Organic micronutrients essential to normal human metabolism. Unlike fats, carbohydrates and some proteins, vitamins are not metabolized to provide energy. Most are not manufactured by the body but are present in minute quantities in natural foodstuffs. Each of these naturally-occurring organic vitamin compounds performs a specific vital function and is required by the body for disease prevention and good health.
The known vitamins are divided into four fat-soluble types (A, D, E and K) and nine water-soluble types (eight B vitamins and vitamin C). The fat-soluble vitamins can be stored in the body and do not need to be ingested every day. Fat soluble vitamins in their synthetic form are especially dangerous because they can build up in your fatty tissues and cause toxicity. One of many reasons 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.
The water-soluble vitamins are more easily eliminated and can be taken in larger amounts without danger of toxicity (if not synthetic). Vitamin C and the eight B vitamins (except for Vitamin B-12 and Folic Acid) are water soluble. They cannot be stored and must be consumed frequently for optimal health.
As an initial convention, vitamins were given letters to go with their chemically defined names. Not many people know about the form of vitamin E d-alpha tocopheryl succinate, but most people know what “Vitamin E” is and what it can be used for. Some nutritional factors were originally given “B” names but turned out not to act as vitamins at all. You may not have heard of vitamins B-4, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 which were ultimately rejected as vitamin factors.
We know that vitamins prevent disease and promote health, but what do we know about the actual quality of the vitamins we ingest? Hundreds of millions of people take a daily vitamin and/or herbal supplement. For more than 70 years we have been ingesting synthetic vitamins in our supplements and our fortified foods, believing that our health is being protected and improved. Each year in North American alone people spend over $20 billion on vitamins, minerals and other dietary supplements, believing that these products are benefiting them. But are they? What is the real truth about vitamins? If we eat a balanced diet, do we really need nutritional supplements?
To answer this question we have to go back to our roots – our soil. The body is unable to manufacture most vitamins for itself, and so they must be obtained from nutritional sources. During the early 1900s, in our grandparents’ time, the soil was rich with nutrients that produced healthy, vigorous crops high in vitamin content. Today, due to modern factory farming practices, our soils are sadly laced with industrial pollution, pesticides and chemical fertilizers that not only contaminate the soil, but activate increased soil erosion. Because of poor soil quality and nutrients, our foods have only a fraction of the nutrient value of 70-100 years ago.
Polluted air and water systems deplete our bodies of their store of nutrients, such as antioxidants including vitamins and minerals, that are necessary for protecting our health. Add the stresses of modern life to this and as a population we are left with ever-weakening genetic and immune systems. Therefore, vitamin and nutrient supplementation is more crucial than before.
The mineral depletion of our soils and foods is not news. The U.S. government has been issuing official warnings since 1936. The U.S. Senate Document #264, published by the 2nd session of the 74th Congress in 1936 stated the following:
“Most of us today are suffering from certain dangerous diet deficiencies which cannot be remedied until the depleted soils from which our foods come are brought [back] into proper mineral balance. Foods, fruits, vegetables and grains that are now being raised on millions of acres of land that no longer contain enough of certain needed minerals, are starving us – no matter how much of these foods we eat. Leading authorities state that 99% of the American people are deficient in these minerals, and that a marked deficiency in any one of the more important minerals actually results in disease. Any upset of the balance or any considerable lack of one or another element, however microscopic, causes problems and we sicken, suffer, and shorten our lives. Lacking vitamins, the system can make some use of minerals; but lacking minerals, vitamins are useless.”
This report was offered over 70 years ago. Just imagine how it would read today.
Unfortunately, we all have a big job ahead to restore our soil quality – even on organic farms – and bring back the nutrients that have been farmed out of our food. It is urgent that we reintroduce proper organic farming as the primary method, as well as the rotation of crops to improve the quality of our soils, among other benefits. It has taken many decades to ruin our soils and it will take time to revive them and bring them back to health again. It can be and must be done for ourselves, our children and future generations.
