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The Power of Powder

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So you ask: 'Why would I choose a vitamin and mineral supplement powder over tablets?'

Tablets and capsules give doctors and pharmacist a convenient way to administer potent and often foul tasting medications. So it was a natural crossover that when individual nutrients were isolated and then combined together that they too were made into pill form, they too were potent and tasted foul. The ability to isolate and put individual nutrients of measured amounts into tablet form has helped to create a healthier nation. But with this great 'invention' some compromises were made and it is these compromises that have led the pioneers of whole food nutrition such as Adelle Davis and James Ingoldsby to identify the need for an alternative, purer form for vitamin and mineral supplements to be offered.

For the most part tablets and to a lesser degree, capsules, contain much more then the vitamins and minerals listed on their labels. Fillers, such as sodium chloride and hydrated aluminum silicate, are added to bulk up a pill so it is a convenient size for machines. Dextrose (sugar), waxes and other binders are often used to compress the powdered nutrients into tablets. To allow these nutrients to flow freely through the machinery that shapes them, lubricants such as magnesium sterate are used. To assist with the disintegration of a tightly packed tablet after it's swallowed, cellulose and sodium lauryl sulfate are also added. And to dress up the end product, artificial dyes and flavors are occasionally included. None of the above has any nutritional bearing at all. To anyone who may suffer from allergies or substance sensitivities these substances can even have adverse effects on their health. While capsules eliminate the need for most of these non-nutritive ingredients, they pose a few problems of their own. Most recently with the outbreak of mad cow disease the source of gelatin has largely been in question. The gelatin capsules also pose a substantial moral obstacle for vegans and vegetarians. Capsules can be difficult to swallow and some consumers are concerned about the possibility of tampering. Two-piece hard-shell capsules have been known to be tampered with because they can be opened and closed easily, although incidences of tampering have been extremely rare. Then there is the option of softgel capsules. Because they are hermetically sealed they are considered safer. They are also easier to swallow than hardshells and require no excipients, but their contents must be in an oil base and if one capsule breaks then the rest of the bottle is spoiled.

Adelle Davis advocated receiving nutrients in food form and was concerned that the industry had gone somewhat astray offering vitamins and minerals separately and in pill form like medicine. Davis and Ingoldsby identified that the best way to administer supplements would be in powder form realizing that this would be closest to food-like. They were right. The primary difficulty with tablets or capsules is that they are difficult to take, digest and absorb. Approximately 20% of the population cannot swallow pills and there is a large segment of the population that suffers from a compromised digestive system. This can be as minor and temporary as pregnancy or as serious and chronic as colitis. It has also been identified that due to a decrease in stomach acid secretions, with age our bodies lose their ability to properly digest food. There have even been antidotal stories about x-rays showing an abundance of undigested pills in patient's stomach. To what extent this is true cannot be confirmed but many people cannot digest pills, resulting in expensive stomachaches and faeces.

The powders
The answer to Adelle Davis' quest for the ideal food form for supplementation came in the 1970's as new research became available that showed that by combining minerals with amino acids (chelation) it makes the nutrient not only easier to digest but considerably increases the bioavailability. When a mineral is chelated it becomes more like the food that the body is normally used to receiving it in. So it allows the nutrients to be delivered in a concentrated yet bioavailable form. This chelation solution has since been implemented into most quality supplements regardless if they come in powder, tablet or capsule form.

Ingoldsby was able to take this research and address the challenge he and Davis had been struggling with. How to produce a pure nutrient supplement powder that could mix into liquids and not have the bitter taste of vitamins or the metallic taste of minerals? In the past, flavoring such as chocolate had been added to mask these undesirable tastes. This is where the additional benefit of chelation with high quality protein made the difference. By combining the nutrients with protein it was possible to create a neutral tasting powder that could be easily mixed into a liquid. So where previously the idea of a supplement powder was unattractive, chelation paved the way for nutritional supplement powders without the need for flavorings. Pure nutrition in its most bio-available form.

The benefits of a powder

No fillers, binders or additives
Easy to swallow
Easy to digest
Powders are great for kids, eliminating the need for the often sugar filled chewable vitamins.
Economics also make powdered supplements more appealing than their tablet and capsule rivals.

Encapsulating or forming tablets can increase the cost of most supplements by as much as 70%.

Not all supplement powders are created equal. Key areas to take into consideration are how the chelation process is carried out and the nutrient formula. In order for the chelation process to render the most potent and bio-available nutrients it is best to be done with enzyme hydrolysis instead of strong acid bases. This process is almost a duplication of that which occurs naturally in the gastro-intestinal tract.

Often the absorption or 'bio-availability' of a particular mineral can be enhanced by the simultaneous ingestion of certain other minerals, vitamins and/or enzymes. These are known as 'synergistic factors.' It is important that the supplement formula contains these as they either work directly with the mineral to increase its effectiveness, increases absorption of the mineral itself or can prevent the depletion of an 'associate' mineral.

When choosing a nutritional supplement it really comes down to basic biochemistry and nature. Nutritional supplements are not drugs. They are a natural and holistic way to address the depleted and toxic environments that we are bombarded with everyday. Ideally, we would get these nutrients from our food but we aren't eating enough of the right stuff and even if we were the nutrients just aren't there anymore. So why add to your toxic load with the very tool you are trying to use to lessen it with. High quality nutritional vitamin and mineral supplement powders are the most nature-like and effective way to ensure your body is getting what it needs.


By Julie Tomlinson
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