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).

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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.

9 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.
      Nancy

  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.)

      Best,
      Sally

  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?

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