It’s perhaps one of the sadder ironies of our time that the astonishing affluence we enjoy in inessential luxuries should be accompanied by increasing poverty in the most basic necessity of all – the very food we eat.

The one thing in which our modern Western diet is not deficient, of course, is calories, as a glance at our surging rates of obesity and diabetes will quickly confirm. But these calories are largely provided in the form of refined carbohydrates, sugar and fat, leaving little time or space for the consumption of health promoting fresh fruits and vegetables.

Worse still, there’s overwhelming evidence that even our fruits and vegetables are not as nutritionally potent as they used to be. As early as 1936 Senate Document 264 (74th US Congress, Second Session ) noted that 99% of Americans were deficient in necessary minerals and in the light of the continued intensification of farming methods it seems highly unlikely that the situation will have improved in the intervening years. Indeed, the 1992 Earth Summit reported that mineral concentrations in US farm soils were 85% lower than those of a hundred years ago.

The figures for other wealthy Western nations are almost as alarming, and the problem doesn’t just lie in the soil. The modern prevalence of highly refined grains, and the treatment of fruits and vegetables with preservatives, dyes, pesticides and even radiation is a proven disaster for vitamin and mineral retention in our food, as well as a significant toxic assault with which the human organism simply wasn’t designed to cope.
So not surprisingly in the face of this depressing picture, diet supplements have become a multi-billion dollar industry in spite of conventional medicine’s insistence that a well balanced diet including all the main food groups should supply all our nutritional needs.

In a way this traditional view has some sense in it, because there’s a fundamental problem in trying to rectify a very poor diet through supplementation alone. The problem is that the human body is a wonderfully complex organism which functions holistically. That’s to say that each and every one of its almost infinite number of biochemical processes is dependent upon numerous others for its proper functioning, and no vital nutrient can do its work in the absence of an adequate supply of the others.

So it’s rarely any use to take specific supplements in isolation except in the very short term. And since research has shown that healthy animals, including humans, require at least 45 different minerals as well as essential vitamins, amino acids and fatty acids, trying to take all these as individual supplements would be a time consuming and tiresome process.

As a not very palatable alternative there are of course the torpedo size multis or “horse pills”. The problem is that is that these must be heavily compressed and treated with a binding agent and the tablets produced by this process are inevitably bulky and difficult to swallow. Laboratory technicians try to help to some extent by wrapping the vitamins and minerals in protein to assist with their metabolism; but according to the 1996 Physician’s Desk Reference only 10 - 20% is absorbed even if your digestive system is extremely efficient.

And for those with even slightly sub-optimal health, this bleak outlook is even worse, because digestion is one of the most sensitive and easily upset of all our vital functions. We all know that when we have any kind of emotional upset or illness, even as minor as a cold, the first thing to go is our appetite. The fact is that the complex and subtle biochemistry required for digestion has been thrown off balance, and your body just doesn’t want to take in food it knows it won’t be able to absorb. So it’s a cruel paradox that it’s just when you’re most in need of supplements that you’re least likely to be able to benefits from them.

But this doesn’t mean you should give up on the idea of supplements. Advocates of liquid vitamin and mineral supplements now claim absorption rates as high as 95-98% from fresh ingredients which in the scientific jargon are much more bio-available. That’s to say they’re much more quickly and easily assimilated into the blood stream and thereby conveyed to the tissues that so urgently need them.

Since the plant-derived ingredients are not powdered or compressed and require no added fillers or binding agents; devotees claim as little as a single fluid ounce may contain all of the body’s daily nutritional requirements. And as many of the minerals we require are needed in trace amounts of 100 milligrams or less, there may be some truth in this.

So although no one suggests that a liquid supplement can take the place of a healthy diet, it may perhaps be worth considering as a convenient and extremely cost effective form of health insurance.

Author's Bio: 

Steve Smith is a copywriter and journalist with a particular interest in the fields of wellness and nutrition.