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Are all calories and milligrams created equal?

Are all calories and milligrams created equal?

A milligram is derived from the metric system and is a unit of mass. The prefix milli stands for one thousandths, therefore one milligram is equal to one thousandths of a gram. Are all milligrams created equal? Yes they are in terms of mass. Yet this is where, I believe, science has failed to distinguish the quantity of milligrams necessary based on the source from which it comes. I will show you why they are not all created equal. For years, people in the supplement industry have been complaining that the RDI for nutrient levels are way to low for achieving optimal health. To be very clear, I don’t disagree that we need more than the minimum to nourish our bodies. The question is, are they really too low or are we not comparing apples to apples? I strongly encourage you to look at all the facts I am about to present so that you may understand why I believe we are comparing apples to oranges.

If you are comparing nutrient levels of foods, herbs and superfoods with supplements you are misleading yourself to believe that all amounts are created equal. The fact is they are not. When we look at the whole food and the breakdown of its nutrients and phytochemicals, each food is superior in a specific nutrient and group of compounds. Almost never in nature do you find food that is 5000% above the RDI. There is a reason why foods that nourish our bodies don’t have massive amounts of these nutrients. It is just not necessary. If that food is nourishing, it will naturally contain everything you need to make it extremely bioavailable. Here is a perfect example. Acerola cherries are known to have very nourishing levels of the full vitamin C complex. Note, I did not say Vitamin C, I said Vitamin C Complex. The entire Complex is present in that food and nothing is in large amounts. Because it is the whole complex, everything is in perfect balance to work together synergistically for your metabolism to break it down and be efficiently and completely absorbed by your body.

Dr James Duke who worked for the Dept of agriculture for 40 years proved that by taking samples of the same food grown in different areas where the environmental factors like soil and growing conditions were quite different, you had a large variance of consistency in regards to nourishing value. In other words what that food naturally contained in regards to nutrients and phytochemicals were different based on the growing conditions. Yet, these foods were still very capable of nourishing the body.

Next, let’s take a look at your average supplement label. I am sure you have taken notice that most of the ingredients in a supplement are in levels well above the RDI. Let’s be very clear that when I use the term “supplements” I am referring to isolated nutrients, amino acids, etc., which are no longer in their most natural stable form. I am not speaking of herbs or whole foods when I use this term. Supplements are basically the links of the complete chain that have been broken down. And I am pretty sure you know what happens when we use a chain with weak links or no links, in this case! The reason a company needs to put that much of a nutrient in the product is because it is taken out of its “whole” form and all of the components which are necessary for the body to make the nutrients bioavailable are not there. So, from that 1000 mgs you take, you only absorb a fraction of that amount .

Finally, let’s take a look at pomegranate arils. This amazingly nourishing food has many studies backing its ability to support many areas of cardiovascular health. Many of the original studies used isolated and standardized versions of a pomegranate supplement. If you look back you will see, many of those studies have some positive results but, those results were isolated to only specific functions of the cardiovascular system. Over the years, those studies evolved to using pomegranate as a whole food or juice with all the nourishment intact. The end result was a broad spectrum of health benefits. A research paper published in the journal of Advanced Biomedical Research stated the following about pomegranates mechanisms of action “Pomegranate can induce its beneficial effects through its various metabolites. The antioxidant and antiatherosclerotic potentials of pomegranate are mainly relevant to the high polyphenol concentrations in pomegranate fruit such as ellagitannins and hydrolysable tannins. COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes and IL-1 β activity can be inhibited by pomegranate fruit extract.”(1)

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link right? So, why separate the links of that chain when the result is only going be a weaker and less productive chain! For the last 100 years science has tried to reinvent mother nature. There is a reason why science keeps losing this battle. You can’t mess with perfection. Are all milligrams created equal? I think not.

Mike Stuchiner
Master Herbalist

Aida Zarfeshany, Sedigheh Asgary,1 and Shaghayegh Haghjoo Javanmard. 2014. “Potent health effects of pomegranate”. Accessed 3/25/18


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