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 .
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?
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: Retinyl Palmitate
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamine): Thiamine Mononitrate, Thiamine Hydrochloride
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): Riboflavin
- Pantothenic Acid: Calcium D-Pantothenate
- Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine): Pyridoxine Hydrochloride
- Vitamin B12: Cyanocobalamin
- PABA (Para-aminobenzoic Acid): Aminobenzoic Acid
- Folic Acid: Pteroylglutamic Acid
- Choline: Choline Chloride, Choline Bitartrate
- 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
- Brian Clement PhD NMD. Nutri-Con: The Truth About Vitamins & Supplements. The Vitamin Myth Exposed. 2005 December 31.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.