Supplements: A Better Way

In my last post, I discussed Dr. Roizen’s recommended supplement plan, noting the drawbacks of each product. The discussion provides a natural segue into a look at the subject of vitamin products in general.

Vitamin supplements

In the early 1900s, with the discovery of various vitamins, the pharmaceutical industry quickly figured out ways to manufacture them in large quantities. The main use of these manufactured vitamins has been their addition to animal feed—in fact it was manufactured vitamins that made confinement agriculture possible. The other main use for these supplements is their addition to food for people, to compensate for the vitamins lost during refining. As Dr. Mary Enig once told me, leaders in the food industry really do believe that the addition of manufactured vitamins to processed foods makes these foods just as good as real foods.

The earliest example we have of food “fortification” is the addition of B vitamins to white flour.  In fact, one bread manufacturer (it may have been Wonder Bread) approached Dr. Weston A. Price, asking him to endorse their white bread product; of course, he refused. How could adding a handful of synthetic compounds possibly compensate for the loss of all the vitamins and minerals in the germ and bran?  After that, Price became persona non grata, labeled as a quack and ignored by academia.

Most vitamins are manufactured in China, even the “high end” or “full spectrum” ones, usually through one or more fermentation processes and with the addition of various chemicals. For example, here’s the flow chart for vitamin C manufacture:

Vitamin C Supplements Manufacture Flow

And here’s how vitamin A is made:

Vitamin A Supplements Manufacture Flow

The result is always a single form of the vitamin—something that never happens in nature–without the various isomers and co-factors that allow the body to use the vitamin properly.

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And vitamin supplements are big business. For example, Centrum vitamins, a division of Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, reports sales of one hundred seventy million dollars per year. The main ones are

  • Vitamin A: Retinyl Palmitate
  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamine): Thiamine Mononitrate, Thiamine Hydrochloride
  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): Riboflavin
  • Pantothenic Acid: Calcium D-Pantothenate
  • Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine):P yridoxine Hydrochloride
  • Vitamin B12: Cyanocobalamin
  • PABA (Para-aminobenzoic Acid): Aminobenzoic Acid
  • Folic Acid: Pteroylglutamic Acid
  • Choline: Choline Chloride, Choline Bitartrate
  • Biotin: d-Biotin
  • Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid): Ascorbic Acid
  • Vitamin D: Irradiated Ergosteral, Calciferol
  • Vitamin E: dl-alpha tocopherol, dl-alpha tocopherol acetate or succinate (any “dl” form of a vitamin is synthetic)

As for minerals, manufacturers tend to use the cheapest forms, such as magnesium oxide (with an absorbability rate as low as 4 percent), calcium carbonate (only a fraction absorbed) and ferrous fumarate (well absorbed, possibly leading to too much iron).

Other ingredients include:

We need to remember that vitamin supplements and related products are new to the scene and for thousands of years, mankind got the vitamins and minerals we needed from food. For example:

  • Calcium and phosphorus: raw dairy foods or the crushed bones of small animals, added to food.
  • Zinc: red meat and shellfish, like oysters.
  • Iodine: seafood (especially fish eggs), sea weed and butter
  • Iron: liver, red meat and shellfish
  • Magnesium: present in virtually all whole foods, unrefined salt
  • Vitamins A and D: liver, fish livers and fish liver oils, fish eggs, fish heads, egg yolks and animal fats
  • Vitamin K: aged cheese, butter, cream, poultry fat including emu oil, poultry livers, egg yolks
  • Vitamin C: fermented foods like sauerkraut, fresh and dried fruit, fresh vegetables, organ meats
  • B Vitamins: organ meats, pork, fruit and vegetables, raw meat and raw dairy (B6), fermented grains
  • B12: liver, organ meats, shell fish (clams are a very good source), raw dairy

As much as possible, we should be getting the nutrients we need from the foods listed above.  If you are elderly and slim, you may need more calcium than others, so should emphasize raw dairy.  Some people have a high requirement for zinc and would benefit from including a lot of red meat in their diet. Those with adrenal fatigue require more vitamins A and C, which they can get from concentrated foods like cod liver oil and sauerkraut.

A growing trend is the use of concentrated dried foods to bolster the diet—this practice accords with the habits of traditional peoples who preserved a number of foods for later use by pounding them and allowing them to dry in the sun.  We have descriptions of traditional peoples preparing powdered and dried liver and other organ meats, muscle meats, shellfish, fish eggs, fruit and tubers. Modern powdered versions of these foods allow us to consume, for example, organ meats that are impossible to obtain or difficult to eat.