As world citizens we can transform our farmlands; one very simple way is by purchasing organic foods and supporting organic farming. In the meantime, the way to guarantee adequate nutrition is by supplementing our foods with naturally-occurring, non-synthetic vitamin and nutrients from organic farms that focus on soil conservation.
Only Mother Nature can make an apple. Only nature can make a cell. While scientists and chemists continue to try in vain to duplicate in a laboratory the molecular structure of many different isolated natural substances. When you analyze natural compounds with an electron microscope they can look identical, yet in some invisible, yet significant, way they are not. Although scientists can make seawater with exactly the same chemical structure as natural seawater, when you put a salt-water fish in this synthetic environment, the fish dies. What is it in natural seawater that sustains life? The creation of life is a divine gift that can never be duplicated by man; it is beyond human intellect.
Putting the word “natural” on the vitamin label is, in most cases today, deceptive. The word is constantly abused and, as such, its meaning has been diluted to a point where it holds little value. Many misleading labels on supplement products take advantage of the ambiguity of the word “natural” to project a wholesome marketing image, even when the product does not merit it. Whereas the term “naturally occurring” on a label usually means that a vitamin or nutrient is completely derived of compounds from naturally-occurring sources – the plants themselves – rather than merely containing a naturally-occurring ingredient mixed with synthetic ingredients.
Almost all vitamins, even ones labeled ‘natural’ or ‘food-based’, you see in commercials (Centrum), at drug store chains, grocery chains, membership club stores (Kirkland brand), vitamin stores, and even Whole Foods are synthetic. Almost all vitamin brands are made by a handful of the largest pharmaceutical companies. They are just in different packaging for marketing purposes.
Let’s get down to the truth about vitamin supplementation and food fortification. There are currently two categories in the family of vitamin and nutritional products with labeled potencies – synthetic and naturally-occurring.
Nearly all vitamin supplements available today, more than 95%, fall into the synthetic category. Some consist of 100% synthesized vitamins, and some are combination formulas containing one or more naturally-occurring vitamin ingredients combined with synthetic vitamins. Naturally-occurring vitamin supplements are comprised only of naturally-occurring food and botanicals. They contain no synthetic vitamins or nutrients whatsoever. Presently there are few manufacturers of this type of vitamin supplement.
Synthetic vitamin supplements packaged as tablets, capsules, gelcaps, or powders comprise the majority of vitamin products found in natural food stores, grocery stores, drug stores and large retail outlets. Within this category there are certain types and distinctions.
- Type 1: In some vitamin supplement products a natural base is used and then the synthetic vitamins or nutrients are added to that natural base. An example of a natural base could be Acerola cherry or Rosehip, and even a mixture of botanicals, as a natural base with the synthetic vitamins and nutrients added. Many Vitamin C products which claim to be from Acerola or some other fruit or food are usually spiked with synthetic ascorbic acid or ascorbates. Many multiple vitamin products use a natural base spiked with multiple synthetic vitamins to get their labeled potencies.
- Type 2: Some supplements are derived from specially “grown” materials (referred to as “food source” or “whole food” source) such as yeasts and algae. These products typically combine the yeast or algae and create other “mixtures” as a base to which synthetic vitamins are “spiked” or added. Manufacturers call these supplements “natural” because they are derived from yeast or algae – natural botanicals. However, they are not natural because synthetic vitamins or nutrients have been added to the product. This is most often not mentioned on the product label and is “hidden” from consumers, most of whom, ironically, are reading labels to ensure the highest levels of nutrition. Tragically, they fall prey to misleading and dishonest labeling information.
A manufacturer of this cultivated base which has been spiked with synthetics nutrients will supply their own as well as other supplement companies with this raw substance. They then use the raw substance to produce and market their own vitamins under different product names. The fact that this raw material contains a cultivated, so-called “natural” base enables the vitamin producers to make the claim on their label that they are derived from “natural sources” on their label and contain the listed potencies from the “food source” referring to the base. But as you can now see this is a deceptive practice that misleads consumers to believe that they have a natural supplement.
