Food, supplementation, and nutrition have been studied for hundreds of years. However, you’d be surprised to know that nutritional science is still in its infancy when it comes to scientific research.
Think of this, the very first vitamin was discovered less than 100 years ago (1). It was isolated and found in 1926; since then, 50 years of discovery have ensued, aimed explicitly at isolating single-nutrient deficient disease.
In 2000-2001, the interest in supplementation had significantly increased, particularly their role in combating diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and cancers.
In this historical look at supplementation, I’ll take a look at things like the role supplements to play in health, the different types of supplementation, what they are, the role of the FDA, and the future of supplementation.
The Era Of Discovery
In 1913 for the next 50 years, we saw the identification and discovery of numerous essential vitamins, minerals, and trace minerals and how they affected the body, whether positively or negatively. Why was 1913 such an important historical marker for supplementation? It’s when Casimir Funk first thought of the idea of what he called a “vital amine.” He came up with the idea after observing that unprocessed rice protected chickens against various diseases like beriberi.
The name of this vitamin was “thiamine”; however, since then, it has been synthesized to vitamin B1 in 1936. The next significant discovery was when Vitamin C was isolated in 1932 and was scientifically documented for the first time. This came 200 years after the famous surgeon James Lind was using lemons to treat sailors suffering from scurvy.
In the mid to late 20th century, every significant vitamin was discovered, isolated, and synthesized. The success of supplementation in animal studies proved without a doubt that essential vitamin and mineral supplementation plays a critical role in mitigating serious diseases like beriberi (Vitamin B1), scurvy (Vitamin C), and anemia (Vitamin B-12).
Subsequently, the synthesis of these essential vitamins rapidly moved toward “functional food modalities,” rendering the recently discovered vitamins almost obsolete. However, it didn’t take long for vitamins to make a comeback; with the help of science and modern marketing, they returned in the form of “multivitamins.”
This spawned an entirely new industry known as the “supplement industry.”
Great Depression And The Second World War
The newly discovered vitamin industry just happened to coincide with two of the world’s most significant historical events, The Great Depression and the Second World War.
The Great Depression and the War led to a real fear of widespread food shortages not only in the U.S. but worldwide. These two events gave the scientific community further impetus to continue and ramp up their vitamin supplementation research.
The League of Nations, the U.S. Government, and the British Medical Association gave their scientists direct orders to develop what we now know as recommended dietary allowances or RDAs. The National Nutrition Conference on Defense was held in 1941. There, RDAs were put forth in new guidelines regarding total calories, nutrient dose, vitamins, and other critical nutrients like calcium, protein, iron, fats, and carbohydrates.
The culmination of all the events above helped set up and establish nutritional studies and research along with policy recommendations that explicitly looked at the role single nutrient deficiencies played in preventing or reducing disease.
What Exactly Is A Dietary Supplement
A dietary supplement can be defined as
“a product that has been manufactured and is intended for use in daily diets, either in pill, capsule, tablet, or powdered form”.
These supplements provide essential nutrients that have been extracted from various food sources or have been artificially synthesized.
There are several different categories of nutrients, like fiber, fats, amino acids, and vitamins and minerals. These supplements may also be manufactured to contain certain compounds and elements that are not considered essential but are said to positively impact the body.
Popular biological compounds are known to positively affect polyphenols and collagen, either derived from plant or animal-based food sources.
For example, collagen is also sold as a stand-alone supplement. It is still regularly mixed with other ingredients to form supplements like greens powders, protein powders, and other health-enhancing products. Dietary supplements are regulated differently around the world; however, in the U.S., they are categorized as a “subset” of foods and hence, regulated by the FDA accordingly.
In 2015 the supplement industry was estimated at $37 billion with more than 50,000 supplements on the U.S. market alone (2). An impressive stat is that almost 50% of adults in the U.S. purchase and consume some form of dietary supplement. The most commonly consumed dietary supplement are multivitamins. These multivitamins are used to plug holes in the nutritional plan where people may not be getting enough essential nutrients.
A critical point is that it’s strictly against federal regulations to claim that products treat or prevent disease. There are some loopholes, however, that allow manufacturers to use wording referred to as “structure/function” if they can provide ample scientific evidence to do so.
E.g.,” So and so, allows the body to maintain healthy bones.” However, the label must clearly state that the FDA “has not evaluated the claim,” and the product is “not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease (3).
Vitamins can be defined as organic compounds that are essential in small amounts to any living organism’s wellbeing.
According to the NIH, “Vitamins are substances that your body needs to grow and develop naturally. In total, there are thirteen essential vitamins your body requires to function (4); they are :
- Vitamin A
- B Vitamins (Thiamine, Riboflavin, Niacin, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, Vitamin B-6, Vitamin B-12, and Folate)
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
Most people can generally get all of the essential vitamins listed above through their daily dietary intake; however, it’s becoming increasingly complicated. Thus, supplementation has seen an extensive surge in popularity of late and is now seen as necessary.
Each vitamin plays its own unique role within the human body and is responsible for various functions. Take, for example, Vitamin C, deficiencies in Vitamin C can lead to anemia. Other vitamins such as Vitamin A can help prevent health problems and have been linked to preventing night-blindness.
It’s still generally recommended that the best way to consume your vitamins is through your daily food intake.
With the rise of high-quality supplementation, it’s also accepted that supplementing your diet with these products provides notable health benefits.
