The Differences Between Synthetic and Natural Vitamins

Natural Vitamins

Vitamins, vitamins, vitamins. Whether we get them from our daily diet, from sunshine, or from store bought capsules or liquids, vitamins are vital to our health and to the proper functioning of our bodies.

Vitamin deficiencies lead to a wide range of problems spanning from anorexia to obesity, organ malfunction, confusion, depression and fatigue.

However, whether or not your vitamins are hurting you is another story. What people are not aware of is all vitamins are not created equal, and most are actually synthetic.

What is a “Synthetic” Vitamin?

The type of vitamins that are the most beneficial is up for debate. A healthy, organic diet should provide a good amount of nutrients that the body needs, but supplements can help ensure that we are getting a healthy serving of specific vitamins.

The problem is that many vitamin and mineral supplements are manufactured synthetically with chemicals and do not come straight from their natural sources. They are made to mimic the way natural vitamins act in our bodies. Natural vitamins are derived directly from plant material containing the vitamin, not produced in a test tube.

Many synthetic vitamins lack the transporters and co-factors associated with naturally-occurring vitamins because they have been “isolated.” The Organic Consumers Association emphasizes that isolated vitamins cannot be used or recognized by the body in the same way as the natural version [1].

The natural form come in packages with other vitamins, enzymes and minerals that control the way the body recognizes, metabolizes and uses them to make what it needs.

Isolated vitamins can’t always be used by the body, and are either stored until you obtain or create the nutrients required to use them effectively or are excreted. Synthetic vitamins are also devoid of necessary trace minerals and must use the body’s own mineral reserves which may lead to dangerous mineral deficiencies.

Did You Know? More than 95% of all the vitamin supplements sold today fall in to the synthetic category.

What’s the Big Deal About Synthetic Vitamins?

Synthetic versions of vitamins contain chemical compounds that were not meant for human consumption and do not occur in nature. Evolution has dictated that we eat the food we can gather from the earth, not the food we create in a lab.

We might not always get what we’re expecting from synthetics. The synthetic version of Vitamin E is often referred to as the dl- form. The dl- form is a combination of the d-form (which, by the way, is the naturally occurring form) and the l-form. No big deal, right?

Well it might not be, except that the body doesn’t actually use the l-form- we excrete it! I must note here that this applies only to vitamins and not amino acids or sugars. Fat soluble vitamins in their synthetic form are especially dangerous because they can build up in your fatty tissues and cause toxicity. The reason that the synthetic form is more dangerous is because you get a high, concentrated serving of the vitamin rather than the amount that you would get from a food-based form.

  • Vitamins A, D, E and K are all fat soluble
  • Fat soluble vitamins are found naturally in butter, fish oils, nuts, and green leafy vegetables
  • Excesses of fat soluble vitamins are stored in the liver and fatty tissues
  • Most people do not get sufficient amounts of fat soluble vitamins from their diet

How do I know if the vitamins I’m buying are synthetic or natural?

Natural Vitamins

The Organic Consumers Association has published an ingredient chart to help consumers identify natural vs. synthetic vitamins. Many vitamin producers want you to believe that you are getting a “natural product” because it seems more wholesome to take “natural” vitamins.

Unfortunately, vitamins can be labeled as natural if they contain as little as 10% of the natural form of the vitamin. This means that your “natural” vitamin could contain 90% of synthetically produced chemicals! B-Vitamins and Vitamin C are also usually synthetically produced.

Common Synthetic Vitamins to Avoid:

Look for clues on your vitamin’s label that offer insight into the origin of the vitamin.

  • Vitamin A: Acetate and Palmitate
  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamine): Thiamine Mononitrate, Thiamine Hydrochloride
  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): Riboflavin
  • Pantothenic Acid: Calcium D-Pantothenate
  • Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine): Pyridoxine Hydrochloride
  • Vitamin B12: Cobalamin
  • PABA (Para-aminobenzoic Acid): Aminobenzoic Acid
  • Folic Acid: Pteroylglutamic Acid
  • Choline: Choline Chloride, Choline Bitartrate
  • Biotin: d-Biotin
  • Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid): Ascorbic Acid
  • Vitamin D: Irradiated Ergosteral, Calciferol
  • Vitamin E: dl-alpha tocopherol, dl-alpha tocopherol acetate or succinate

NOTE: The “dl” form of any vitamin is synthetic.

Other Toxic Ingredients to Avoid In Supplements

  • Magnesium stearate (or stearic acid)
  • Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) disguised as “natural flavors”
  • Carnauba wax is used in car wax and shoe polish
  • Titanium dioxide is a carcinogen

– Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM


  1. Brian Clement PhD NMD. Nutri-Con: The Truth About Vitamins & Supplements. The Vitamin Myth Exposed. 2005 December 31.

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  • Sriram

    Thanks for the very informative article. Most people don’t realize the importance of ‘natural’ supplements for a healthy life and often feel complacent while taking synthetic supplements.

  • Gabrielle

    Great article. Thanks you for sharing excellent advice and little known knowledge.

  • Bill

    Great Article, You are 100% right. I might add the importance of natural vitamins in liquid form such as Vitacerin. Liquid vitamins has a higher absorbtion rate than pills.

