An integrative approach to dietary supplements

Presenter: Neal
Guest: Dr. Michael A. Smith
Guest Bio: Dr. Michael A. Smith is a graduate of the University of Texas, Southwestern Medical Center and completed his internship in internal medicine at the University of Utah.  His residency was earned in radiology at UT Southwestern Medical Center.  Before joining Life Extension Foundation, he worked in a variety of capacities for AstraZeneca including spokesperson for the company’s Phase – 3 clinical trials programs.  He also travels the United States presenting results to cardiology groups and university centers.

Segment Overview
Dr. Michael A. Smith discusses using dietary supplements in conjunction with traditional pharmaceuticals.


Neal Howard: Hello you’re listening to Health Professional Radio. Thank you so much for joining us today. I’m your host Neal Howard. Our guest in studio today is Dr. Michael Smith, he’s an author and nationally known media personality. He’s also an avid blogger, radio talk show host and he’s here today to talk with us about nutritional supplements. Many claim that people who maintain a healthy diet simply don’t need them but our guest today says that supplements can dramatically help us to live longer and well as he says better lives, if we know which ones is to take and exactly how to take them. How are doing today Dr. Smith?

Dr. Michael Smith: I’m doing really well Neal. Thanks for having me on your show.

N: Thanks for returning. Your book that has recently been released the “Supplement Pyramid: How to Build Your Personalized Nutritional Regimen.” Many doctors claim that if you eat a healthy diet and well trust in the pharmaceutical industry, you don’t really need any supplements. What’s your take on that claim?

S: Well I don’t believe that that’s the case. You know the first chapter of my book there’s a layout of five scientific facts. Now Dr. Mike is in five scientific facts for why we need to take supplements and it’s real quickly, you know we have poor soils that are growing nutrient for food. We have chronic stress in our lives, we have a toxic environment that we’re living in, and the studies even show people who are even trying to eat well and eat all the a nice balanced diet that were supposed to eat are still aren’t getting near enough servings of fruits and vegetables every day. And so even if when we try we don’t seem to do a very good job in not getting the right amount.

N: Well can I…

S: Yeah sure.

N: Well can I ask you a question? Without dating myself you know I’m over 30 okay, and I have heard my entire life, I’ve seen on television, I’ve heard on radio, it’s in the magazines, every First Lady is involved in healthcare, and just say yes to exercise – I don’t know something like that. Why is it that with all of this information, we’re still lacking when it comes to eating a healthy diet. Now I understand that you know we talked in another segment about the lack of proper nutrition in the soils. So that’s where it starts, it’s in the soil – without a good soil you’re not gonna grown the maximum nutritional food, I understand that. But it would seem that with all the information at least some of us would start eating better but obesity is on the rise, diabetes, all of these abnormalities.

S: Neal I think that’s there’s no easy answer for this but there are some theories out there why that is. Well first of all, remember that our food chain in this country, what I mean by that just the basic foods that we take from the grocery stores we shop at are full of prepackaged processed foods and there are some decent studies out there showing a lot of those nitrates and salts and preservatives that you’re find in these foods, including the sugars are addictive. That we develop these taste buds that are geared towards these chemical preservatives and these sugars and crave them. And so we’ve been, you know we have all whole you know starting with the TV dinner generation back in the 60’s and 70’s.

N: I remember it well.

S: I grew up with the TV dinner and starting right about then we were introducing food preservatives that we never really had in our food chain before. And there’s a lot of smart scientists, a lot of food nutritionists telling us that could be a problem. You know these chemicals taste good, they can be addictive, and guess what I’m goanna say it that the manufacturers of these food sources they know that. They know how to keep you buying some of the prepackaged products. So I think that’s one reason, I think another reason just that the lives we live today Neal, I mean look how busy we are. It’s so much easier just to grab something that’s premade than to cook a meal and sit down with your family and enjoy it and have that time. Instead is we throw it in the microwave, we shove it down, we go on to the next thing, whether it’s kid playing in soccer or you going onto your second job or you know whatever it is. I think when you put that all together those are probably a few of the reasons why we’re not eating the way were supposed to eat.

N: Well I heard you used the word ‘addictive’ and I’ve never heard addictive used in a positive context. So these chemicals are basically toxic, they taste good but they’re toxic. If supplements are a part of our diet, are they going to counteract the effects of these chemicals that were ingesting due to the fast food world, are they going to counteract?

S: Maybe to a small degree Neal. Supplements don’t mean that you can continue to eat a poor diet, but you can’t. There’s been a couple of negatives studies recently specifically last year. There was one study that shows that a multivitamin really didn’t do any good. This was a study in a bunch of men who were a doctors by the way, and the authors concluded that a multivitamin was useless. But the problem with that kind of conclusion is if they didn’t really look at the diet of these doctors that were in the study, their stress level, they had in a sense you know lifestyles that really weren’t that healthy. And why would you expect one little multivitamins to cure all that? Of course it’s not. So eating right is important, getting sleep, hydrating, all of the exercise, all of that is important and then when you add these important nutrients back into your diet, do this supplements, then they can be powerful, then we can even talk about treating diseases, even curing diseases, definitely preventing a lot of issues. So we need to get rid of the prepackaged stuff out of our diet, we got to improve the health of our food chain, we got to go back to fresher foods. But when you look at the environment, the poor soils, all that kind of stuff supplements are still important all that because we’re just living different lives today than we did in the past. So no, no you can’t just continue to eat the fried food and the free fat. No, you have to clean up your diet, add supplements to it and then you’re gonna be on the right path.

