We have all had those moments where it feels like we just cannot resist our food cravings. They take over our rational thoughts. Whether we are trying to avoid sweets or certain types of foods like grains, the craving can be so strong that we are willing to forego our long-term goals such as losing weight or feeling better. In many cases, even when we know that certain foods make us feel sick, we still give in to the temptation. What is causing us to make the same mistakes over and over again? And how can we break the cycle?
There are many passionate people in the natural health product industry that fight to preserve its reputation and integrity. Unfortunately, the industry is also beset with constant pressures to keep up with the latest fad. This is both unfortunate and sad because by definition a fad implies some trend devoid of science. It is something concocted to be the flavor of the month purely for marketing purposes, and we have seen many such fads in the past that have only tarnished the reputation of the industry. These detrimental fads have caused an up roar and labelled our industry as nothing more than snake oil merchants by the mainstream medical community, nutritionists, food industry and the regulatory agencies.
Recently, there has been a wave of raw food supplements making their way around in both the US and Canada. There has been a lot of fanfare in promoting such a line of products with the intention that in today’s busy world we do not have time to prepare our foods properly, so such supplements provide an alternative. This is a shame, as once again, this will be a setback for our industry and undo much of the hard work done by genuine, caring, and scientifically grounded people.
Of late, many retailers and physicians have been wined and dined by these companies and despite the pomp and ceremony in promoting this latest fad; yet there is not an iota of scientific evidence to promote any clinical benefits for such products.
Let us take a look at some of the shortcomings of these products:
- We have been told by our parents, grandparents and previous generations that one must eat their fruits and vegetables, so what is new about these products? Surely this cannot be a replacement for good nutrition? Ask any serious raw food enthusiast and one will immediately get the reply that foods need careful selection and preparation before we put these into our mouths. For example, preparation of a juice requires immediate consumption as any storage will greatly reduce the nutrient and enzyme content exponentially. Many are of the belief that up to 90% of nutrients are diminished within 24 hours of juicing.
- Supplements by definition implies supplementing one’s diet to increase levels of a particular nutrient e.g. vitamin or mineral. Supplements are not and should never be a replacement for a healthy lifestyle which includes consumption of proper foods, exercise and positive life choices. How can raw food supplements be a replacement for good nutrition?
- Raw food supplement companies state that their fruits and vegetables are carefully selected and then processed in a proprietary way that concentrates the active ingredients. Furthermore, the addition of minerals to the “soup mix” somehow magically increases the potency of these minerals as they are incorporated into the matrix of the soup mix. This is pure conjecture with absolutely no evidence to back up any such claims. In fact, the processing that the raw ingredients undergo usually involves heat and often other players like yeast, bacteria or other fermenters. Nonetheless, the original matrix of the raw foods and vegetables is actually changed due to such processing. Thus, the “matrix” is no longer the matrix that nature designed in the first place!
- There is no clinical evidence that raw food supplements are any better than eating proper foods! Companies will claim that the bioavailability is enhanced but where is the data? In contrast, supplements created using highest grade pharmaceutical ingredients when formulated in specialized delivery systems like nano-particles, and micelles can achieve significantly greater bioavailability and levels in the blood.
- The dose one gets from such supplements is far below what is available from pharmaceutical grade supplements. The amount of vitamins or minerals one is likely to get from raw food supplements pales against what one can get from current supplements. This necessitates consumption of large quantities to get anywhere near the levels required for supplementation.
- Large sections of the population across the globe are burdened by chronic diseases including high blood pressure and cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, weakened immune system, increased stress levels, and highly fragile nervous systems with alarming and rapidly reduced levels of cognition. In such cases, one needs therapeutic doses of nutrients, something raw food supplements cannot achieve.
- Raw food supplement manufacturers boast testing for hundreds of contaminants using the latest technology. There is nothing new to this claim as such technology (FTNIR, HPLC, GC/MS, etc.) is widely used by many companies already.
- These companies are testing for said contaminants because there is an increased risk for the presence of such contaminants in the raw ingredients (fruits and vegetables) in the first place! This is largely due to companies not having proper process control for their ingredients resulting in too many variables. These variables include growing conditions like temperature and moisture, soil conditions, pests, microbial load, contamination, traceability and other environmental conditions like pollution. Unfortunately, this array of variables leads to huge batch variations and inconsistency of the product. In contrast, pharmaceutical grade ingredients are manufactured under controlled conditions with as few variables as possible yielding a product of high purity and quality. In such cases, there is consistency and reproducibility with little or no batch variation.
- The soil quality is also under scrutiny as consistent soil test results suggest that foods grown now do not have anywhere near the nutrient content that was present say fifty years ago. For example, since the 1940’s copper has diminished approximately 80%, calcium another 46% and magnesium 24%. Therefore, seeing all minerals and vitamins are greatly reduced, using raw foods as a starting material for supplementation will not allow us to achieve the nutrient goals we desire.
In conclusion, raw food supplements offer very little to the consumer and may instead be discouraging them from taking responsibility for their health, and eating a plant rich diet. In turn, this will perpetuate further nutrient deprivation. Lastly, these supplements are inadequate at delivering proper amounts of nutrients necessary for the body and its biological processes.