  • Mori Goldlist

    How effective is Vitamin D in pill form comapred to Vitamin D derived from moderate exposure to sunlight?

  • Margarita

    Good article, indeed. For any ordinary person tends to believe that any Vitamin itself is natural and wholesome, because it’s a vitamin. No matter what vitamin and how much you take. Unfortunately some believe that the more you take the better.

    But I’ve heard that it’s not good for your body to take vitamins longer than 1-2 months period. And that some vitamins are not to be combined. Is that true?

    A big thank you for the ingredient chart, I saved it on my computer and going to check the vitamins I take. I believe every family should consult such a chart, especially those having kids.

  • Toni Walker

    Where can I buy natural vitamins? I have only seen synthetic?

  • melissa

    The best vitamins are from a company called Standard Process

  • Jessica

    I agree with you, it’s best to take vitamins that are made with natural ingredients. I have been taking a really good natural supplement, muscadine grape seeds and they have been really beneficial to my health. I have noticed a change in my immune system and it helps that it is loaded with a lot of natural anti-oxidants.

  • Stephanie

    Thank you so much for this article. So many people say “oh, I’m healthy, I take a multivitamin…” Not only is relying on vitamins an ineffective shortcut, but most people don’t even realize that many vitamins aren’t particularly powerful…

  • Lafon Rusher

    Great article. I am doing some research on the difference between synthetic vitamins and whole foods. It is too easy to feel overconfident that we are getting the nutrients we need when taking synthetic vitamins.
    Vitamin bottles list the amount of vitamins and minerals available…not what your body can absorb or actually use.
    I have three boys, and have been on a quest to find a way to meet their nutritional needs. No binders, fillers, synthetic anything…just whole food.

    Keep telling the world to eat whole foods!


  • Natural Health Therapies

    Another great article. I was totally shocked when I first found out the difference between natural and synthetic vitamins and how much harm the synthetics are actually doing to our bodies. How many people know that the vitamins they’re taking to stay healthy are actually doing more harm than good?

    I especially liked the ingredient chart from The Organic Consumers Association. Definitely handy.

    The fact that “vitamins can be labeled as natural if they contain as little as 10% of the natural form of the vitamin” just goes to show how little the USDA is looking out for us. To allow such obvious deceit is an indication that big business is more important to the USDA than our health.

  • Dakota

    Wonderful article!!

  • Brad Kirk

    Unbelievable how can this be allowed it is a crime” so should we even be silly enough to believe that Osama Binladen is dead or even existed to start with? or did the war begin over oil and has he realy been shot dead or is that just an excuse to pull the troops out of the middle east now they have got what they want? so called big business has a lot to answer for- why even produce fossil fuels when we can create energy with the hydrogen cell ?? what has this world come too” and when will people power stand up and be counted? I for one are ready!

  • nonretard

    hydrogen cells store energy, they are not energy magic cells. You still have to burn the fossil fuels to get energy into the hydrogen cells.

  • Bob

    Looking to purchase natural vitamins

  • John Smith

    I wonder if perhaps we are overlooking the value of synthetics. A great number of vitamin supplements include “synthetic” vitamins like vitamin c and the natural kind like d alpha tocopherol combined into one.

    Now take vitamin c for example which has been used for decades and has helped countless people. Was Linus Pauling who popularized vitamin C wrong? What about the countless number of doctors who use vitamin C today as an jack of all trades? What about the hundreds of studies that demonstrate the value of vitamin C?

    Another successfully used “synthetic” vitamin is niacin (B3). It has been used for decades to help treat high cholesterol, schizophrenia, and many other medical conditions. Made famous by Dr. Abram Hoffer it is another vitamin that has huge potential especially when you consider one of the latest studies that came out. Research Dr. Kim Green and alzheimer’s disease and you will find out the potential of “synthetic” vitamins.

    In short, although natural sources of fat soluble vitamins are more likely to be more active and available to the body it is a far cry to say that synthetic vitamins are not valuable or have therapeutic value.

  • Angela

    Thanks for a wonderful article. My passion in life is teaching people how to boost the nutrient value of their diets through food, so this article gave me even more to think about, thank you.

  • hagita

    what about iron supplements ?

  • Monty

    Wow, stearic acid is immunosuppressive? And a nutritional supplement has about 5 to 10 mg of stearic acid?? THE HORROR!!! But a chocolate bar has 5 GRAMS of stearic acid, an organic omelet 2 to three GRAMS, olive oil has about 500 mg per teaspoon. I’m amazed I have a functioning immune system. Wait, no, cough, cough . . ugh ooooooo.

  • Terry Riney

    This is hard to answer in a few sentences. The Real Truth about Vitamins and Anti oxidants by Judith DeCava is a well researched book about synthetics. I highly recommend it.

  • yousirareafake

    I completely disagree with you list of “Common synthetic vitamins to avoid”! You’re saying to avoid “Riboflavin”? Which is vitamin B2. Or Pyridoxine hydrochloride? Where is your supporting evidence or biological reasoning for avoiding a majority of these vitamins. Just because they are synthetic and you give it a “test tube” label, DOES NOT mean it is harmful to you. Another chiropractor “nutrionalist” trying to play “doctor” without any legitimate background aside from reading some other “nutritional” blog. What a joke.

