Just a quick article with many links for you to check out regarding a nice point of view. Nutrient synergism.
To start, synergism is defined as ‘adding up to more than the sum of it’s parts’, which can be seen as 1 + 1 = 3. Taking two compounds which are synergistic with each other at the same time can yield more total benefit than taking them both at separate times or even them both in higher doses.
A paradigm for thinking of nutrient synergism: Nutrient sources (Food)
My first intro into food sources being an indicator of nutrient synergism came from studies in which fruits and vegetable consumption showed great promise as an indicator of overall health, but extracting isolated compounds showed no effects.
Initially it was thought that Vitamin C and vitamin E were the causes for health in fruits and veggies, more recent research is focusing on dietary polyphenols.
Looking at the examine.com pages for Quercetin, Resveratrol, and Myricetin we can see nutrient-nutrient synergism (also with the compound Genistein, which does not have its own page yet). Not mere additive effects, but straight out synergism in some actions.
These compounds, the nutritive polyphenols (found mostly in fruits, veggies, and the latter two in red wine), co-exist in nature and act in concert in the body. These actions may be a reason why the dose of the compounds found in foods, when transferred into pills in isolation, suck; yet eating them from foods confer benefit.
On a more delicious side of things, Meat. Meat is well known to be a natural source of Creatine and Choline, but also contains sources of Carnosine (beta-alanine), CoQ10, and is high in the amino acids Taurine and L-Carnitine. The synergism shown with creatine and beta-alanine is fairly well known in the literature, but there appears to be synergism shown between high levels of taurine and L-carnitine, between L-carnitine and choline, between choline and taurine, and between carnosine and L-carnitine. Many of these compounds also act on highly similar mechanisms and do not appear to negatively affect each other, thus they may be synergistic in ways not yet know.
I decided, at the onset of this article, to see whether one could extrapolate this notion to other food groups or whether it was chance. Given how fruits/veggies and meats were taken, and I do not know of many compounds in grains, I decided to branch off into dairy.
Vitamin D shows high synergism with calcium in their effects on muscle contractions and bone health. They are further augmented with vitamin K. Although modern dairy is low in vitamin K, it was in the past synthesized from bacteria that fed on the dairy products during processing and fermentation.
A note on Naturalistic Fallacy
Despite me touting the benefits of whole foods right, I can see people railing against supplements because of this article. In no way am I saying that the isolated compounds are either worthless or of less worth than foods. Putting these compounds in isolation into the human body does yield benefits to health. Its just better in the presence of other compounds.
So what I am saying is essentially to be on the look out for synergistic compounds, and you can get a good indication of these compounds by what else naturally exists in foods (although this is just a paradigm, a blanket statement, it is like correlation in that it is worth noting but says nothing absolute).
It may also be good practice to take any polyphenolic compound with a serving of fruits or veggies, to take any meat-based compound with a serving of meat, and to take your Vitamin D, calcium, or Vitamin K with dairy products. There may be other compounds out there that are not known, and eating them with their respective food sources might increase their potency or alleviate their potential side effects.