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Scripps Nutritional Supplement Conference, continued...

A few of our team members recently attended the 12th annual nutritional supplements conference hosted by Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine in San Diego. There they heard from a variety of senior research scientists, integrative healthcare practitioners, and experts in dietary supplement regulatory affairs. We'll spare you the details on pathogen-associated molecular patterns, toll-like receptor activation, and other common biochemical knowledge (relax, we're kidding). However, we will fill you in on some of the other information our team members gleaned. See below:  

What's the difference between contamination and adulteration? 

Contamination is the presence of an undesirable, potentially toxic or hazardous component in a product, typically resulting from environmental factors during the manufacturing and distribution process. Contaminants might include insects, chemicals (e.g. pesticides, herbicides, and other agro-chemical residues), microbial organisms (e.g. Salmonella, E. coli), and heavy metals (e.g. lead, mercury, and cadmium). Adulteration, on the other hand, refers to the illegal addition of a safe ingredient to a product without the knowledge of end customer or regulatory agencies. Adulteration is often intentional and economically-motivated (a manufacturer can make a higher profit by using cheaper raw materials). Think of it this way: If a product advertised as 100% loose leaf green tea tested positive for lead, it would be contaminated. If the same product was found to contain 90% green tea leaves and 10% green coffee leaves, it would be adulterated. Sometimes, a substance that is used as an adulterant can itself be adulterated. Grapeseeds have been used as an adulterant (in being added to cranberry products) while grapeseed extract has itself been adulterated with peanut skins. It can get fishy. Even as cricket flour becomes more commonplace in the repertoire of health foods, you still wouldn't want to find a cricket sitting at the bottom of your container of leafy greens. 

Food is Information

Ann Wigmore, the famous Lithuanian-American nutritionist, once stated, "The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison." Adding to this, we've all heard the saying, "the dose makes the poison." Water, the very essence of life, can simultaneously be the healthiest substance for a parched athlete and a cause of unhealthy electrolyte imbalance for an over-hydrated sedentary office worker. Vitamin A can be the healthiest substance for an undernourished child with night-blindness and a contributor to osteoporosis when over-consumed. The takeaway: almost every dietary substance has a therapeutic range and an adverse effect range. Even fish oil, when consumed is excessively high doses, may act as an immune suppressant because of its inhibitory effect on pro-inflammatory molecules. While this is desirable in the context of chronic inflammation, your immune cells need pro-inflammatory molecules to do their job when infection strikes. Consider this an exhortation to abide by the recommended or suggested use instructions on dietary supplement labels, and to not buy into the lie that if some is good, more is better. More is not always better. Take note, however, that "everything in moderation" can be a dangerous mantra. Moderation in relation to what? Sub-clinical micronutrient deficiencies are extremely common, and while their health effects may not be readily noticeable or measurable, they may act as a "slow form of poison."  A 2011 study found an overall vitamin D deficiency prevalence rate of 41.6% in the US. This 41.6% likely includes individuals who would describe their diet as "adequate," and their eating habits as " everything in moderation." Consider getting a micronutrient test done to see where your levels are at. Correcting a marginal deficiency just might be "the most powerful form of medicine."