Sometimes, we stumble across a scientific paper that so perfectly aligns with our values that we have no choice but to strap on our blogging boots and get a little dirty. Today is one of those times! Welcome to an occasional feature we’re calling ‘Crystallizing the Science’.
In this case, the paper and its contents are so perfect that simply reproducing the title will largely explain why we chose to write about it. In Health benefits of fruit and vegetables are from additive and synergistic combinations of phytochemicals [Am J Clin Nutr 2003;78(3):P517S-520S], the author explains why whole fruits and vegetables are always more health-giving than individual vitamins, minerals or nutrients.
Let’s start with the abstract. “Regular consumption of fruit and vegetables is associated with reduced risks of cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke, Alzheimer disease, cataracts, and some of the functional declines associated with aging.” We couldn’t agree more. Moving on: “Foods that contain significant amounts of bioactive components may provide desirable health benefits beyond basic nutrition and play important roles in the prevention of chronic diseases.” Nothing to quibble with there, either.
Whole foods or isolated phytochemicals?
Next, the author [https://cals.cornell.edu/rui-hai-liu] raises the essential question addressed by his research: “[Does] a purified phytochemical [have] the same health benefit as does the whole food or mixture of foods in which the phytochemical is present[?]” Call us crazy if you like, but we’re going with ‘no’ on this one…what does the author say? “For example…the vitamin C in apples with skin accounts for only 0.4% of the total antioxidant activity, suggesting that most of the antioxidant activity of fruit and vegetables may come from phenolics and flavonoids in apples.”
The author fleshes out this point later on in the paper. “The total antioxidant activity of phytochemicals in 1 g of apples with skin is equivalent to 83.3 μmol vitamin C equivalents that is, the antioxidant value of 100 g apples is equivalent to 1500 mg of vitamin C. This is much higher than the total antioxidant activity of 0.057 mg of vitamin C (the amount of vitamin C in 1 g of apples with skin).” This means that the vitamin C in apples contributes less than 0.4% of their total antioxidant activity, with the vast majority a whopping 99.6% of that activity coming from phytochemicals found naturally in apples.
Fruit combinations: More than the sum of the parts
The author and his group also looked at the antioxidant effects of different fruit combinations. Perhaps surprisingly, they found that plums were the most antioxidant fruit they studied. But what was more interesting, and more relevant from a CrystalNutri perspective, was that combining different fruits didn’t just ‘add together’ the antioxidant powers of the individual fruits in the combination. Rather, they observed a synergistic effect, whereby the overall antioxidant capacity of the combinations was boosted to an unexpected degree. So 2+2=4, unless you’re talking about the antioxidant potential of fruits, where 2+2=8!
These results have fascinating implications. For example, could the negative results of several large-scale clinical trials of antioxidant supplementation in cancer patients be due to the use of isolated antioxidants? After all, with around 8000 different phytochemicals available in whole foods, “Pills or tablets simply cannot mimic this balanced natural combination of phytochemicals present in fruit and vegetables.” The bewildering array of interactions between these molecules and the cells, tissues and organs of the human body simply cannot be understood or replicated with current technology a statement that remains as true today, in 2024, as it was when this paper was written in 2003.
Nature knows best!
The CrystalNutri philosophy is that Nature knows best; that the incredible health-giving powers of whole fruits and vegetables cannot be fully reproduced in a supplement. That’s why our products are as pure as we can make them, containing only the finest quality fruit & vegetables in a unique crystalline form.
Herbalist & Naturopath