Most vitamin companies compete for customers with identical synthetic vitamin products made from compounds produced by the same few drug manufacturers. The vitamin companies differentiate their products with different names and fancy labels, each making claims of “high potency”. But the higher the potency of the synthetic vitamin or nutrient, the more likely it is to exhibit drug-like, toxic effects, the stress of which can actually lead to disease.
The majority of vitamin companies also purposely mislead the consumer by taking advantage of loopholes in labeling laws. The truth is that the vitamin potencies for most supplements are derived from synthetic vitamins.
Consumers are fooled by the vitamin label claims and believe that the vitamin and nutrient potencies are derived from a natural source. You can avoid this trap by carefully examining the label. Look for the phrase “naturally occurring.” If the label does not say “naturally occurring” and also name the food source of the potency, then be aware that the supplement may contain synthetic vitamins or nutrients. Please go to www.NOSG.org for a list of companies that are leading the way in NOSG certification, and to see how you can help reverse the tide of deception and take part in this exciting shift in consciousness, which includes mandates for truth in labeling.
High dose, synthetic and isolated dietary supplements – what I call HSAIDS – make up 98% of the products available to consumers. These unnatural supplements are one of two categories of dietary supplement, the other being truly natural supplements. It’s the research on unnatural dietary supplements (the HSAIDS) that show both ineffectiveness and increased risk of death.
Truly natural dietary supplements are made from freeze-dried real food, or otherwise are not heated, and the nutrients they contain are natural doses without added synthetics. Fish oil (containing EPA/DHA), flax oil (containing alpha-linolenic acid), and vegetable or fruit concentrates containing many nutrients are common examples.
Unfortunately, most fruit and vegetable concentrates used in dietary supplements are dried with very high heat, destroying various nutrients. They don’t supply much nutrient but are used in the supplement to make it appear natural, while all the nutrients listed on the label come from synthetic or other unnatural additions. These so-called “whole food” supplements containing fruit or vegetable concentrates have to be “spiked” with synthetic vitamins and other unnatural nutrients in order to list any appreciable amounts of nutrients. Read the supplement facts panel carefully.
Some companies even claim their products are made from real food with real vitamins when, in fact, they feed synthetic vitamins to yeast, then harvest the yeast to use in supplements. Unfortunately, the USDA is yet to address this issue, and the label information won’t let you know the truth, unless the dose is high enough.
The second category of vitamin supplements are derived from naturally-occurring full-spectrum food and botanical sources. These are truly natural vitamin potency supplement products and can be identified by their designation “naturally occurring” or Naturally Occurring Standard (NOS). Products that meet this standard will have a label of approval from NOS proving they are naturally occurring, organic, fairly traded, and free of genetically engineered ingredients, synthetics, and nanoparticles. I anxiously await this standard to be implemented.
Although vitamins from naturally-occurring sources are relatively lower potency, they are actually much more effective at these lower potencies than synthetic vitamins, for the simple reason that the body can easily assimilate their nutrients, and can do so without the toxic side-effects of synthetic vitamins.
Over the past two decades, the Hippocrates Health Institute has seen the negative impact of synthetic supplements by viewing tens of thousands of blood samples with the assistance of a high-powered microscope. What they now know is that the body perceives a synthetic supplement like it would perceive any other foreign chemical as an invader and threat to its survival. As such, it responds by releasing immune-preserving cells such as leukocytes (white blood cells) to combat the enemy and preserve immunity. Unfortunately, this extra activity detracts these cells from their most crucial role of eliminating microbes (viruses and bacteria), spirochetes (such as those that result in Lyme’s Disease), and mutagenic cells (such as those that can result in cancer). Consequently, when one introduces a large number of chemical invaders, such as synthetic vitamin supplements, there are fewer immune-preserving cells to combat more deleterious cell activity, resulting in a greater probability for disease.
