The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

The Martial Art of Wellness
Volume 11 – April 2012

(Archive of Previous BioNews)



Welcome to this month’s BioNews.  We must learn to free ourselves from the control that others exert over us. As we learn we become FREE, we become powerful.  This pursuit of self defense in wellness, I call “The Martial Art of Wellness.” And as we practice we become Wellness Ninjas.


We tend to think of health as something that comes in a capsule purchased over the counter in a drugstore, instead of as a state which we attain by following the laws of nature.

– Henry G. Bieler, M.D.


My doctor has no explanation – Carbon-monoxide poisoning

I had multiple CO poisonings more than 10 years ago and my physical and mental health has been a brutal struggle since. One doctor after another had no answers or could even confirm or deny that poisoning was the cause.

I had HORRID HORRID reactions to medications for depression, anxiety, panic, numbness in hands and feet and the list goes on and on and on. And I had none of these problems before I was poisoned. Although I am by no means old (now in my early 40’s), the last few years my health has continued to decline. Perhaps its aging (as my doctor said 1st) but my symptoms have been like that of someone in their late 80’s or 90’s. Extreme physical weakness, extreme fatigue, loss of coordination/muscle control, numbness, massive brain fog, getting lost in the middle of doing things, dyslexia, and way more. I was then diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

I started taking BSF six months ago and began seeing improvements to my health within 2 weeks. Things continued to improve: numbness went down, muscle control went up, brain fog went down. Then at about month 4, after feeling good for a while, I got strangely sick for about a week. Not a cold or flu but felt like my body was getting rid of something on a deep deep level. I’ve never experienced anything like it before. And then I moved and noticed my body was suddenly flexible in a way it had not been since I was a teenager. It felt like my cells had shed their crusty skin in the same way a snake sheds its skin.

And I have been noticeably physically stronger since that point. Muscle tone has changed and become much more solid. I can now walk up and down stairs without the anxiety I had because I was so weak. Dyslexia is gone except for late at night if I let myself get too tired – but that too is becoming less and less.

I have never seen anything like this and I have tried a lot of different supplements and treatments. Nothing has worked like this has. It has given me a new body, a new brain and a new life (and my doctor has no explanation for how this turn around could have happened!)”

– James, USA

MARTIAL ART OF WELLNESS ( The Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts ) 

A few years back I committed to demythifying either substances, supplements or certain concepts of health that I believed to be wrong. This month I intend to increase your knowledge about health, so that you can increase your wellness and be more able to prevent illness. As wellness warriors, knowledge should come as number one in your arsenal. You have all heard the expression “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”, and although most of you likely understand its meaning, you probably do not practice it in your daily life.

What does the phrase “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” mean?

There are many answers. Some attribute the expression, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” to Aristotle’s Metaphysics. But according to others, there is no place in Metaphysics where the phrase or anything similar can be found! The same expression has also been phrased as: “The whole is more than the sum of its parts.” And others say it is more correct to say: “the whole is something else than the sum of its parts”, because summing up is a meaningless procedure, whereas the whole-part relationship is meaningful.” (Kurt Koffka, 1935: New York: Harcourt-Brace. p 176).

A few real life examples:

  • A crushed car is still “the sum of its parts” and it doesn’t consume much gas, but it neither rolls nor provides any utility except as scrap. “The whole” implies an order or arrangement, which cannot be applied to single atoms.
  • Water and a handful of dirt cannot paint a work of art, compose a song, or generate another “summation” of water and handful of dirt to do the same.
  • An iron atom is not a bridge, but lots of iron atoms can be.
The watch gives time, not the gears!

Whole food is greater than the sum of its parts!

Did you ever think of applying this undeniable fact to your food? The more research is done, the more complex whole foods and this life-giving nutrient web is revealed to be. Whole foods contain a wide array of nutrients including not only well known vitamins and minerals, but hundreds of other biologically active compounds all inter-related in a complex system supportive of the life of the plant or animal from which the food was derived. Did you know that isolates and separate supplements are fragments of this web, artificially isolated from the whole of interlocking parts within which they do their work in living systems, and that they are no substitute for eating healthful whole foods?

In the past 30 years, Americans have increasingly relied on the use of supplements as the magic bullet to optimal health. However, so many studies suggest that not only do nutritionally dense whole foods provide more benefits than isolated nutrients, but the unnaturally high doses of single nutrients supplied by supplements may actually induce detrimental effects on health by upsetting the integrated balance of active compounds found in whole foods.

