Nutritional supplements and disease modification

The conventional view regarding nutritional supplements is that they are largely unnecessary if a person eats a ‘well balanced diet’. This is based on recommended intakes (RDAs, RNIs) designed to prevent classical symptoms of deficiency, such as scurvy in the case of vitamin C. Blood levels of nutrients that prevent classical deficiencies are thus extended to imply that a person has sufficient nutrient status if above these levels. But there is abundant evidence that levels above those used to define ‘deficiency’ may often be associated with adverse signs or symptoms and these levels therefore define a zone of ‘nutritional insufficiency’.

There is, furthermore, a growing body of evidence from well designed studies on specific diseases showing that supplements giving nutrients at levels beyond the basic ‘RDAs’ delay or reverse the disease or eliminate or ameliorate symptoms of disease. Also, there are many studies showing a steady reduction in symptoms or diseases when blood levels of nutrients increase beyond the arbitrary cut-off levels set to prevent classical deficiencies. Thus, neither RDAs nor normal reference ranges given for blood levels of nutrients are ‘optimal’.

This illustrates that the definition of ‘deficiency’ is outdated. Deficiency means a lack of efficiency. If the definition of nutrient deficiency, and its counterpart, sufficiency, were to be defined as the level of a nutrient that relieves symptoms of disease, that definition is not only scientifically supportable but also takes into account the unique biochemical individuality that occurs as a function of both genetics, environmental exposure, microbiomics and an individual’s ability to absorb nutrients.

While medical and advertising law prohibits the description of a nutritional supplement or food as ‘preventing, reversing or treating a disease’ this is scientifically not correct. Nutrients do prevent, reverse and treat disease.

At Food for the Brain, our over-arching principle is that of scientific integrity – that is it to be consistent with the prevailing science and share that growing body of knowledge in a way that enables people to restore, maintain and improve mental health.