a vitamin or food chemical is infused into the formula to ensure pharmacological potency.[verification needed] This is a very common practice among food supplements and herbs.

Amino acid researchers Eric Braverman, MD and Carl Pfeiffer, MD explain the potential side effects of consuming amino acids (the building blocks of proteins found in foods) as isolates (not contained within their original food complexes):

Because many of the amino acids are absorbed and metabolized in a similar fashion, there is a great deal of competition between molecules. Sometimes, one amino acid can cancel the effect of others. This adds to the overall complexity of prescribing amino acids to treat disease. For example, amino acids compete for absorption with others in the same group, e.g., the aromatic amino acid group (tryptophan, tyrosine and phenylalanine) and can inhibit one another’s passage into the brain.[2]

Similarly, in defense of the wholistic approach to food nutrients, James Duke, PhD, herbalist, researcher, author and inventor of the USDA database on food nutrients, wrote,

For years I worked with the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) collaborative cancer screening and collaborated with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) AIDS and Designer Food programs. I watched their scientists and contractors futilely follow their directed fractionations in search of the single super silver bullet compound in the herbal potpourri. It became clear that there were almost always, not one, but many closely related chemicals in a species, each of which contributed in slightly different ways to the activitly of the whole herb. More often than not, these chemicals and their activities were synergistic, the whole herb being more active proportionately, than even the strongest single isolated ingredient…[I]t adds up to the whole plant being better than the sum of its known parts…Silver bullets, single solitary chemicals, are still even more likely to upset our genetic phytochemical ratios, and that’s why they are more liable to have serious side effects than natural remedies our genes have experienced over the millennia.[3]

In 1945, Robert McCarrison wrote,

Vitamins will be found to exist — and this is the important point — in the foods made in nature’s laboratory, in quantities and combinations adequate for the due digestion and assimilation of the natural foodstuffs with which they are associated in nature. The subdivision of vitamins into many classes is not without the risks attendant on decentralization. Vitamins, like other essential constituents of food, are not to be regarded as independent of the assistance derivable from their associates in the maintenance of nutritional harmony. Each vitamin is but a member of a team, and the team itself but a part of the co-ordinated whole.[4]

Vitamins and Multivitamins

Wherein a vitamin pill or a multi-vitamin may contain a host of vitamins, minerals and amino acids, they never contain the aforementioned food cofactors/complex. Instead they contain groups of isolated (singular) nutrients that are either extracted from foods (fractionated) or are synthetic (wholly laboratory-made). By their very chemical makeup, vitamins and multivitamins, as well as minerals, are regarded by the human organism as incomplete chemicals that can only be best utilized if the body is concomitantly supplied with the cofactors that allow them to work. In this way, consuming vitamins, minerals and amino acids may cause biochemical imbalances and, over time, rob the body from existing nutrients (which are borrowed to make the isolated substances viable).


Herbs are used more medicinally than are foods, in most cases. Because they are more potent than most foods, herbs are not used on a long term basis to supply the body with the building blocks of health. Rather, they are used by practitioners (herbalists and naturopaths) to rebalance the biochemistry with natural plants. Yet, many herb manufacturers not only include the whole herb in their end products, but also infuse them with isolated active ingredients to increase their potency. One example of many would be the herb milk thistle, known to improve liver health. While some herb formulators use the whole milk thistle plant, others will add to the plant substance the active ingredient (the isolated chemical) silymarin to increase its potency.

Food supplements.

The term “food supplement” has little meaning in and of itself other than to denote that the product is meant to “supplement” or be added to the diet. Thus, the word “food” in this instance may be very misleading, because quite often food supplements contain no food at all. Whether this confusing term is used to purposefully mislead the consumer or is merely an accurate description is difficult to tell, prima facia. Food supplements usually are simply vitamin and multi-vitamin products or isolated chemicals, and may be either natural

Uses of Whole Food Supplements

Whole food supplements are one step away from fresh foods. Since they are somewhat processed to be converted into supplement form, they are not as potent as or as nutrient-rich as fresh produce that can be found in one’s garden, fresh off the farm or in the grocery produce section. Dr Shayne writes, "Yet, because they are whole and contain a variety of nutrient-dense foods with phytochemicals and the complexes only known to natural foods, they are used clinically to reverse diseases and symptoms, to increase energy, and to foster immune system function."[verification needed]