Just as natural vitamins from food are more effective than synthetic vitamins, so are natural vitamin supplements from whole-food sources. Low potency vitamins from a full spectrum, naturally-occurring source of the vitamin will produce effective nutrient activity, while positively impacting immune function.
Mega doses of synthetic vitamins can have very serious toxic effects. Naturally-occurring whole-food vitamins are not toxic since the vitamin is complexed in its natural whole integral working form, and requires nothing from the body to “build” a vitamin. When synthetic, or incomplete vitamins are introduced into the body, the body attempts to “build” a complete vitamin complex by adding the missing factors that it knows should be there, specifically minerals and other vitamin co-factors. This “building” process depletes the body’s nutritional reserves, creating an overall deficiency. The body has a natural intelligence that is always directing its efforts toward wholeness. When you ingest a “partial” or isolated vitamin, the body assumes you meant to ingest a whole vitamin, and works hard to make up for an action that it views as a mistake. Of course, the body has limitations. When it is saturated or overwhelmed with large amounts of synthetic vitamins or does not possess the cofactors necessary for creating fully-complexed supplements, it cannot convert the incomplete synthetic vitamins. It will then work to eliminate the synthetic vitamins through the kidneys, skin and the other elimination organs. This is the reason why the majority of all synthetic vitamins are quickly eliminated by the body and not utilized. We require our bodies to perform a surprising amount of work when we ingest synthetic supplements. Not only must we effort to create a usable supplement by drawing on our own reserves, we must also labor to eliminate the substances that cannot be utilized. This process results in an overall negative health effect while minimizing any gains that could have been achieved by the supplement were it in a usable form to begin with. This is why consuming whole foods and whole-food supplements is critical.
One of the many superior qualities about naturally-occurring whole food vitamins is that small or even minimal quantities are required daily because they are already whole, naturally-complexed supplements that the body does not have to “build” to utilize. On the contrary, one would typically need to ingest much larger doses of synthetic supplements to receive a sufficient level of supplementation, knowing that many of the complexes will not be “completed” and therefore eliminated.
Mainstream marketing of vitamins and minerals has created the myth that synthetic vitamins and inorganic minerals may be isolated individually and from one another, and that we can derive total natural benefit from taking these fractionated chemical creations. Nothing could be further from the truth!
Real, natural vitamins, minerals and enzymes work closely together as co-factors for each other’s efficacy. If one part is missing, or is fractionated, or is in the incorrect form or the incorrect amount, entire chains of metabolic processes cannot and will not proceed normally. Only nature can provide us with naturally-occurring vitamins as found in real, wholesome organic foods.
The overwhelming majority of vitamin products sold in grocery stores, drug stores or mass-marketing retailers contain synthetic ingredients, and are unfortunately accompanied by inherent deficiencies and unpleasant ramifications.
What our bodies require are vitamins from whole organic food sources or supplement products made exclusively from naturally-occurring nutrients rather than toxic laboratory synthesized compounds. Currently only a few highly conscious companies produce supplements with naturally-occurring ingredients. These companies should be commended and supported for offering natural health-promoting products to the consumer. (See list of “Supplement product companies that include naturally-occurring potencies on their labels” in Appendix A).
We are grateful to the Naturally Occurring Standards Group (NOSG), Amsar Pvt. Ltd., Treadcorp, Ltd., Hippocrates Health Institute, Healthful Communications, Inc., Organic Consumer’s Association, and others for their efforts in establishing “Naturally Occurring” as a specific standard of quality. This standard should be applied for all truly natural vitamins, ingredients and materials for the entire food, beverage, nutraceutical, and cosmetic industry. The adoption of proposed “Naturally Occurring Standard” (NOS) guidelines will bring clarity to all purveyors and consumers of natural products. The NOS is an important step and regulatory guideline that has been missing from the product label information and literature since the beginning of packaged food sales. The NOS symbol on products will help to eliminate the confusion between truly natural and less than natural product ingredients.
