NOTE: The following address was delivered by Dr. Wentz at the 2014 USANA Health Sciences International Convention

As many of you know, the name USANA is a combination of the Greek and Latin word roots that means “true health.” When USANA was created more than 20 years ago, we wanted a name that would express the critical importance of nutrition for developing and maintaining a healthy body and mind. I believe then, as I do today, that optimal nutrition is by far the most important thing you can do to achieve long term good health. That’s why I want to revisit the subject of the importance of optimal nutrition, especially the critical need for supplementation in our modern society.

My early mentor and later colleague, Dr. Linus Pauling said, “You can trace every sickness, every disease, and every ailment to a mineral deficiency.” And that goes for vitamins and most other nutrients as well. In fact, the World Health Organization considers under nutrition to be the single greatest threat to our world’s public health. Deficiencies of the essential micronutrients have serious health effects for all age groups such as the 14 million children in developing countries suffering a loss of vision due to a deficiency of vitamin A. 500- to 600,000 of those children go blind every year. And half of them will die within a year of losing their sight.

We need nutritional supplementation more today than ever before. Since the start of the industrial revolution two centuries ago, we have made our environment, the world we live in, unfriendly to most forms of life. The air we breathe, the water we drink, and the soils we use to produce foods all have greater amounts of pesticides, heavy metals, and toxic synthetics than ever before. However, the correct nutrients in the proper amounts can protect you from today’s toxic environment .

The problem is almost all of our nutrition comes from one place: Food; our three square meals a day. Unfortunately today’s food is not what it used to be. There are two major problems. First, what’s not in it. And second, what is in it. What do I mean by that?

Well, to begin with, most of our foods are provided to us by a food industry that puts profits ahead of the customer. The problems begin on the farm where intensive industrial farming has been implemented to maximize output such as monoculture and the overuse of artificial fertilizers which supply only a few of the elements that support life. In this practice, there’s far too little concern for the health of the soil and the true nutritional content of the vegetables, fruits, or meat products.

All around the world our soils have been depleted of nutrients that were built up over hundreds of thousands of years. The nutrition rich topsoil needed to grow our food is disappearing at an alarming rate. Agriculture authorities at the United Nations estimate that we are exhausting the nutritional elements of the topsoil at rates up to 100 times faster than it can regenerate.

In a misguided attempt to compensate for this wholesale abuse of the soil, billions of pounds of fertilizer are dumped on crop lands every year. But they generally replace only three nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. We need many other elements and compounds about 40 of them to enable ourselves to function properly. We need them in our diet. They cannot be made by the body.

When foods are deficient in important nutrients our bodies end up substituting them with similar, but less functional or even harmful non-life elements, and incorporate them in ourselves and tissues in place of the nutrients they need.

For example, radioactive strontium will be taken up by the body to make up for a calcium deficiency. Likewise, when we’re deficient in healthy fats, the cells will substitute them with unhealthy trans fats. And an even greater problem than nutrient depletion from the soil is the amount of nutrition lost from food products during harvesting, transportation, storage, and processing. Some crops are harvested before maturity in an attempt to have supermarket produce achieve a longer shelf life. Those fruits and vegetables may last longer, and look better, but they haven’t been allowed to develop their full nutritional value.

The next step, getting food from the farms to the people contributes further to the loss of nutrition. Most of us now live in large cities, far from the farm. That means fresh food must travel across the country and in many cases, around the world. Of course, when food spends that kind of time in transportation and storage, it also means the additional loss of nutrients.

Then, there is food processing. It makes the job of the merchandiser much easier, but comes at the expense of the consumer. Processed foods may be easier to ship and have a longer shelf life, but so many nutrients are left behind in the factory. So is most of the taste.

A recent study from Canada compared a range of staple foods including potatoes, tomatoes, bananas, apples, onions, broccoli and more, finding nutrient losses in all of it. Over the past 50 years for example, the average potato has lost 100 percent of its vitamin A, 57 percent of vitamin C and iron, 50 percent of riboflavin or vitamin B2, and 28 percent of calcium and 18 percent of thiamine or vitamin B1.

Now, let’s bring that food from the store to the kitchen and begin to prepare a meal. Cooking results in further loss of nutrients with reductions of 25 percent or more. It is a wonder that any nutritional value is still left in our food when it finally lands on our plate. What I’ve told you thus far is only a quick overview of what’s not in our diets; what used to be there, and should still be there today.

But there is a second and perhaps worse problem: Chemicals and toxins in the foods we eat every day. That’s right. One aspect of our daily lives that we hope would protect us and keep us healthy turns out to be another hazard. Our bodies are forced to cope with increasing amounts of toxic chemicals; a misfortunate result of today’s industrial farming procedures.

Take pesticides. Billions of pounds 25 billion dollars’ worth annually are dumped on our food crops. Over the past two decades we’ve been told that the adoption of genetically engineered crops has resulted in the decreased use of herbicides and in insecticides. However, more recent reports indicate that’s not true. In fact, the rise in genetically modified food crops is leading to greater applications of both herbicides and insecticides, not less.

Unfortunately, that is only the beginning of our exposure to toxins. All around you, in the clothes you wear, in the couch you sit on inside your home, and even in the car you drive, every year the toxic sources increase. But the threat of everyday toxic chemical exposure in your home, on the job, and sometimes at the place you go on vacation is only part of the story.