  • yousirareafake

    Furthermore, regarding Vitamin A acetate, one that is recommended to “avoid”.

    Retinyl acetate (retinol acetate, vitamin A acetate) is a natural form of vitamin A which is the acetate ester of retinol. It has potential antineoplastic and chemopreventive activities.

    In the United States, retinyl acetate is classified generally recognized as safe (GRAS) in the amounts used to fortify foods with vitamin A.”

    I truly hope people reading this article take it with a grain of salt and do some of their own research before following this so called doctor. Don’t be a sheep.

  • Maurizio

    Hi.. In your opinion, which is the best multivitamin supplement non synthetic? Because I looking for a good product but not synthetic.. thank you!!!

  • Dani

    anything that ends in -ate is synthetic.did you know that most of the synthetic vitamins today are made from petroleum?did you happen to find that when you researched?petroleum has all of these vitamins in itself but they are the toxic forms.

  • Dani

    watch the documentary ‘Forks Over Knifes’. you can find it on netflix. there are people who work in congress that used to be workers even CEO’s for the major food and medicine corporations whose products poison us. the food is poisoned which makes us sick.we then get drugs from a doctor which in return makes us even more sick.the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry is the richest in the world.did you know that only the government can buy stocks in pharmaceuticals??bet you didn’t. they do not care about us or our children.they are making a living off of us.the government is corrupt, our general health care doctors don’t know diddly squat but yet we praise them like they are gods.the research you have to do goes wayyyyy deeper than you think

  • Julie

    The best whole food vitamins are from a company called MegaFood.

  • Julie

    The best whole food vitamins are from a company called MegaFood. You need to check them out!

  • yousirareadweeb

    This article is informing the reader of the synthetic “evil twins” designed to mimic the natural vitamin. Not to avoid Vitamin E, but to avoid the synthetic dl-alpha tocopherol that is commonly used in “Vitamin E” capsules, and to obtain you daily Vitamin E from organic, whole foods, like almonds. As nature intended.

  • RJA

    You cite no scientific evidence as to the effect of natural vitamin supplements. Yes in theory it sounds good, but where is the proven effects?

  • Marco

    I think MegaFood just feeds synthetic vitamins to fermented yeast. Read their label and then google that one ingredient that repeats at each vitamin. Whatever you want to consider “natural” is a matter of opinion. When a vitamin says “no yeast” then they used fermented soy and vice versa.

  • Llewellyn Saville

    I get my whole-food nutritional supplements from a company called Neo-Life

  • Llewellyn Saville

    I get my nutrition supplements from a company called Neo-Life

  • Llewellyn Saville

    Just wait until you find out what is happening in the food production industry. It is even more shocking than the vitamin industry.

  • Christopher Schollar

    Wrong, the -ate in the name tells you that you have a chemical compound containing oxygen. It could be synthetic or natural.

  • disqus_962wMjwOWH

    Wow, for some reason before you wrote this, I thought that isolating nutrients would be very toxic for consumption.

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  • It’s not rocket science

    What big pharma company are you in bed with “Yousirareafake” your comment removes the doubt anyone would have regarding your intellect.. Remember “Doctors bury their mistakes”…….. Don’t get me wrong… some science research is needed….. but guessing while using human test subjects is not for me….
    Nothing that is derived in a test tube using toxic chemicals belongs in the human body…. “Simple as that”
    I suppose you support “GMO’s” in our food too…..


    stupid stuff

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  • Ty Shlackman

    Natural Vitamin B2 is Riboflavin-5-Phosphate.

    Natural Vitamin B6 is Pyridoxal-5-Phosphate.

    Synthetic Vitamin B9 is identified as Folic Acid. Natural Vitamin B9 is 5-Methyltetrahydrofolate as either a calcium salt or glucosamine salt.

  • Ty Shlackman

    There’s are junk filled with calcium stearate and other additives and most of their products are unsuitable for vegans and vegetarians.

  • Wendy Allen

    HI, Vit D3 5000IU helps me. Higher than that I need Vit K2 with it to put Ca that is recycled into the bones and not the tissues. Sunlight may make 40,000 of Vit D in the skin from cholesterol in the skin. Not showering right away may help it form in the skin. I laughed when I first took Vit D3 (activated form) and also in the sunlight. A daily walk in the sunlight may help the immune system greatly and help intestines absorb nutrients. No gluten/dairy/soy/sugar/GMO…vitamins/good oils, LDN, detoxing may help people. No gluten/GMO corn may help intestines absorb nutrients from food/supplements. Microscopic gluten may prevent food/supplements from helping the body…not absorb them.

    Vit E…need mixed tocopherols . I refrigerate/freeze any oily supplement so it stays fresh and not rancid.

    Mercola site is good for diet/supplements/Alternative medicine information/blog. Best wishes.

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  • Heretohelp

    Mannatech NutriVerus vitamins. Real vitamins from whole foods.

  • terri

    interesting info





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