Ebb & Flow -

Karen Alexander our Nutritional Therapist at Ebb&Flow watched the BBC documentary entitled ‘Vitamin Pill: Miracle or Myth?’ with interest last week. Here’s her thoughts:

The documentary delves into whether some of the mainstream supplement brands are actually needed to maintain adequate nutrient levels, are helping improve health or whether some could even have detrimental effects.

A couple of issues I have are:

  1. The documentary states a number of times that the majority of the population, on average, are meeting their vitamin requirements through diet. Unfortunately this very broad statement is based on general government guidelines and does not take into account varying individual needs based on lifestyle and activity level, disease and the type of diet they consume.  In fact, recent National Diet and Nutrition Surveys found that a large amount of the population are not achieving adequate vitamin and mineral levels. This would certainly be my experience in my clinical practice.
  2. The second important point to make is that the studies quoted throughout the programme are for synthetic isolated nutrients. This leads the viewer to believe that all nutrients from supplements are equal which is not the case. Food-Grown or wholefood supplements are completely different as I will explain in a moment. I agree that we should try to avoid synthetic nutrients where possible and opt for food first, then food-form supplements if there is a need.

As stated in the documentary, by taking synthetic isolated nutrients you are not getting the many other thousands of compounds that are present in food. This is why I support the use of food-form nutrients instead of isolated synthetic nutrients.

When you take supplements in food-form they naturally contain the necessary phosphorylated molecules (proteins, lipids, complex carbohydrates, beta-glucan’s, flavonoids intrinsic enzymes, and so on), rendering them easily assimilated and processed during digestion. This also means that the mega-dosing you find in synthetic supplements is not necessary. Nature did not intend us to consume very high doses of nutrients and as such this is not what we find naturally in food.

On the whole I would be in agreement with the documentary that synthetic isolated nutrients might not be effective and in some cases can do harm. The synergistic nature of food must not be underestimated and therefore this is where most people should be receiving their nutrients.

In scientific studies, testing isolated nutrients should be a lesser consideration and instead the focus should be on studying the effects of whole foods and food-form supplements. The market is saturated with synthetic isolates as they are cheap to produce and the brand can make a profit. But whether you are paying big money for a fancy brand or buying it cheap, synthetics are still synthetics. When sourcing your supplements always go for Food-Grown, wholefood supplements that have been formulated correctly.

If you need any help with your supplement choices please visit the Ebb & Flow studio and chat to me or book a consultation.


Karen Alexander is a BANT registered Nutritional Therapist, with a MSc with distinction in Personalised Nutrition.


Watch the documentary for yourself on this link below