When we meet someone for the first time and share what we do, it often seems to open the gateway to a game of 20 questions. “What do you think about the Paleo diet?” “It’s a good thing to give up gluten, right?” “Is a banana bad for me?” “So, do you always eat healthy?” When we’re asked these kinds of questions, we’re happy to answer them. We feel grateful that people feel comfortable enough to ask. Here's a recent question we were asked...and here's the answer!
Question: Are “whole food” supplements better than regular supplements?
Answer: There’s little argument that a healthy, well rounded diet is superior to a poor diet with dietary supplements filling in the gaps. Regardless, the supplement industry is booming, raking in over 28 million dollars in 2010 alone. While research indicates that isolated nutrients, such as vitamin C and B12, may help prevent deficiencies like scurvy and anemia, evidence that supplements offer the same health benefits as real food is lacking. In response to our growing appreciation for the health benefits found in whole food, some supplement manufacturers are marketing “whole food” supplements, derived from whole foods, such as vegetable juice powder and pulp from carrots, beets, kale, broccoli, and other fruits and vegetables. Though it may seem like these supplements provide nutrients closer to the way nature intended, there’s little evidence backing up their benefits over conventional supplements. Consolidating all the benefits of plants, from vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemials, into a single pill—no matter its source—is highly unlikely. And whole food supplements are costlier than regular supplements; about 90 cents to $1.00 per dose vs. 10 – 20 cents per dose, respectively.
This Q &A was written by McKenzie for the "Ask the Expert" section in the April 2013 issue of Environmental Nutrition.