We tend to see vitamins as playing two different roles in our health. The first, and perhaps most obvious, is the 'deficiency model.' Certain vitamin supplements can correct deficiencies of that vitamin in our body that result from inadequate nutrition or some sort of assimilation difficulty. Yet, despite the almost miraculous results seen in supplying a vitamin-deficient individual with the missing nutrient-think about the almost immediate cure of the widespread bleeding seen with scurvy when those British sailors were given lemons and limes or the amazing improvement of seemingly deranged patients when given niacin, these types of indications are fast falling into the realm of history. In our hyper-nutrified modern world, people suffer far more from the excess of foods in their lives than they do from any shortage.
This leads me to the second and more common use of vitamins, which is their use as a driving force to selectively activate the metabolic machinery. In his famous book Biochemical Individuality (1956), Roger Williams, the discoverer of pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) proposed a 'genetotrophic theory' of disease. Nutritional deficiencies, he observed, are expressed differently among individuals, both in symptoms and in the order they appear, based upon the impact of environmental inputs on individual biochemistry and genetics. Thus each of us has specific pathways that may not function optimally and these differ based upon our genetics and the environment that we exist in.
Back when I was a newly coined physician, we would attempt to adjust nutrients to the patient by selecting from a panoply of singly bottled nutrients. We might use a separate zinc supplement, magnesium supplement, vitamin C supplement, etc. and adjust the selection and dose to that patient and their needs. While certainly well tailored, this approach was-and is-highly impractical. The average person is just not comfortable taking 40-60 pills and capsules per day.
Most multivitamins, on the other hand, are developed out of the deficiency model and feature doses designed to simply avoid any sort of deficiency-which as we've seen, almost nobody in the Western world suffers from.
In keeping with the theories of Roger Williams and my understanding of the physiological differences between the blood types, I wanted to design a series of multivitamins that worked via three basic principles:
- They should address known deficiencies and metabolic vulnerabilities linked to that blood type. For example, blood type A tends to have low levels of an intestinal enzyme that helps assimilate calcium and break down cholesterol. I designed the Polyvite A formula to contain a blend of nutrients designed to help activate this enzyme.
- They should enhance and strengthen processes that are central to how that blood type deals with illness and aging. For example, blood type O can experience problems with their immune system that can result from an overreaction to even very small amounts of yeast in their digestive tract. I designed the Polyvite O formula to include certain sea vegetables that help minimize yeast overgrowth and help regulate the type O immune response.
- They should be composed of vitamins derived from whole food sources and not synthetic chemicals. Studies have shown that vitamins derived from food sources, because they contain many auxiliary ingredients, exert more profound effects than purified, crystalline, synthetic forms. One famous study showed that whereas lemon and lime juice reversed scurvy almost immediately, synthetic ascorbic acid did not work as well and not in everyone. The Polyvite B formula has a wonderful anthocyanin berry complex and the Polyvite AB has a unique citrus bioflavonoid mix that does the same thing in two unique ways.
Finally, there is the concept of targeted nutrition. Personalization is all the rage these days, from medical advice, to shopping tips, to car insurance. Vitamins are no different. Options abound. Most involve pricey genetic testing of questionable value, followed by very expensive custom formulating. The great gift of insight given to us by the use of blood type permits us to do this smarter and better: A simple marker that can be determined by an inexpensive home test, followed by the use specific supplementation that costs no more than any other conventional multivitamin.
I like that.