The Wholefood Deception
My interest with this blog is to provide you with an understanding of how marketing works, and most importantly how to look through various labels and recognize the wholefood deception. You, as a consumer, are being lied to. But, with enough information on how to understand labels, you will be able to make an informed choice and decipher through the deceptions.
The term wholefood is so simple to define, yet is so commonly misrepresented in the market place. The term “wholefood” is self-defining, simply meaning that the nutrients offered or labeled are delivered by food, and only food, or “wholefood”. Well, that's what it is supposed to mean at least... but, you are often being deceived!
Why are wholefood supplements even necessary?
The purpose of dietary supplementation is to replace or “supplement” that which is missing in our diets, ideally in the same form that is missing in our diet. That form could be described as “wholefood” form, meaning that all the components of food are present, minus the water content as is found with concentrates. With these wholefood plant structures, the nutrients that are listed on the label are delivered in a protein bound food structure, identical to how our nutrients are delivered in the wholefoods that we ingest in our food diet. These protein bound structures, or branched-chain amino acid structures are vital for proper absorption, and most importantly proper delivery to and utilization within our cells. Without these protein-bound structures, there is no delivery system within these isolated chemicals that are found in more than 99% of the dietary supplement brands in the market. “No delivery system” means the ingredients will be viewed as foreign to the body; mostly useless at best, adversary to health at worst.
Wholefood nutrients are not only safer to consume than isolated synthetic supplements or synthetic chelated minerals., but they are proven to be far superior in not only absorption, but retention and most importantly utilization within the body.
Due to the popularity of the term “wholefood”, many companies and doctors are trying to capitalize on this marketed term, but only offer deception instead, saving on costs of actual wholefood nutrients while profiting on the marketed term, “wholefood”.
These companies and doctors are offering products that are not actually ALL wholefoods. The deception occurs when they include only a portion of food as a few of the ingredients, usually in the form of food powders. These food powders could be considered as “fillers” as they are not the ingredients mentioned in the label as a source for the nutrients offered. They then mix in artificial isolated nutrient ingredients or synthetic chelated minerals that are derived from industrial chemicals, or are merely pulverized rocks found in the soil. These ingredients offered for the advertised nutrients listed are not from food, do not contain food, and could not/should not be considered “Wholefood”.
Let me begin with a standard, then I will cover products and/or companies and doctors promoting deceptive dietary supplements.
I am the CEO of an actual wholefood company, Grown By Nature, since 2005. Often I hear or read from future customers that they are already taking a wholefood supplement when I describe what I do and offer. I will then usually ask, “What brand?”. This is where I discover, more often than not, that the products and companies they mention are not actually wholefood products. Sadly, they have been deceived.
My company, Grown By Nature, offers all of our nutrients in wholefood form. When we list Vitamin C, we disclose in our ingredients on the label that the Vitamin C is delivered in a Citrus concentrate. When we list Beta-Carotene, we list that it is delivered in carrot concentrate. Vitamin K is delivered in Alfalfa Concentrate, Folate in Alfalfa concentrate; Magnesium delivered in wholefood nutritional yeast or non-dairy probiotic yogurt, and so on. Do you see a trend here? All of our nutrients are listed and delivered in food, true wholefood.
So, the problem that arises is that some unethical companies and doctors have jumped aboard the bandwagon of “wholefood's” good name, and are falsely mislabeling their products as wholefood products.
Let's look at some examples.
Dr. Mercola, a well known internet health advocate, offers what he calls a “Wholefood Multivitamin plus vital Minerals”. At first glance, the unsuspecting eye would assume that he is offering an actual wholefood product, as he so describes or markets. Upon further investigation into his label, you will discover that he has a small asterisk symbol, or cross next to the word “wholefood”. On the side of his label, you will find the words, “contains whole food nutrients,” next to his other disclaimer of Merck ® trademark usage for his ingredients (a pharmaceutical company). Although he blends in a few actual food product ingredients, every vitamin and mineral* on his “wholefood” label is actually disclosed as either a synthetic chemical ingredient for vitamins or artificial chelated mineral for minerals. This is highly deceptive in our opinion, and can only be viewed as an unethical practice to call and claim a product to be “wholefood” when it clearly is not, nor does it contain any actual listing of a wholefood delivered nutrient*. (*the lone exception is iodine from kelp.)
Next, is Standard Process supplements. Standard Process is deemed as a highly reputable “wholefood” company, but you will find they are anything but. In their product catalog, they disclose on their title page that they are “Wholefoods since 1929”ii. However, this researcher has yet to find one actual wholefood product from their company, that only contains wholefoods to deliver declared nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. Similar to Dr. Mercola's deception, they include a few food powders, but then offer most of their nutrients through isolated synthetic chemicals, rock minerals and/or synthetic chelated minerals. These nutrients, as listed, are not from wholefoods either.
Why do companies and doctors offering supplements do this?
They will mix in a few powders of actual wholefoods, but then add in a bunch of synthetic vitamin and mineral concoctions so they can bolster the RDA percentage listing. This is most often due to a lack of true testing on the food powders to determine and be able to list actual nutritional data. If the food powders that have been tested, they most often are highly deficient or lacking in vitamins and minerals. By adding cheap synthetic ingredients into the food powders, their powdered food blend now becomes listed as a “wholefood” Multivitamin & Mineral dietary supplement. They know that wholefood is the best and what the educated consumer, like yourself, is in search of. The deception here is an issue of ethics and ruthless lies to you the consumer, using misleading labels.
How to navigate through the deception:
Now that we understand the dilemma, here is an easy way to navigate through the deception. On a standard label, there is always text of ingredients and/or “other ingredients” listed. There is also the RDA or RDI (Recommended Daily Intake) section. If a full list of textual ingredients is listed, simply ignore the RDA or RDI portion of the label as that usually only discloses the % of the RDA or RDI purportedly found within the supplement. In the actual text of the ingredients, each nutrient (vitamin and mineral) should be disclosed as a food that you can recognize, i.e. Carrot or Citrus concentrate. If you see a listed chemical in parenthesis such as: Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine HCL), that is disclosing that the “nutrient” is offered in a synthetic chemical form, not a wholefood. Or, you may or most likely will see: Vitamin C (as ascorbic acid) or Vitamin A (as Vitamin A palmitate*). Side note, “vitamin A palmitate” is listed as one of the most toxic ingredients found in supplements. These chemicals listed in parenthesis are not wholefoods.
Now, these are just a few examples of well-known brands, but this problem is far too common beyond these 2 examples mentioned. If you are suspect about any brand, please comment below and I will share what I have researched and know about these products and/or companies. The market is coming alive, with health advocates who are actively searching for quality wholefood products that are actually wholefoods. Most will simply assume that the label on the front of the bottle should match what is offered inside of the bottle. However, sadly this is not the case with all of the marketed products. People are trying to avoid non-organic foods, or foods that have been genetically modified (GMO), and people are trying to avoid chemicals in pursuit of a “clean diet.” So, why would they go through all the proactive measures to ensure that what they are ingesting is organic, quality food, but simply overlook the poor quality of dietary supplements that are misleading at best, adversary to health at worst?
Next blog I will focus on other misleading dietary supplement claims, such as the terms: “All Natural”, “time-release” or “Sustained release”, “food derived” and “extract”, and what the term “chelated” refers to. I will no longer remain silent as I watch the market become flooded with pretenders with ill-intended products and unethical means of marketing.