As humans, numerous vitamins in our diet are related to “vitamers,” such as Vitamin E containing tocopherols and tocotrienols or Vitamin K, which includes Vitamin K1 and K2. When your vitamin consumption falls below the recommended daily amounts, the body can show a sign of deficiencies in the form of symptoms such as leaky gut or eczema.
For a limited number of vitamins, the U.S. Institute of Medicine does set U.L.s or Tolerable Upper Intake Levels. These limits are only recommendations and do not prohibit the manufacturer from selling supplements with servings higher than those recommended. E.g., the upper intake level for Vitamin D is 4,000 IU.
However, there are supplements on the market with 10,000 IU levels, and no prescription is needed.
The four minerals that are required for life are carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. These minerals are so incredibly ubiquitous in food that they are not considered essential nutrients, and as such, there are no recommended daily allowances.
Minerals and vitamins are marketed as dietary supplements both in combination with other ingredients and also individually (5). Although, as a general rule of thumb, manufacturers of nutritional supplements can not make claims about disease prevention or cure.
However, selenium, calcium, and chromium picolinate have been approved by the FDA for various health conditions. Scientific evidence must be presented and then approved as QHCs or Qualified Health Claims. If a manufacturer chooses to initiate the claim, the wording of QHC must be clearly visible on the label.
Minerals are absolutely essential for the human body to stay strong, robust, and healthy. Minerals play critical roles throughout the human body, including maintaining bone health, muscle recovery, maintaining a healthy heart, and cognitive brain function. Another vital role they play is the generation of hormones and enzymes.
Two primary types of minerals are referred to as macro minerals and trace minerals. Calcium, magnesium, and sodium are just some examples of macro-minerals that the body needs, and higher doses are required. On the other hand, trace minerals are only needed in smaller amounts and include minerals such as; selenium, cobalt, iodine, zinc, and copper.
As with vitamin intake and consumption, most people can get their RDAs through their daily diet; however, with the improvements and proven effectiveness of greens powders, many people are now turning to supplementation to fill any nutrient deficiency they may have.
The Rise of Greens Powders
With that fast-paced lifestyle that most people live today, it’s no secret that the vast majority of people do not consume enough fruits and vegetables in their diet. This is where the green supplements have really come to the forefront of nutrition supplementation; these greens powders are explicitly designed to provide people with the balance of their essential nutrients.
Fortunately, now several studies can back up these claims.
Greens powders such as SuperGreen Tonik are convenient and can be mixed with water or your favorite juice. The ease of greens powders makes them perfect for people on the move. The ingredients vary from company to company, but I’ve compiled a list of some of the ingredients generally included:
- Organic Spinach
- Organic Kale
- Organic Barley Grass
- Organic Chlorella
- Organic Spirulina
- Ashwagandha Root
- Olive Leaf
- Ginko Leaves
- Garlic Bulb
- Dandelion Leaf
- Rhodiola Root
- Bacopa Leaves
The elements and compounds found in greens powders are generally extracted and dried, and ground into a fine powder, making them perfect for juices, smoothies, and even putting a scoop into your favorite soup. Super greens powders are low in calories yet high in essential vitamins, minerals, and trace minerals and provide the body with nutrients that you may not be getting in your usual daily diet.
Vitamins and minerals such as selenium, Vitamin C and A, Vitamin B-12 are just a few of the many nutrients included in an excellent high-quality, pure, and well-sourced super greens supplement.
Greens powders have many benefits, and over the years, with the continued research, development, and discovery of new nutrients, their benefits have continued to grow; this has led to an all-time high in popularity for greens powders supplements. Greens powders may be responsible for preventing disease due to their high antioxidant properties, lessening inflammation.
In a study with 10 participants over four weeks, blood levels of oxidation causing damage to cells was decreased by 30 %. The participants were given 2 scoops of greens powders daily. These results are significant because it shows the value greens powders have played in the supplementation industry and the real-world results shown in these studies.
Some of the better high-quality greens powders, such as SuperGreen Tonik, may be responsible for boosting energy and productivity. In one 90 day study of 63 women, participants who took daily servings of greens powders reported increased energy instead of the placebo group, who reported no significant improvement or change.
Other benefits are detoxification, which makes the body more alkaline; basically, this means you have a higher reading on the pH scale from 0-14. Daily consumption of greens supplements will not affect your blood pH, which is a significant positive benefit.
When your liver detoxifies, certain compounds are produced, some of them harmful; one of those compounds produced are free radicals. Super greens powders are incredibly high in antioxidant properties, which in turn help scavenge and destroy these damaging free radicals.
Reviewing this content makes it easy to see the tremendous benefits of consuming super greens powders and how far they have come in the last decade. From the first vitamin being discovered less than 100 years ago to today, where we have access to cutting-edge greens supplementation.
Super greens powders are handy and provide incredibly high amounts of antibacterial properties, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, making greens powders’ implementation into the diet a critical one.
We’ve seen the vital role the FDA plays in the greens supplements industry and the recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) they have put forward into policy.
Although supplementation provides various health benefits, it should be understood that supplementation, in general, must not be solely utilized but integrated into a sound nutritional plan with consistent daily exercise.
With the increasingly fast pace of our lifestyles, supplements can help bridge the gap and plug any nutrient deficiencies.
Recognizing supplementation and its purpose is critically essential for your fitness and longevity. Misinformation is out there, so it’s imperative to take your time researching and interpret fact from fiction.