Radiant Life sells desiccated heart and liver; Ancestral Supplements sells a blend of desiccated liver, heart, kidney, pancreas and spleen, plus many dried organs separately.  The only one I would urge caution on is desiccated thyroid, which should probably be taken under the care of a holistic practitioner.

For those like myself, who just can’t bring themselves to consume bivalves like oysters and mussels, desiccated versions are available including mussels from Radiant Life and oysters from Oyster Max.

For those who don’t like vegetables much, check out Dr. Cowan’s Garden for nutrient-dense vegetable powders. Your best bet for vitamin C is a dried fruit rich in C, such as Amla Plus or acerola powder.

What supplements do I take? My morning regimen includes one teaspoon fermented cod liver oil taken with one-half teaspoon high-vitamin butter oil and one-half teaspoon emu oil (all mixed with a little hot water and swallowed quickly); a few tablets of Amla Plus (more during allergy season); two capsules of desiccated heart (heart disease runs in my family) and two capsules of desiccated oyster  (since I can’t stand the thought of eating raw oysters). These plus a nutrient-dense diet, including lots of raw dairy products, help support a busy life, a focused mind and good sleep.

The Weston A. Price Foundation helps you find nutrient-dense food through a system of local chapters and does not receive funds from the government or food industries.

Author: Sally Fallon Morell

Sally Fallon Morell is best known as the author of Nourishing Traditions®: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats. This well-researched, thought-provoking guide to traditional foods contains a startling message: animal fats and cholesterol are not villains but vital factors in the diet, necessary for normal growth, proper function of the brain and nervous system, protection from disease and optimum energy levels.

22 thoughts on “Supplements: A Better Way”

  1. What a wonderful article, thank you! I try to avoid supplements for vitamins and minerals, having been on a good WAPF diet for many years. I am, however, happy to read about some more nutrient dense foods and dried foods that i was not aware of. Especially the dried organ meats other than liver–so difficult to find otherwise, and tricky to cook, and to have your opinion that Dr. Cowan’s vegetable powders can be a good addition to the diet. Just one thought: I’d like to forward this article to some friends who I know are rather suspicious of the WAPF. I am hesitant because I think that when they see the ads (at least the ones that pop up on my computer) for various supplements, even if not for vitamins and minerals, they will sneer at them and use them to disregard the entire article. I know you need to fund this blog, but is there any way to avoid those?

    1. Thanks so much for your comments.

      The whole question of ads is very difficult. We can stipulate to not have ads for pharmaceuticals or porn, for example, but it’s hard to keep the ads for supplements or getting rid of belly fat off a health-oriented site. Most people realize that they are not the views of the blogger. Perhaps we could put something that says “The ads you see on this site do not necessarily represent the views of the blogger.”

      Best, Sally

  2. I agree with everything in this blog post in principle. I have found however, that it is necessary for me to take magnesium supplements. If I do not, I get very annoying eye tics and painful cramps in the muscles of my feet. I do eat a healthy diet, especially this time of year when I’m getting loads of greens from my garden daily – but just a short while ago I tried to stop taking magnesium for a couple of weeks, and the tics and cramps came back. Plus, I was having a harder time staying asleep at night. Maybe the problem is that I need calcium though, as I don’t eat a lot of dairy (I am in Canada, so no raw milk!). I know that magnesium helps in the absorption of calcium. I don’t know what the problem is, but for now I’m going to keep taking my magnesium biglycinate supplement. Regardless, thank you for this informative post.

    1. That’s the same with me. I find magnesium keeps the cramps, twitches, and restless legs at bay, but other than that, I take cod liver oil and vit. C. I sometimes take D3 in the winter here in Canada. Reading about the thyroid, I seem to remember a connection with magnesium, so overall, I feel much better when taking it.
      I was curious about the dried organ supplements. It’s brilliant! I don’t relish a plate of heart, and while I do like liver, I just don’t cook it often! So a powdered supplement would be just the thing.
      Thanks for this informative (and a bit of your trademark exposé) article.

  3. Hi Sally,
    I’m really interested in your opinion on this topic. I am currently using intermittent fasting (6 hour eating window) to lose weight. I also have pregnancy in mind for the next 6 months to a year. While intermittent fasting, there is no possible way for me to follow the preconception diet. I try to have things like eggs and raw dairy every day, but with only 2 meals and a smaller appetite I fall very short of most of the diet. Is this a time where a solid good quality prenatal vitamin might be good to help me not become deficient or start feeling unwell? I take dessicated liver and dessicated mixed organs but feel an amazing difference when I take methylated B-complex. I just dont know how to proceed. I do plan to have a dedicated preconception period after I reach my goal weight but dont want to damage my nutritional status right now while fasting.