We need more naturally-occurring vitamin supplements to counter the vast array of harmful synthetic vitamin supplements flooding our world markets. Consumers must request the production of more naturally-occurring supplements by petitioning the natural foods industry to support the NOS guidelines, which will ensure that the public is only supplied with health-promoting products. This will mark the beginning of a movement to remove synthetic supplements from our health foods and supplements. The natural foods industry is the last place that synthetics should be allowed. Unfortunately, due to ignorance and economic inertia, even the natural foods industry has, until now, tolerated the presence of harmful synthetic supplements. Real nutrients are always naturally occurring, made only by nature and never by an artificial chemical process.
A MOLECULAR DIFFERENCE
Vitamins are biological complexes. They represent multi-step biochemical interactions whose beneficial action depends upon a number of variables within the biological terrain. Correct vitamin activity can only take place when all co-factors and components of the vitamin complex are present and working together synergistically. Vitamins cannot be isolated from their complexes and still perform their specific functions within the cells. When isolated into artificial chemical commercial forms, these purified, isolated, crystalline synthetics act the same as toxic drugs in the body and compromise the immune system, which can ultimately lead to illness and disease. They are no longer actual vitamins, and to call them such is inaccurate. A vitamin is: “a working process consisting of the nutrient, enzymes, coenzymes, antioxidants, and trace mineral activators.” – Dr. Royal Lee
Theron Randolph, MD wrote four books and over 300 medical articles and was a leading researcher in the fields of food and chemical allergies, as well as general preventive care. Dr. Randolph co-founded the American Academy of Environmental Medicine in 1965. Consider the way he has delineated the difference between natural and synthetic nutrients:
“A synthetically-derived substance may cause a reaction in a chemically susceptible person when the same material of natural origin is tolerated, despite the two substances having identical chemical structures. The point is illustrated by the frequency of clinical reactions to synthetic vitamins – especially vitamin B1 and [vitamin] C when the [same] naturally-occurring vitamins are tolerated.”
Certain studies on natural vs. synthetic vitamins have shown that synthetic vitamins are 50 to 70% less biologically active than natural vitamins.
Synthetic vitamins are actually just fractions of naturally-occurring vitamins synthesized in the dextro- and levo- forms (known as “right” and “left handed” molecules) which form geometric mirror images of each other. It may seem strange, but the geometry of nutrient compounds is crucial for the bioavailability of the nutrient. The body uses only the levo- forms. Synthetic vitamin compounds have little of the correct geometry (levo-forms) of naturally-occurring vitamins present in food and botanicals.
So, can a synthesized, isolated vitamin fraction made in the laboratory be called a real vitamin? Can it provide you with the nourishment that naturally-occurring, whole-food supplements can? The answer is a resounding and undeniable NO!
Throughout much of the last century, we have been programmed to believe that synthetic chemicals are superior to natural food-source nutritional substances, and therefore an acceptable substitute. This misleading concept is broadcasted mainly by commercial interests who promote this fallacy through sophisticated marketing programs to sell and profit from their inferior “food and nutritional” supplements.
The problems we now have with these synthetic vitamins are parallel to the overall problems we have with pharmaceutical drugs and the development of “modern”, alopathic medicine.
In Western cultures, we have abandoned our history of traditional medicine – medicine that has been practiced successfully for thousands of years – and nearly categorically replaced it with new technologies. We are now suffering the consequences of it.
Although chemistry has provided us with many benefits, when it comes to food and nutrition, a better life through chemistry is a fallacy.
We are now in the midst of a chemical “feast” of harmful and polluting chemical preservatives, excipients, colorings, flavorings, additives, and other life-threatening chemicals.
A century ago when we discovered how to chemically synthesize various isolates of natural compounds, synthetic nutrients became fashionable. Many of the problems that we have today developed many years ago when we embraced the chemical paradigm and rejected our time-proven traditional medicinal practices. It is imperative now that we return to our traditional values and ways of living before the hazardous imbalances we have created destroy us.
