Benefits of Natural Products and Supplements

The benefits of natural products, supplements and foods cannot be overstated. Literally millions of articles, studies, and all forms of advice have been published and circulated for millennia.

We don’t need to look far to discover that a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, fish, grains and limited meats (along with the elimination of processed and fast food, and limited alcohol consumption) are the best path to overall good health. Today there are also excellent apps available which can help track diets, recommend herbs and supplements with various health properties, and so on. And grandma certainly knew what she was doing when she gave her grand kids a cup of chamomile tea and chicken soup…

Unfortunately, too often people look for a “magic pill” to solve health issues, when in many cases using natural herbs and products go a long way to alleviating common ailments. A good example of this is the common headache. Personally I find that in most cases, a headache can be cured by drinking a large glass of water and inhaling some menthol — instead of reaching for the “band-aid” of an over-the-counter drug. [of course if headaches regularly persist, it could be the sign of a more serious condition]

Indeed we are inundated with advertising promoting the quick-fix, when often it is a simple matter of knowing the natural remedies that are widely available.

[Again, this is not to say that medications and pharmaceuticals do not have their place and are essential for many medical conditions, and it is NOT the opinion of the Nutra Foundation that natural products and supplements are cure-alls.]

What is the case is that natural remedies should be at least tried, instead of always reaching for medications. And it is worth discussing the reasons for this.

Natural products are preferable to pharmaceutical medications for a few simple reasons:

1. Since natural products are indeed found in nature they have limited side-effects — the most common being stomach upset or possibly allergic reaction (which is the case with any food). All one has to do is listen to the laundry-list of side-effects on pharmaceutical commercials to be reminded of the sometimes severe side-effects.

2. Pharmaceutical solutions to common problems often are simply covering up or alleviating a more systemic issue in your body.

3. Pharmaceutical solutions can in some cases lead to dependency and even addiction.

Of course it is always worth noting that even natural supplements and herbs can have negative effects on certain people. The reality is that the human body is very complex, and each of us is an individual. One person’s wonder-herb can be another’s placebo or allergy…

Natural Products and Side Effects

Surely virtually everything we ingest or take medicinally has potential side effects. Just consider those who cannot drink milk (lactose intolerance) or allergies. And who doesn’t know someone allergic to nuts of some kind.

Still, truth be told, natural products and supplements simply have less side effects than pharmaceuticals. Anyone who debates this is either uninformed, or totally biased.

The most common side-effect of any product (or food for that matter) that we ingest is stomach or intestinal upset — which only serves to reason. Rarely are these side-effects extremely harmful, and most often using a smaller dosage or taking a product with food alleviates these symptoms.

We are all aware of food allergies, and basically natural products and supplements can be thought of as foods. Allergic symptoms typically take the form of skin rashes, vomiting, headaches, etc. As with any new substance we introduce in our bodies, it’s always prudent to be aware of potential adverse effects.

Having said all of this — the overwhelming evidence supports the assertion (and fact) that natural products have far far less potential side-effects than pharmaceuticals. One only has to listen to drug commercials to be reminded of this fact.

Pharmaceuticals and Side Effects

As we know, most all pharmaceuticals have some side effects. The following story sheds light as to the causes of these side effects.

While visiting with Dr. Joseph Baur, a long-time researcher at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, we discussed in 2009 a Resveratrol Product on the market called Vindure 900 produced by Vinomis Laboratories.

Dr. Baur had performed research on Vindure, and also was a co-discoverer of Resveratrol along with Dr. David Sinclair at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Baur said he would certainly prefer Vindure or other nutraceuticals for himself, and anyone who asked about Resveratrol, as compared with a synthetic version of the product.

When asked why, Dr. Baur told me that synthetic versions of natural products are produced by pharmaceuticals because they cannot obtain a patent on a “natural molecule”. He told me the pharma companies “twist” the molecule a bit so that it has the same properties as the natural molecule, but it can be patented.

He said that these changes to the natural molecules make them not “God molecules” as he called them. And it was indeed these molecule changes that introduce the side effects. As a practical example for we non-scientists, he asked me what happens when a DNA strand has minor changes, to which I replied there can be birth defects — “Exactly” he said.

It is NOT the assertion of the Nutra Foundation that Pharma companies deliberately introduce these side-effects, but with the huge cost of developing and testing any new drug, it is understandable that the Pharma companies desire to secure patents on their drugs.

In Nutra’s opinion, it’s simply a flaw in the system — namely that natural versions of products are frequently bypassed as part of any company’s natural desire to maximize profits and produce unique drugs.

Italian Resveratrol Study Published

A recent study has been reported about the effects of Resveratrol in the diets of Italians in the Chianti region of Italy has been published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal. The study concludes there were no differences in individuals (with varying levels of Resveratrol in their bodies based upon their normal dietary intake) related to reduced death rate, inflammation, heart disease or cancer. A variety of articles have been published about the study by sources including Reuters, NPR, Science Daily , LA Times and others.

[Nutra specifically recommends an article published by NHS as it describes the study parameters in an unbiased manner.]

Naturally, this study has caused some scientists and doctors to question the effectiveness of Resveratrol supplements as a dietary supplement. Nutra believes the study’s methodology and results to be fair and genuine. The Nutra Foundation’s conclusions about the Italian study are threefold: 1) the study is only one study on individuals with normal diets, 2) the study could have singled out a host of parameters in individuals’ diets and blood streams that had no effect on the disease outcomes studied, and 3) the study is not relevant with respect to taking higher doses of a Resveratrol supplement.

Nutra also hastens to say that there have been a plethora of studies that have shown positive effects in individuals taking Resveratrol supplements (in dosages from 250 – 500 mg) including strength and endurance, heart health, diabetes, memory and cancer prevention.

For the new study, Dr. Semba of Johns Hopkins used data from 783 Italians who were tracked from 1998 to 2009, when they were at least 65 years old, living in their communities at that time.

The participants were examined and asked to complete a questionnaire about their diets. Urine samples were also collected from people in the study to measure levels of broken-down resveratrol. The participants were not taking Resveratrol supplements.

The Reuters article mentions Teresa Fung, a nutrition researcher at Simmons College in Boston who was not involved in the new study, said she was “not surprised” by its findings. Fung told Reuters Health she wouldn’t expect the amount of resveratrol found in a normal diet to have a detectable effect on health.

Dr. David Sinclair (Harvard University) who has researched Resveratrol and numerous other polyphenols and anti-oxidants commented in the LA Times Article —  “The levels of Resveratrol in the diet are negligible compared to the levels shown to work in mice and humans.” Sinclair is one of the leading resveratrol researchers in the U.S. Many people have pointed out it would be virtually impossible to get high enough levels in the normal diet as are used in research studies.