We’re thrilled to be launching GEM, the first real food vitamin today. Our team has spent the last year devouring thousands of scientific articles and building more than 30 prototypes.
In honor of launch, our founder, Sara Cullen, sat down with our Chief Scientific Advisor, Dr. Egler, for a short Q&A to get his perspective on what GEM represents in the field of health & wellness.
Q: How do you define “health”
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
- Hippocrates, “The Father of Medicine”
If Hippocrates, The Father of Medicine, believed so strongly that what and how we ate determined our state of health or could be the cause of our ailments, why do modern doctors not also overly emphasize the importance and power of food to keep us well and to cure us?
Why do we continue to pursue a “pill for every ill” when we know, without question, that there is a better, healthier way?
But in this day and age, as most of us know, it’s not nearly a simple matter to eat a “healthy diet” as what does that even mean anymore? The dietary landscape is complicated and the media and word of mouth is riddled with uncertainty, contradiction, debate as well as mis- and disinformation: paleo, keto, vegetarian, vegan, low carb, low fat, healthy fat, lectins, glycemic index, GMOs, supplements, vitamins, this diet, that diet, etc..
As a medical doctor with almost 20 years of experience in family, academic and now functional medicine, I educate my patients that the most realistic answer is that there is no definitive diet for everyone. But there is one thing that is certain: our nutrition must be complete.
In order to be truly “healthy,” regardless of what label we slap on our diet, we need to get all the nutrients that our body craves in order to feel well and function properly. These vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants, etc. are essential to our bodies’ optimal operation.
GEM is an exciting breakthrough in that it is the first equivalent of a highly nutritional or vitamin supplement to assure these essentials come in the form of whole food.
Q: Why is this important?
This is so important in that most recent thinking and the science that supports it suggests that nutrients are better absorbed and work better in the body when obtained from whole foods.
Q: Okay let’s take a step back, what is a vitamin?
Vitamins are organic compounds that make up the food that nourishes us and is critical to our nutrition and health.
However, common perceptions of a daily vitamin are inaccurate. What most people don’t understand about taking “vitamins” is that there is a big difference between ingesting isolated nutrients in pill form versus your body’s natural ability to extract those same raw nutrients from food sources like GEM.
Q: How did vitamins come to exist? What’s the problem with the way we’ve currently thought of them?
The way vitamins exist today originates from most of the 1900s which constitutes an era of reductionism.
Since the discovery of individual vitamins and nutrients and the ailments that come from their depletion or inadequacy, scientists and subsequently doctors have focused on isolating and repletion of those individual substances. This has, in many cases, cured diseases due to extreme lack of certain essentials.
Now, ironically, vitamins have become a crutch for our depleted food system. Put simply, what we consider food has become less “whole” or “real.” The practices of food processing and refining often strip the “food” of much of its nutritional value leaving an empty shell. So we are consuming stripped energy sources and need vitamins to fill the gaps. But vitamins, as they exist today, are not playing well together.
Modern nutritional scientists and doctors who think more functionally understand that optimal nutrition is a team sport. Vitamins and minerals, as well as numerous other cardinal elements, work together in a symphony rather than a solo fashion. This is the organic, natural version of the whole being greater than the sum of the individual parts. We are now in an era of holism, not reductionism. We are now starting to see the forest through the trees and GEM is leading the way.
Q: What are some examples of how GEM is building a different kind of vitamin – one that plays nicely with others?
GEM incorporates chlorella and spirulina, two of the most nutrient-rich foods available, in an effort to take advantage of nature’s synergy through optimal bioavailability. Chlorella packs over 40 nutrients including all B vitamins, vitamin C, zinc and many minerals while spirulina is chock-full of large amounts of calcium, niacin, potassium, B vitamins, antioxidants, and all essential amino acids. The body can more easily absorb nutrients through spirulina than other protein-rich food like meat and soybeans (more than 10x the amount of bio-available protein than steak) while also being the richest plant source of GLA (an essential fatty acid similar to Omega 3).
Q: How is GEM better absorbed as a whole food rather than a pill or a capsule?
Doctors like myself are working to assure that people understand the importance of focusing our efforts on adopting and supporting a whole food diet to provide our body not only with the daily essentials but also in a manner, designed only by nature that the body recognizes and to which it responds. Not with substances, additives, and binders that trick your body into thinking its real food so it absorbs it.
Beyond this challenge, even the healthiest of human guts simply lack the capacity to effectively and efficiently absorb all the nutrients made available to it. The human body is miraculous, but a hardly perfect machine. Even if you could serve up the healthiest diet the earth could provide, perfect nutrition would be limited by functional aspects of digestion and absorption. So you must eat a well-balanced and diverse diet in order to help your body best absorb nutrients. That’s why diversity in the plants offered by GEM is just as important as the nutrients it provides.
More than 70% of our calories come from just 3 plants (soy, corn, & wheat). Whenever there is a lack of diversity, there is a lack of productivity and completeness. You need phytonutrients and organic compounds from a diversity of whole plants to maintain optimal wellness. GEM uses 13 varied food sources including algae and herbs ensuring you're not just nourishing your body with the right nutrients, but from the right sources too.
GEM is helping us usher in a new movement toward greater health and wellness.
Q: How else is GEM pushing forward this new movement?
A well-balanced, whole food diet may ward off many of the most common and problematic ailments, but it may still fall short of offering optimal wellness. The complex practices that have risen in the past century, driven by industrialism, technology and globalism mean added environmental, emotional, and physical stresses from pollution to long nights at the office.
We’re now transcending nutrition as pure physical nourishment of the body to one of the minds too. The health of the body and mind is inextricably connected as is its interplay with our environment.
We now need to think beyond the conventional 23 vitamins & minerals to consider other types of nourishment. For instance, adrenal excess and fatigue, excessively high and low cortisol levels respectively, are very common conditions in our busy, rushed, stressful cultures stress, but are equally overlooked, underrecognized and undertreated.
Each bite of GEM has a functional dose of 130 mg of Ashwagandha, an herbal adaptogen that is known to support the adrenal gland and balance the production of the stress hormone cortisol.
Q: In your own words, describe GEM:
GEM is whole food, a combination of numerous whole superfoods actually, empowered with key, essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to fill the gaps in even our best, organic, whole food diets (and especially those diets that are even less than optimal). It is a supplement that is itself a whole food. Perhaps we shouldn’t call it a vitamin at all. It’s really much more than that: it’s a convenient way to diversify, balance, and optimize your mind & body health.
About Dr. Egler: Jeffrey M, Egler, M.D. is Head of Research on GEM's Scientific Advisory Board. He is the Medical Director of Parsley Health LA. Former faculty member of USC and UCLA – Harbor Departments of Family Medicine.