In 1912, Polish biochemist Casimer Funk coined the term "vitamine" to describe essential nutrients he had isolated from foods. The term, shortened to "vitamin," caught on quickly. It has been used ever since to describe an ever-expanding collection of nutrients that scientists have found to be necessary for health.
Not long after Funk's discovery, companies in the United States and Europe began making vitamin and mineral supplements for sale, commonly deriving their wares from whole foods. By the mid-1930s, the first synthetic mass-produced vitamin - vitamin C - came on the market. Typically made from petroleum derivatives, synthetic vitamins soon dominated the new supplements industry for one simple reason: they were, and still are, far cheaper to make than whole-food versions.
Fortunately, a few companies have carried on - or reinvented - whole-food methods of making vitamin and mineral supplements. I recently had the good fortune to visit one of them. The company, MegaFood, based in Derry, New Hampshire, uses a proprietary technique known as the Slo-Food Process to create their whole-food supplements. The company claims the composition of these products is closer to the optimal forms of nutrients found in fresh foods.
Having toured the production line, from crates of local produce at the start to packaged supplements at the finish, I am persuaded that it renders a quality product. Utilizing a very gentle manufacturing and low-heat method, the Slo-Food Process preserves the naturally occurring complexes of nutrients. Our bodies presumably prefer these, because we evolved with them and developed metabolic pathways to use them to our advantage. For this reason, I am proud to endorse the MegaFood products. (I donate all of my after-tax profits from royalties from sales of MegaFood and Weil Vitamin Advisor products directly to the Weil Foundation, an organization dedicated to sustaining the vision of integrative medicine.)
Some supplements are cost-prohibitive or otherwise challenging to make, ship or store using whole-food methods, and in these cases, isolated vitamin forms can have value. However, I generally recommend whole-food supplements, and my Weil Vitamin Advisor recommends them to customers as a part of a comprehensive supplementation program whenever possible.
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