In the modern age, it has become customary practice to identify the apparent source ingredient for the health benefit of something, and then to create a pill containing that source benefit. My intuition tells me that it is often the whole package of the food item which is important, and not just an isolated nutrient, and unfortunately perhaps even the entire environment, the weather from that location, the sunshine, the lifestyle of the people, and their genetics. Leaving aside all those latter mentioned variables, let us stay focused on the entire package of the food item: the complex carbohydrates, roughage, proteins and fat - the whole package.
A recently advertised supplement on tv has recently been marketed and I think more or less what they advertised is that you can eat one pill that provides the nutrients of 4 beets. For many years I have thought of the beet as an under-appreciated health food, and hence have thought eating Borscht is a good idea. I had to chuckle to myself seeing the advertisement, thinking: isn't it better for you just to eat the 4 beets?
Many other ingredients fit in the same story-line: resveratrol and red wine comes to mind, garlique and garlic.
Maybe it is the whole package that is the benefit?
Clearly though the foundation of many drugs in modern medicine is isolated certain agents from a plant or animal, digitalis and foxglove come to mind.
However for agents where the action is not so direct and so powerful, and it is more of a supplement, maybe the whole item is the thing, and not an isolated chemical.
I am very much looking forward to a new series that will come on CNN in April where Dr Sanjay Gupta travels the world to learn health strategies practiced in many different locations. I hope we will all learn something new. Who knows, maybe the root of the jack fruit will cure GDD?
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Richard Semelka, MD. Consulting