As T. Colin Campbell, PhD, describes it, when it comes to nutrition, the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts. The nutrients in whole foods work together much like a symphony; extract and consume those nutrients apart from the whole, and their effects are compromised. The relationship between whole food and the human body is very intricate and has come about as a result of millions of years of evolution. There are countless nutrients and substances in food that lead to thousands of metabolic reactions when they are consumed.
The hardworking supplement industry has not been able to produce beneficial products, despite decades of effort and billions of dollars. With the exception of vitamin B12 and unless a specific deficiency arises that cannot be corrected with whole, plant-based foods, this is the only supplement you will need. It has been demonstrated that, in general, supplements do not offer any benefit. In fact, they may cause harm.4 Many of the results from studies and reviews have concluded that supplements are not beneficial. A review of twenty-four randomized controlled trials showed “no consistent evidence that the vitamin and mineral supplements affected cardiovascular disease, cancer, or other causes of mortality in healthy individuals.”5 Single-vitamin supplements have shown similar negative results. For example, vitamin A, beta-carotene, and vitamin E, while all healthy when consumed in food, have been shown to significantly increase death when consumed as supplements.6
In the event we need a particular nutrient that doesn’t mean we need a high doses of it; nor should we consume it in isolation from all the other nutrients and substances it is designed to work with. The best way to achieve a complete and safe amount of nutrients is by eating whole foods.