More than a decade ago, an environmental survey group tested the blood of some Americans. What was found? A total of 287 toxic chemicals in those blood specimens with individual test subjects averaging 200 toxic chemicals each. Of the toxics found, 28 of them were waste products, waste byproducts such as dioxins and furans from pesticides. In addition, they found 47 toxics from consumer products such as Teflon and flame retardants. Most serious was the detection of industrial chemicals and pesticides that were banned more than 30 years ago. Many of them directly associated with cancer, birth defects and infertility.

But these test subjects didn’t get those toxic substances by consuming the food, air, or water around them. They couldn’t have because they were all newborn babies. Precious brand new in this world for only hours. The blood tested was taken from their umbilical cords. The toxins came from the nourishment received from their mothers, the only food those babies had ever known. Here perhaps more dramatically than in any other stage of life is where the difference between how we used to live and what we face today is best demonstrated.

As proven by the blood specimens, we see that a mother’s body is not capable of protecting its baby from the toxic chemicals it is exposed to today. We no longer live in a world where a healthy diet is all you need to ensure good health. As Dr. Weaver so eloquently described, we are surrounded by toxic substances psychological as well as physical and stress. Today, more than ever, our bodies need more assistance, more protection, and more nourishment even before birth.

From the changes in the earth’s soils, to how our foods are obtained, and through the characteristics of living in a modern society, we see the results of humankind’s power to degrade the environment he lives in. Often it seems like it’s a problem of society itself; too large for us to change.

However, the blame for inadequate nutrition cannot be placed solely on others. In many cases, poor nutrition is largely a matter of bad lifestyle choices. We know what foods are most nutritious, but because we’re too busy or don’t have enough time, we opt for convenience instead.

When diet researchers asked almost 2,000 adults what the most important consideration was in choosing lunch, convenience and taste ranked well above health. In fact, health ended up dead last. Convenience was 34 percent, taste was 28 percent, cost, 21 percent. Health, 17 percent. Ultimately the most important factor in living a healthy lifestyle is, of course, you.

The USANA supplements can provide you with the most effective solution to give yourselves all and I mean all of life’s essential micronutrients. But it is only when you make them part of your everyday living routine that the power of those nutritionals is realized. Doing that is up to you. All of you can be thankful that you’ve taken an important first step by becoming a member of the USANA family.

From USANA’s very first days, I knew it would be an uphill climb to stand up against large, well-funded groups, organizations only interested in simply maintaining the status quo. That is why we all join together today, ignited toward a greater good. Because after two decades USANA continues to show the world that the quality of our lives doesn’t have to be dictated by the food industry, by industrial farming, by the pharmaceutical industry, by your own government or those in the biomedical community who insist that supplementation is of little or no value.

To this day, I still remember when the USANA Essentials were introduced. The relentless criticism saying that supplements result in nothing more than expensive urine or that higher than recommended daily allowances of some nutrients like antioxidants failed to improve health and may contribute to illness. Those critics and doubters, they are still around and they are still wrong.

Time and again, time and again, we hear the objection that there are no trustworthy scientific studies that show supplementation providing real health benefits. USANA family, that is not true. There are in fact thousands and thousands of credible studies that prove the benefits of micro nutrition. Every year thousands of medical journal articles are published on the various benefits from vitamins and minerals. In just one year, 500 to 600 articles were written on vitamin E alone. And about that same number focused on vitamin C. You can read benefit after benefit that comes from the world of micronutrients.

One particularly interesting report compared a group of hospital patients, those who did follow a regimen of daily supplement consumption, and those who did not. As I’ve said many times before, daily supplement support a complete and varied diet to promote long term good health. It is when your body needs that supplement, when your body needs help that supplements are of their greatest value.

Now, as members of the USANA family, you know that you receive the highest quality, most effective, nutritional products available anywhere.

With that knowledge, so imagine how much better those results would’ve been if all those patients had been using USANA nutritionals.

So here we are together, facing a challenging living situation. Depleted soils, nutrients removed during food processing, exposure to hundreds of toxics from synthetic products, nutrient depletion by pharmaceutical drugs and much, much more. Now we have a clear picture of why it is so important to give people the opportunity, the opportunity to choose optimal nutritional supplementation. USANA was created to give this opportunity to everyone.

Our purpose has never wavered. Everything we do at USANA helps you love life and live it.

We design, develop, and manufacture the highest quality nutritional supplements that contain the right ingredients, supplying all and again I mean all of life’s essential nutrients in the correct forms that provide maximum viability, absorption by the gut, and in the appropriate amounts to ensure proper balance, since an excess of one nutrient can create a deficiency in another. You can be proud of your USANA nutritionals.

But today’s USANA essentials and optimizers are not the same products that were introduced in 1992. Every year new discoveries in biomedical science are made. Science discovers new ways to look at things and we strive to find better ways in providing the best nutrition possible. What has not changed is our basic knowledge of what makes for a healthy cell. It is the same message USANA has always had: Quality, efficacy, and completeness are essential. And product choice allows you to design a nutritional program that matches your lifestyle.

Because the environment has been poisoned and degraded in so many ways, you must supplement your diet with those difficult to obtain nutritional elements; to replace what’s been eliminated from foods during processing, transportation and storage; and to provide proper adequate anti-oxidant protection from cellular oxidative damage.

Again, let me say, the most important factor in living a healthy lifestyle is you. And you have already chosen to strengthen your life with the most complete, highest quality supplementation available: USANA. By encouraging others to make these same choices for themselves, through USANA, you are showing them the way to true health and true wealth. And I thank you.

I thank you, USANA family, for giving this gift to the world. May you love life and live it to its fullest in happiness and health.