N: We’ve got drugs out there for cholesterol. We’ve got the statins, we’ve got drugs that are at least used on a wide scale when it comes to weight management. Are you talking about an integrative approach, supplements, and medication to manage a healthy lifestyle or simply using supplements in addition to the food and cutting out some of the drugs?

S: Yeah, the answer is ‘yes’ to both of those. I mean I am a medical doctor, I’m an integrative doctor, I’m not against medicines. I think sometimes they are appropriate for people. But my goal is never to keep somebody on medication long term. Conventional medications are really good in acute settings. If I need to bring down your cholesterol because it’s way too high I might use a statin medication for a few months. But I’m gonna get you on a good diet and I’m gonna add supplements also that can bring down the cholesterol. So maybe in a few months we get you off the statin and now we control your cholesterol with the supplements in the diets – that’s what integrated medicine is all about. However, I do also think that there’s plenty of research evidence over the past 20 years there have been thousands of peer reviewed publications in humans, clinical trials showing how certain supplements targeted to certain diseases can be used as a treatment. I mean you’re talking about pomegranate in heart disease. You’re talking about Curcumin in pain and inflammation, you’re talking about Tart Cherries in rheumatoid arthritis, I mean it goes on and on and on. So supplements can also fill that role as well. But I think as an integrative doctor I like to keep all my options open but I just don’t think it’s ever a good idea to put somebody on a synthetic chemical that might be targeting one symptom or one risk factor and then think that everything is just fine and that’s just not how it works. Most of these age related disorders are multifactorial – meaning there’s many different risk factors, many symptoms going on that one drug, one disease approach really doesn’t work, it breaks down. So I think that a good diet and supplementation is much more holistic and natural way rate to bill with a lot of the age related disorder that are epidemic today. Despite those medications people are taking.

N: Now when we were talking about medication and supplements and integrative approach to the administering of both, well are supplements classified as drugs? Are they the same as drugs, do they have the same requirements as far as the FDA is concern?

S: Well no. Let’s get something straight about the FDA there is a myth out there in a lot of my medical doctor colleagues believe this myth that the FDA does not regulate supplements – that is false. The FDA does regulate the supplement industry, they regulate it in terms of manufacturing and how these supplements are branded and marketed.

N: Okay.

S: The main thing that the FDA does and they’re starting to do this better and this is a good thing, is they make sure that all supplements are manufacturing following Good Manufacturing Practices which is called the GMP. That’s one of the best thing the FDA can do, because that will wean out a lot of those fly by night companies or just trying to make a buck and that was establish companies like Life Extension, Source Naturals, many good companies that follow those manufacturing practices. The FDA does regulate how these supplements are made and how they’re marketed. But they’re not necessarily looking at whether they can treat a disease, that’s why I can’t tell you that a branded product like let’s say pomegranate can treat any sort of heart disease. I can tell you that pomegranate as an ingredient can lower blood pressure but I can’t tell you that a branded product, you know with the companies name on it … we have to test that product. But pomegranate has plenty of research showing that it can lower blood pressure. So the FDA is really more involved in the production, the quality and how that product is marketed. So we are regulated, that’s just a myth that were not.

N: Okay as we wrap up. You mentioned that many doctors as well as us regular folks out there who aren’t doctors believe the myth of the FDA doesn’t regulate supplements. In addition to that myth, as controversial as supplements have become, many of your colleagues simply say that they’re useless and what your saying is simple a sales pitch. When it comes to your fellow healthcare providers, what would you say to them when it comes to using your book as an educational tool in order to inform patients, when those patients ask about supplements?

S: Well, yeah. My book by the way, you know writing this book, I think I have about 400 references from peer reviewed clinical publications. So everything I talk about is science based, medical based, and I back it up with the research. So you can put confidence in the you know if I suggest for somebody pomegranate for a heart issue, I back it up with the references – they’re all there. I think my fellow doctors need to realize that again over the past couple of decades, thousands of peer reviewed publications are out there showing the efficacy and safety of supplements. And if you ever see a negative study about a supplement you have to weigh that against all the other positive studies that are out there. That’s what we should be doing as scientists. We do the same thing with pharmaceuticals by the way there are a few negative studies with statins out there, however we have to weigh that against the benefits that statin have for lowering cholesterol. I guess I just want doctors to apply the same standards for how they judge at drug, they should do the same thing for supplements. Look at the preponderance of the evidence. All the research that’s been done in the nutrient not just looking at one negative headline that might come out on the Good Morning America or something like that, but that’s would some of them do. So again, there’s plenty of proof out there that supplements are efficacious and safe in treating many of our age related disorders. I’m a medical doctor, I’m a scientist, I’m kind of a data nerd in there Neal, I love this stuff and I won’t be doing what I’m doing and I won’t be writing a book If I couldn’t back it up. You just have to be willing to look at it, you gonna be willing to open yourself up to the fact that there are different ways to approach age related disorders.

N: Thank you. You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host Neal Howard. We’ve been in studio today talking with Dr. Michael Smith of Life Extension. He’s the author of the “Supplement Pyramid: How to Build Your Personalized Nutritional Regimen.” We’ve been here talking about the importance of nutritional supplements, how they differ in their makeup and how they are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, just like normal pharmaceuticals. We’ve been also talking about how it’s important to consider your lifestyle when choosing which supplements take advantage of as far as the type and the quantity. It’s been great having you’re here with us today Dr. Smith.

S: Thank you Neal, I appreciate it.

N: Thank you. Transcripts of this program are available at and also at