Is there really a difference in how vitamins work in the body? You bet there is! If we look at the very basis of what vitamin supplementation is about, it will answer many questions.

It started in the 1830’s and 1840’s with a few nutrition-minded “pioneers”. They recognized that we were starting to show signs of nutritional deficiencies as a result of the mass refinement of foods. In an effort to replace the vital nutrients that were being stripped out of sugar, white flour and simply lost during the canning process, these men looked for ways to supplement the lost nutrients. Sylvester Graham in the 1830’s developed a high fiber product of condensed nutrients to replace those lost during processing. It was called the “Graham Cracker”. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg developed a granola in the 1860’s and with his brother, Will Keith Kellogg, developed wheat flakes and corn flakes. These whole grains, high fiber “Kellogg Corn Flakes” and wheat flakes were initially used to heal
their patients of digestive disorders and were quite successful. In 1893 Charles William Post, recognizing over a hundred years ago the detrimental health effects of coffee developed “Postum” and later developed Post Grape-Nuts with the same health goal in mind. Dedicated to replacing nutrients lost to commercial manufacturing of foods, these men were referred to as “heretics”. Today we find their suspicions about nutrition and its impact on health to be quite accurate. Unfortunately, their products aren’t what they used to be and no longer have those same benefits.

In the 1930’s a dentist by the name of Dr. Royal Lee was particularly concerned about the failing health of humanity that he attributed to the ingestion of “foods of commerce”. These highly processed, refined foods which were quickly supplanting fresh, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and meats, were associated with a myriad of health conditions. He felt that if he could take a concentrate of nutrients and tablet it, people would flock to it. During that era we were ignorant about the impact of nutrition on health and the public reveled in the new “convenience foods”, disregarding the possible health detriments.

Undaunted, Dr. Royal Lee developed several products, including his favorite – “Catalyn”. During this time period, vitamins were being “discovered” continually. Each time a new vitamin was discovered; Dr. Lee would look to Catalyn, his whole food multiple vitamin, do a chemical assay on it and find the vitamin was already in it! This practice continues to this day with equal findings.

You see, when you take a whole substance, you get all the known and the unknown nutrients in it. There are over 2,500 nutrients known to man. We’ve only been able to isolate about 150 of them. When you take a supplement of man-decided-upon nutrients and individually put it in a pill, you are missing an incredible array of other nutrient co-factors – known and unknown. Just because we can’t isolate them, doesn’t mean they have no value in the body. Vitamin F is a prime example. When Vitamin F was first discovered it was decided it had no known value in the body. So it was dismissed and we rarely hear about it - Until they discovered we need certain fats and we now call them Essential Fatty Acids instead.

Every day your body makes about 2 billion new cells. They replace an equal number that gets discarded daily. Every organ and tissue in your body has to be rebuilt, at varying rates, continually. They need certain raw materials to do that. If those materials are missing, how is the body to make strong, healthy, functional cells? These raw materials come from our foods – or at least they are supposed to!

If our diets are missing these vital nutrients, first we must eat fresh, REAL food again. Fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, whole grains and butter. If we don’t, we should “supplement” our diets with concentrated food – whole food supplements. Our bodies are made of food, not chemicals. Most vitamins on the market today are nothing but compressed chemicals. Look at the label. Those words that don’t sound like a food or plant aren’t. The other stuff is “fractionated” vitamins and chemicals. We can’t make healthy cells with chemicals. We can only feed sick tissues and replace them with healthy tissues by consuming real foods, and real food vitamins.

What’s worse is that if you are taking the fractionated supplements (some examples are d-alpha tocopherol masquerading as Vitamin E, ascorbic acid inaccurately called Vitamin C, or beta carotene falsely referred to as Vitamin A), you are stripping your tissues of vital nutrients. Because these and other fractionated vitamins are only a fraction of the vitamin complex, they are inert and cannot work by themselves. They need their naturally-occurring co-factors and mineral activators to work. They are not generally in the products and when not present, it will be taken from your tissues to complete the process. Initially the consumer will feel better on them, but when the co-factor reserves are gone and they feel badly again, the supplement is never of suspicion – but should be. The body is literally worse than if they had taken nothing at all.

Dr. Royal Lee started a company called Standard Process. Their products feed the body by restoring the missing nutrients to the tissues, so the body in its innate capacity can heal itself. There are a few other “whole food” supplement companies, but be cautious - most of them spike their products with chemicals to raise the RDA’s to make it look better. But that ruins it. Whole food supplements are made from the juice of fresh fruit, vegetables, grains, plants and animal products such as liver - only. They are dried under strict controls to maintain the enzymes and tableted. Standard Process is the most advanced on the market, gearing its products towards healing the body. They are available only by licensed practitioners – chiropractors, acupuncturists, nutritionists, naturopaths, etc.

©2005 Holly A. Carling, O.M.D., L.Ac., Ph.D.