    Thank you.

    1. You should be OK, if you make sure that your two meals are of very high quality . Be sure to include cod liver oil and butter in your diet. Then six months before you wish to conceive, switch to 3 meals per day, being careful not to eat too many carbs. (Although you do need some carbs, about 100 grams per day. For reference, there are about 50 grams of carbs in a medium potato or sweet potato or a slice of bread.)


      1. Thanks a bunch. This is my plan to continue with.

        However, with the vitamins, I have gone through Chris Masterjohn’s “Vitamins and Minerals 101” free email course which was very in depth and educational. I tracked everything in an excel table, to figure out how much of each food I would need to est daily to get sufficient amounts of each vitamin from food. It ended up being much more food than I could eat in a day, not to mention difficult to keep track of. Also, while fasting I’m taking in zero nutrients. And once I tracked your diet for pregnant and nursing mothers in a calorie app and it was about 3000 calories. It’s just confusing and overwhelming to try to get ALL the nutrients in sufficient amounts from food. This is not a criticism, just an expression of how hard it can be sometimes to figure it all out.

    2. If I had to choose one, I would choose a nutrient dense higher calorie pre-conception/pregnancy eating guide over intermittent fasting, which has prove to actually harm your metabolism. There’s a lot you can look into about that. I used to intermittent fast as well, but found, in the end, that it actually had a negative overall effect for me. I learned more from the Get Your Shit Together podcast and the Freely Rooted podcast, which I would recommend listening to! We are also hoping to be pregnant in the near future, and I am all about getting the right nutrients for my future baby! Am I as small as I would like to be? No! Still about 20 pounds over. But…am I healthy and strong? Yes! And that’s what a baby needs. They won’t care what weight we are as long as we can give them the nutrients they need and we will be strong enough to pick them up and play with them!
      All the best!

  4. Thank you for sharing this. Also, I recently bought camu camu and ascorbic acid, and made capsules. Are these comparable to the vit C recommendations suggested in this article?

  5. Thank you for this wonderful article! I try to follow the WAP principles as much as possible and get my vitamins and minerals from foods, I do supplement with dedicated liver or beef organs and collagen for a painful osteoarthritis knee. However, despite taking 1&1/2 tsp of FCLO daily along with K2-7 and getting as much sunshine as possible while in MD, my vitamin D3 is awfully low, 25 was the # on my last blood test. I’m afraid to take oral D3 as I do not want to compromise the balance of the fat soluble vitamins! I’m also trying to find a farm on the Eastern Shore of MD that would sell raw milk. I would greatly appreciate your input.
    Thank you!

  6. Good! Excuse my English, I am from Argentina, I speak only Spanish and I am using the translator! I consider Price my absolute “king” in nutrition. For this reason I respect you infinitely. But I have a doubt with your insistence on the consumption of “fermented” cod liver oil; Isn’t the case of Ron Schmid reason enough to show that it is actually a “stale oil” worth avoiding as Weston Price recommended? Why not opt for pure and fresh Liver oil? I await your response and reiterate my respect for you, greetings!

  7. Pingback: Calcium and Tahini
  8. In your wonderful book Nourishing Traditions, you write (p. 38) that taking ascorbic acid (Vit C) in megadoses can lead to a deficiency or imbalance in Vitamin P (aka bioflavanoids), which help in bile production. I was wondering if you could explain how/why this happens or point me to a study about this phenomenon. Iask because I had been taking megadoses of AA for about 8 months, when a recent blood test showed I have high ALT, which apparently can indicate low bile production (given that I don’t have hepatitis or diabetes, and haven’t taken antiobiotics for several years, all other possible reasons for high ALT, my doctor said).

    1. This is interesting. Foods that contain vitamin C also usually contain bioflavinoids, so it makes sense that taking only ascorbic acid would lead to a deficiency in bioflavinoids. A better way to take vitamin C is a desiccated plant product that is high in vitamin C, and would also contain bioflavinoids, such as Amla-C. Taking too much ascorbic acid could also result in a copper deficiency.


    1. I just get borax powder–don’t know what form that is. Dissolve 1 tsp in 1 qt water, then take 1 tsp of this solution every day, mixed with a little water. Cost less than 1 cent per dose. Best, Sally

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