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Ask Dr. Mike: Whole Food Supplements vs. Traditional & Why Is My Doctor Against My Supplement Use?

Here you'll find the answers to a wealth of health and wellness questions posed by Healthy Talk fans. Listen in because what you know helps ensure healthy choices you can live with. Today on Healthy Talk, you wanted to know:

What are whole food supplements and why should I take these over traditional supplements?

Whole food supplements are supplements that use the whole food within the capsle instead of an extraction of the food. So, for example, if you were taking curcumin, in a traditional supplement you would get an extraction of the spice instead of the whole spice as it is.

One isn't necessarily better than the other, some people simply prefer whole food supplements over others.

Why are some of my medical doctors adverse of my supplement intake?

Unfortunately, some doctors believe that supplements cause more harm than give any benefit. Doctors also might have a hard time listening to your opinion because they aren't given research or proof.

However, there is tons of research on how beneficial supplements are. You may want to consider looking into some of the research and bringing it into your doctor the next time you go. The Life Extension website has some great articles you can reference.

If you have a health question or concern, Dr. Mike encourages you to write him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call in, toll-free, to the LIVE radio show (1.844.305.7800) so he can provide you with support and helpful advice.

RadioMD Presents:Healthy Talk | Original Air Date: April 14, 2015
Host: Michael Smith, MD

You're listening to RadioMD. It's time to ask Dr. Mike on Healthy Talk. Call or email to ask your questions now. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 877-711-5211. The lines are open.

So remember you can send your email questions you can be as detailed as you want. You can be vague. You can give your name or not give your name. You can even tell me when you would like to hear it read on air and I'll do my best. My producer Sheldon Baker said don't guarantee anybody that you'll be able to read their question but I'll do my best to do that and I'll respond, I'll reply to your email and then tell you hey I'm going to shoot for one of these two days. So you can actually hear your question and hear the answer. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

So next question from Claire: "What are whole food supplements and why should I consider whole food supplements over traditional supplements?"

Okay so let's start by talking—let's answer the first part of that question "what are whole food supplements?". And then I'll go into what are the—because here Claire talks about I guess traditional supplements and I think I'm going to have to make some assumptions there what she's talking about. So let's just first define whole food base products and I'm going to way oversimplify this because there's really no exact definition for this but let me use the spice turmeric and we know that the key compound in that is called curcumin.

If you are a company that believes more in the whole food philosophy where you don't want to separate components out, you don't want to standardize anything you just want to give somebody some extra turmeric. So in a sense you take the spice, you create the powder, you put it in a capsule and you pretty much sell it. Now there's more to it than that they can still put the exact amount in, they can put dose in they can do that but for the most part none of the key components are separated out it's just the whole spice, oils and all just put in there as best they can. And there's nothing wrong with that that's a certain philosophy.

There are whole food based companies out there and they're great companies. And so that's what a whole foods supplement is. Now that is in contrast to a company like Life Extension for instance that is more of an extraction-based company, a standardization based company. So we recognize that the spice turmeric is awesome, cook with it that's great, but we also know from the research that the main compound in the spice that gives us the benefits to inflammation to the brain, to the immune system, to joints, heart, all that, is curcumin. So our philosophy as an extraction-based company is to take that curcumin out of the spice and concentrate it in the capsule. So a whole foods based company is going to give you the spice we're going to give you the curcumin.

That's whole food based versus extraction-based. It's not that one of them is right or wrong they're just two completely different philosophies on how to deal with supplements. We kind of follow, my company Life Extension, we kind of follow more of that medical process where we're going to concentrate the key compound, we're going to standardize it, we're going to make sure that there's 400 milligrams of curcumin versus just the spice. And that's just how we approach it. So that's whole food versus extraction. Why should I consider these supplements over traditional ones? I don't think you should consider—I don't think you should try to say whole food versus extraction personally I think extraction is best that's my opinion but for the consumer I think it's really just what you want.

There are some people who really believe in that whole food based products because they believe that there's this essence of the food that's there in the capsule that you don't get in an extraction or in a standardization and that's fine I'm not going to argue that, it's really a preference thing. So I don't think you—why should I consider these supplements over traditional? I don't think you have to consider them over traditional ones assuming you mean by traditional you mean the standardized one the extraction ones.

They're both good products the turmeric product is good and the curcumin product is good you're going to get benefits from both of them. The curcumin one like the one we produce at Life Extension might give you more specific health benefits to say inflammation or the brain or something but the turmeric one is good for you. It's a nice, whole food based spice, based product. Awesome take it. Hopefully that helps.

Next question. "Why are some of my medical doctors adverse to my supplement intake and what can I do to help educate my healthcare team to the benefits of supplements?"

And I wanted to answer these questions knowing I just had a really good friend of mine on, Julia Schopick, she wrote a book about Honest Medicine, she does a lot in patient advocacy, so I thought this would be a good day to cover these questions.

"Why are some of my doctors adverse to supplement intake?" I thin it really goes back to the fact that most doctors—well maybe twenty years ago most doctors believed that supplements were not tested or regulated. I think that's where most of the negativity comes from. Now that's changing I mean just go to that's the site I always use for my research my listener's know that. Type in pomegranate, type in fish oil. I mean you'll see all kinds of studies. But there was a time when a lot of your middle aged to older doctors who are practicing right now, there was this idea that supplements were not regulated or tested and they've carried that on in their practice.

They've carried that with them through the years. And so when you tell them I want to take pomegranate because I hear it's good for the heart they just "no there's no research! There's no proof! It's not even tested! How do you know it's high quality?" It's just those same questions that keep coming up. So what you need to know as a consumer, as a listener, is that that's not true. There's tons of research every year on supplements from multivitamins to anti-oxidants to plant-based extracts to spices to essential oils. I mean there's tons—at Life Extension we've done like $150 million in twelve years I mean there's research out there both in the lab and both in humans in clinical research. And we are regulated I just did a whole section on DSHEA (Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act 1994) which outlines exactly how supplements are to be regulated so we are regulated and there is research support for what we do.

Okay so you go into your doctor who's against supplements I mean if you tell them "No that's not true doctor. There is research supporting these things I want to do and the company that I'm going to buy from has a good track record and they produce good quality products-they have their Certificate of Analysis proving the label. They're GMP compliant and they follow DSHEA" and you say all of that stuff I don't know if that's going to mean anything to the doctor. You know? They have this idea that the level of quality control the level of legislation the amount of research is far less than that of pharmaceuticals and that's not necessarily the case but I don't know how you convince them of that.

I don't. I think we just keep little by little doing our best like a grass roots effort. I think the most important thing I could do as a physician is start speaking to younger doctors medical students, residents, get them when they're young because once a doctor starts practicing and pretty much has things set in their ways it's hard to get doctors to change. It's hard to get doctors to change to a new drug it's just human nature.

So I think it comes down to the fact that there are doctors that still believe supplements are not regulated and there's no research support and that's not true-so that's the problem. The solution is education. Listening to shows like this Healthy Talk, other shows on RadioMD and just really focusing maybe on the younger doctors I think that's how we're going to get rid of these myths. This is Healthy Talk on RadioMD. I'm