Real Life Complexity vs. Supplement Simplicity

A whole foods diet contains a great diversity of phytonutrients. Some set the stage for the activity of others or work synergistically with them, while some neutralize or balance the effects of others. When we take a supplement, we’re often ingesting a much larger amount of a single nutrient than would be obtained from food, plus the supplement may be in a synthetic product that is not bio-identical to the natural form of the nutrient. Isolating one nutrient normally found in the diet, then artificially boosting it, may have unwanted consequences.

In the world of research, the whole food vs. supplement argument is, in large part, a question of complexity versus simplicity. Historically, researchers have zeroed in on one, or at most, a couple of nutrients in their research. Now they are beginning to develop the tools to cope with the astounding interactive complexity of hundreds of nutrients found in whole foods. For example, a study presented in July 2004 looked at the combined effects of two foods, broccoli and tomatoes.

Synergy of nutrients in whole foods are more effective

Researchers now suspects that the interactive effect of the multitude of active compounds found naturally in fruits and vegetables can be more beneficial than supplements. Instead of focusing on one micro-nutrient, some researchers are analyzing the cumulative, synergistic effects of many phytonutrients, such as lycopene, which accounts for much of the anti-cancer effects of fruits and vegetables.

The apple gives life, not the pills!

In the case of lycopene, whose most publicized source is tomatoes, its isolated form has been touted as a cancer-preventive supplement, despite the fact that the data supporting such a belief has been drawn from epidemiological and population studies of patterns of food consumption, not on the use of supplemental lycopene.

Lycopene from food reduces the risk of cancer – not lycopene from supplements

A Harvard study that put lycopene in the limelight reviewed the eating patterns of nearly 48,000 men and showed that consuming tomato sauce a couple of times a week lowered prostate cancer risk. Research focusing only on lycopene has yielded conflicting results, but when investigators have calculated the amount of lycopene consumed daily from foods, men whose average intake was 19 milligrams a day were found to have a 16% lower risk of prostate cancer than men who took 3 milligrams of a lycopene supplement daily.

The reduction in prostate cancer was even greater when tomato sauce intake was considered. Men who ate two or more servings of tomato sauce each week were 23% less likely to develop prostate cancer during the study period than men who ate less than one serving of tomato sauce each month. Could it be possible that lycopene is simply an indication of the tip of the cancer-protective phytonutrient iceberg and not the only reason why tomatoes are beneficial?

Many supplements are most likely damaging

In relation to gastrointestinal cancers, research suggests supplements may not only be useless but damaging. A review study published in the October 2004 issue of The Lancet found a number of studies showing that many antioxidant supplements are ineffective treatments for gastrointestinal cancers, and some may even cause harm. In these trials, no significant benefit was seen in supplementation with beta-carotene, vitamins A, C, E, and selenium (alone or in combination) compared to placebo in esophageal, gastric, colorectal, pancreatic or liver cancer incidence.

Although in four studies, selenium supplementation did significantly lower the risk of gastrointestinal cancer, in a number of other trials, the combinations of beta-carotene and vitamin A, and beta-carotene and vitamin E significantly increased mortality.(January 18, 2005)

Vitamin E from food decreases heart disease – not Vitamin E from supplements

Studies on heart patients who have taken vitamin E supplements have had varied results, but when the nutrients are consumed as part of a whole food diet, the results are consistently beneficial. An observational study of 85,000 nurses found that the risk of heart disease was lowest in women with the highest dietary intake of vitamin E from food, and a second study of 39,000 males revealed similar results.

Antioxidant supplementation may have negative effects

A meta-analysis of the research regarding antioxidant supplements and cardiovascular disease conducted by Penny Kris-Etherton and colleagues from Pennsylvania State University also suggests that antioxidant supplements generally do not treat cardiovascular disease, and some may have negative effects. In this review published in the August 2004 issue of Circulation, five out of nine studies on vitamin E and cardiovascular disease found no effect, three showed a beneficial effect, and one reported negative effects.

Three out of four studies investigating beta-carotene found no effect, and one reported negative effects. In the five studies on multiple antioxidant supplements reviewed, two found no effect, and three showed negative effects. In contrast, population studies clearly and consistently report that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is protective against cardiovascular and many other chronic diseases. Kris-Etherton and colleagues believe this is likely due to the fact that a diet rich in fruit and vegetables naturally contains not only all the antioxidants but a wide array of active compounds that act synergistically to prevent disease and produce health.(January 18, 2005)


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