You Should Know

June 2015 Issue




The Whole Truth About Whole Food Supplements

Increasingly, people want to know where their food comes from. They want to know who grew their lettuce, if the eggs were from cage-free chickens, and how the beef cattle were raised. So, it seems only natural that the same curiosity might apply to dietary supplements. This explains the emergence of whole food dietary supplements, such as vitamins, minerals, and botanicals that promise they originate from more “whole” sources.

What is a whole food supplement? Manufacturers of whole food supplements claim that, unlike conventional, synthetic supplements, their products provide natural nutrients in a form that’s more recognized and better utilized by the body and therefore, more effective. The belief is that these supplements contain not just isolated nutrients, as most conventional supplements do, but other naturally occurring, health-promoting plant compounds known as phytonutrients.

However, not all whole food supplements are created equal. Some manufacturers use a food base and then add synthetic nutrients. Others use nutrients that come from fermented yeast or algae, items not typically found on the dinner plate. Then there are supplements that contain only nutrients from whole foods.

Dawn Jacobs, corporate nutritionist of the supplement maker Garden of Life, says the process for the

“mykind” line of whole food supplements is essentially cooking down non-GMO, organic fruits and vegetables to a concentrate and then putting the nutrient-rich concentrate in a tablet. Because such whole food supplements come from, well, whole foods, it only makes sense that some of the natural phytonutrients would come along for the ride.

Are they better? EN was unable to find any independent analysis measuring the thousands of natural phytonutrients whole food supplement makers claim their products contain. In fact, because of the vast number of compounds that could be present, testing is seldom, if ever, done. And there is inadequate research to support the theory that whole food supplements are better absorbed than conventional supplements.

If you want a whole food supplement, be prepared to pay four or five times as much as you would for conventional supplements. And know that there’s no guarantee that all the natural compounds found in whole foods will be found in whole food supplements. Keep in mind that there are no regulations for the term “whole food supplement.” If you want to know how your whole food supplement was processed, you’ll have to do some sleuthing on your own.