After two years of investment, whole food nutritional supplements are sprouting for healthy consumers
The best-kept secret in nutrition and whole food nutritional supplements is a 10,000-acre complex, the North Carolina Research Campus, where whole-foods and innovative research intersect.
April was the two-year anniversary of Standard Process’ Nutrition Innovation Center (NIC) on the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis, N.C. Standard Process introduced whole-food nutrition to the U.S. in 1929 when the company began producing supplements under the watchful eye of founder Dr. Royal Lee, who was hailed as the “father of holistic nutrition.”
Nutrition comes of age
Dr. Lee’s message was well ahead of its time and was subsequently silenced by big business and the large food and nutritional institutions. In the 1930s his messaging eschewed the heavily-advertised empty carbs promoted as healthy or “energizing” — white breads, candies, fried chips and white pastas — with little to no nutritional value. Almost 100 years later his theories are prescient.
Mirroring the current landscape of chemical-laden, heavily processed foods and pills that make up the American diet, back in 1951 he said, “One of the biggest tragedies of human civilization is the precedence of chemical therapy over nutrition. It’s a substitution of artificial therapy over nature, of poisons over food.”
What is whole-food nutrition?
It was not until the early 1900s that researchers grasped the large-scale impact of vitamins on proper bodily function. Scientists identified vitamins as chemical compounds that could be synthesized and sold as nutrients or supplements, and the giant pharmaceutical companies were born.
Whole-food nutrition and supplements contain the vitamins, minerals, enzymes, phytonutrients and antioxidants that nature intended as the whole-food parts all working together synergistically to support good health. It’s a “wholistic” effect where key nutrients work together more effectively and increase bioavailability, or the ability of nutrients to be absorbed by the body. This is especially important in the case of phytonutrients, which have been likened to a plant’s own immune system.
But how does whole-food nutrition get condensed into a supplement while safeguarding that nutritional value?
Creating whole food nutritional supplements
Standard Process each year converts 7.5 million pounds of vegetables harvested from their 623-acre certified organic farm in Wisconsin into 300 different supplements and other whole-food products, while the Nutrition Innovation Center collects data and performs research to bring about Dr. Lee’s legacy of superior nutrition.
“Standard Process has been a leader and innovator in whole-food nutrition for nine decades,” said Charles DuBois, Standard Process president and CEO, at the opening of the facility in 2018. “The Nutrition Innovation Center will be the leading and only active clinical research center of its kind, dedicated to both mid- and long-term support of whole food clinical nutrition.”
That whole-food nutritional value comes from taking raw materials from the organic farm — beets, Brussels sprouts, kale, kidney beans, buckwheat, alfalfa, pea vine and other plants — and grinding and pressing them to separate the juice from the pulp, resulting in a concentrated product that is then dried in low-temperature, high vacuum dryers to preserve their nutrients, and eventually packaged. From raw materials to finished product takes an average of six weeks.
“We’ve been farming sustainably and organically in Wisconsin for more than 19 years,” said Sara LeBrun-Blashka, MS, director of education for Standard Process. “The NIC is really providing insight into the phytonutrients in the crops we do grow on our organic farm since opening the site. People think that organic is less farming with science — it’s actually more farming with science. If you can’t use Roundup to kill something, you have to be much more thoughtful about your processes. It’s really more advanced than a lot of commercial farms, and it really helps in delivering the cleanest products that are available.”
The Nutrition Innovation Center houses four major programs:
Discovery Innovation Research — focused on preclinical, systems biology and cell models for phytonutrients and nutritional solutions;
Clinical Development and Research — defined by a coalition of collaborating clinical research sites that form a network for practice-based and case-observation national studies;
Media and Learning Center — providing the most advanced educational tools and capabilities available to further health care practitioner education and training;
Clinic of the Future — an integrative clinical practice bringing together multiple credentialed health care professionals for training on the practical and relevant aspects of clinical nutrition therapies.
“The clinic has really been built from the ground up, so it’s wonderful to see the progress made,” said Nutrition Learning Manager Meghan Hamrock, MS, MPH. “Being situated on a research campus, there are other universities that are already doing clinical trials and they’re great to work with and bounce ideas off of. We’ve had close to 2,000 clinical trial subject interactions — we can see the immediate impact of data and how we can translate that into our products.”
The goal is to impact health care in the United States through nutritional therapy, and the North Carolina Research Campus has met Standard Process’ need for strong collaboration and research infrastructure with local universities and partners.
“Our mission is to change lives as an organization, and the NIC gives us more insight into how we can effectively do that, in concert with our practitioners to make a difference in their patients’ lives,” said Clinical Nutrition Communication Specialist Kara Marker. “It is how whole-food nutrition can make an impact on everyday life, understanding more of the science to make sure our patients are healthier and happier.”
Personalized nutrition and adventure athletes
The NIC has flexed its muscles over the last two years by supporting the exploits of adventurer Colin O’Brady, who in 2018 completed the “Impossible First” trek across Antarctica, and last year the “Impossible Row” across the Drake Passage, both setting world records.
Standard Process brought O’Brady into the NIC, where they formulated a personalized whole-foods-based bar designed for his needs during both his Antarctica attempts. In his Antarctica Crossing, the ‘Expedition Bar’ contained approximately 1,200 calories per bar, which helped him attain the high caloric daily needs during his grueling world-record attempts.
“For the past year and a half we have had him in our clinic multiple times, pre- and post-treks, for his world records,” Hamrock said. “We not only brought him in for assessment and checked his baseline but provided him with the custom made ‘Expedition Bar’ based on his specific nutritional biomarkers and what he needed to reach a certain goal with calories, vitamins and minerals.”
Whole-food nutrition in the future
In January of this year the NIC entered into a new five-year lease agreement to continue at the Kannapolis research center where the family-owned, third-generation company will continue the legacy of Dr. Royal Lee. Like chiropractic, which treats the source rather than the symptoms, Standard Process with whole food nutritional supplements addresses the whole patient. Traditional medicine typically prescribes “the whole pill for an ill” to blanket symptoms — but out of the NIC is coming the understanding of the root causes that a lack of whole-food based vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients can do to compromise health.
Rick Vach is editor-in-chief of Chiropractic Economics.