Complex foods versus functional foods, nutraceuticals and dietary supplements: differential health impact (Part 2)
What differentiates natural complex foods from nutraceuticals and dietary supplements is food structure, this latter involving nutrient interaction and synergism, and a complex mixture at nutritional doses. Scientific evidence showed that functional foods, nutraceuticals and dietary supplements (FND) have failed stopping chronic diseases epidemics: most conclusions of recent meta-analyses and systematic reviews are lack of significant health effect and needs for further studies. Why such disappointing results? Probably because FND results from a curative and reductionist nutritional approach while complex foods participates in a preventive and holistic approach. Indeed, reductionism has led to fractionate foods, isolating compounds from them for use at supra-nutritional doses in FND. Holism considers foods as complex systems in which the whole is more than sum of the parts leading to more sustainable health effects, and technological treatments more respectful of food structure.
An emphasis on synergism
Synergy means that 1 + 1 is not equal to 2 but is higher than 2, e.g., as eloquently shown in vitro with a mix of rutin, p-coumaric acid, abscisic acid (1). In other words, the whole is more than the sum of the parts. For example, the strength of a cable is higher than the sum of the strengths of each steel rope constitutive of the cable and taken separately. Examples could be multiplied indefinitely. In addition, there are more and more papers showing convincing results about this issue.
Thus, Rayalam et al. have studied synergism between resveratrol and other phytochemicals and the implications for obesity and osteoporosis. They concluded that "combining resveratrol with other phytochemicals may provide an extraordinary potential for preventing obesity and osteoporosis by not only decreasing the dose of each compound, thereby avoiding potential toxic side effects, but also by targeting multiple signaling pathways affecting adipogenesis, apoptosis, lipolysis and osteogenesis simultaneously" and added that "these phytochemical synergies may make possible novel safe, potent and efficacious therapies"(2). Further, ...