Food science researchers have, in keeping with traditional medicine, discovered that certain foods exert a positive effect on certain bodily systems. Thus, specific whole food supplement formulas are used to feed very specific functions, targeting, for example, the nervous, cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, eliminatory, immune, skin, musculoskeletal, energy and glandular systems of the body. Further, there are some foods that offer protection and immune system enhancement with their ability to remove toxins from the body. The sulfur-containing plants — cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, radish and Brussels’ sprouts — are one example. These vegetables have the ability to convert fat-soluble toxins into water soluble versions that can be eradicated from fat cells and removed from the body through the kidneys. Still other natural, whole foods offer antioxidant benefits to offset the damage caused by “free radical” molecules that rob the body of oxygen.

Fruits and vegetables supply antioxidants other than those you can get from pills, say researchers at the USDA’s Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston. Ron Prior and co-workers fed 36 men and women aged 20 to 40 or 60 to 80 a diet containing ten servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Then they measured the ‘antioxidant capacity’ of the participants’ blood samples by seeing how well the blood deactivated damaging oxidized free radicals in a test tube. After two weeks, the antioxidant capacity of the participants’ blood rose in both groups, though more consistently in the older people. "Based on this and other studies, it appears that compounds other than vitamins C and E and carotenoids contribute a major portion of the increase in antioxidant capacity," says Prior. Among the foods with the highest antioxidant capacity were oranges, cauliflower, and peas.[5]

A fact of modern life is that most people do not regularly eat real, whole, raw, nutrient-dense foods. Instead, most diets consist of cooked and processed foods that are full of artificial ingredients and toxic substances and contain very little in the way of vitamins or other vital biochemicals. Wherein an ideal diet would contain raw spinach, kale, broccoli, poultry, fish, zucchini, squash, seeds, nuts and fruits, etc., the actual diet of most Western peoples contain few of these real whole foods. Instead, the diet consists of hamburgers, fast foods, french fries, boxed cereal, table sugar, potato chips, bagels, cheese spreads, ice cream, muffins, cakes, fish sticks, trans fats, margarine and pasteurized milk and juice. This Western diet has been called SAD (Standard American Diet).

The SAD diet is so named because its ingredients not only fail to provide people with the nutrients necessary for cellular health and function, but it also is active in destroying health, and thereby creates disease as well as a lack of resistance to disease (also called an impaired immune system). Due to the SAD diet, whole food supplements may be used to bolster health by supplying the nutrients that are not consumed on a regular basis. In this way, consumers of whole food supplements may eat a wide variety of foods in tablet, powder or capsule form without having to even “enjoy” the flavor. The convenience and benefits of whole food supplementation make up, at least in part, for the failings of the daily diet. And in many cases, whole food supplementation has reversed symptoms and restored quality of life to those with impaired health.

Because foods are not pharmacological agents, whole food supplements may be taken in conjunction, and coordination with, allopathic medical treatment, drugs and modalities.


Braverman, MD, Eric, Carl Pfeiffer, MD, The Healing Nutrients Within: Facts, Findings and New Research on Amino Acids, Keats Publishing, New Canaan, CT, 1987 ISBN 978-1-59120-037-6

Duke, PhD, James: “Synergy,” Natures Herbs Newsletter, 1999

Duke, PhD, James, The Green Pharmacy, 1997 ISBN 978-0-312-98151-8

Guyton, MD, Arthur, Function of the Human Body, 1974 ISBN 978-0-7216-1407-6

McCarrison, MD, Sir Robert, Studies in Deficiency Disease, Oxford Medical Publications, 1945 ASIN B0007JNC2W

Shayne, PhD, Whole Food Nutrition: The Missing Link in Vitamin Therapy, 2000 ISBN 978-0-595-14476-1

Shayne, PhD, Man Cannot Live on Vitamins Alone, 2002 ISBN 978-0-595-23654-1

University of Maryland Medical Center http://www.umm.edu/altmed/ConsHerbs/MilkThistlech

Additional Resources


  1. Shayne, p. 31, Man Cannot Live on Vitamins Alone
  2. Braverman, pages 14-15
  3. Shayne, Whole Food Nutrition, p. 51
  4. McCarrison, p. 245
  5. Antioxidants, verified 2007-01-04