VITAMIN ACTIVITY & BIOAVAILABILITY
Why is it that only Nature can create a real vitamin? The differences between vitamins extracted from food and those manufactured by chemical processes is vast, and the distinctions are critically important. Vitamins manufactured in the laboratory come to us without the naturally occurring associated factors and trace substances that insure a vitamin’s bioavailability. If the body can easily digest and absorb nutrients from a food, then they are said to be bioavailable. Tests on natural vs. synthetic vitamins have revealed that synthetic vitamins are less biologically active and bioavailable than natural vitamins. Since our bodies often do not absorb more than 50% of the vitamins and minerals we consume, to ingest a product that is already less active than its natural counterpart leaves very little of the original potency available for our use.
It sounds like a simple concept: you are what you digest or, more to the point, what you assimilate.
The digestive system of humans, similar to that of apes, grazing animals and other herbivores, is complex. The adult alimentary canal measures up to 36 feet; it is long and convoluted. Yet it squeezes into the small space of our abdominal cavity. Many of us assume that we have good and proper digestion and assimilation, and that our bodies can extract nutrients no matter what we eat. This is simply not true, which is why it is important for us to eat wholesome and nutritious foods and maintain high levels of good intestinal flora and other living bacteria that break down our foods completely so that our nutrients can be absorbed.
Furthermore, the human biology has never been able to “digest” synthetic chemicals.
Even though we may voluntarily or involuntarily ingest synthetic chemicals, our digestive systems have not suddenly changed to recognize them as food or nourishment. All the synthetic nutrients in the world are useless, and potentially even dangerous, if they are not digested. The best way to improve digestive absorption of nutrients is to eat good nutrient-rich, living foods and use naturally-occurring vitamins and mineral supplements.
You are what you digest also means that if your digestion is weak, then you absorb fewer nutrients from your food than necessary, which can lead to obesity or other imbalances. When enjoying quality foods, the health of your body and all of its systems are strengthened.
Research with polarized light shows the differences in bioavailability between synthetic and natural vitamins. The experiment involves taking a sample of a natural vitamin and its chemically identical synthetic counterpart, and passing a beam of polarized light through each. The beam passing through a natural vitamin always bends to the right due to the direction of its molecular rotation. When passing through a synthetic vitamin, the beam splits in half. Half the light beam bends to the right, and the other half bends to the left. The direction of the molecular rotation makes half of the synthetic vitamin impossible to use, which is why there is only 50% biological activity or less in synthetic, isolated vitamins. They are lacking the factors found in a full-spectrum real vitamin and more importantly they are not viewed by the body as real nutrition, and are therefore counterproductive to health.
Even if the vitamins you take are “natural” ones extracted from food, they will not be effective if they have been extracted from their full-spectrum matrix. Extracting a vitamin from its full-spectrum matrix eliminates the necessary co-factors which assist in the functioning of that nutrient. When you extract and isolate Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) from an orange, you are also removing the bioflavonoids, which are necessary for Vitamin C’s complete vitamin activity. It’s better to use a full-spectrum concentrate of the whole orange rather than to extract the ascorbic acid or other isolated Vitamin C fractions or to take those factors separately.
For a complex matrix like Vitamin C to be effective, it has to be used as nature created it. Always use a full-spectrum food source supplement of Vitamin C and other supplements to insure that all the naturally-occurring nutrient factors are available to your body.
Worldwide, there is no official government-regulated definition for the term “natural” for use by the natural products industry. In the USA, the FDA refers to natural ingredients as “ingredients extracted directly from plants or animal products, as opposed to being produced synthetically.” While it’s fine to set a legal definition for natural, the problem is that the FDA’s system of standards for vitamins is not based on nature. This system, known as the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) or what has now been updated to “Daily Values” (DV’s) and RDI’s (Recommended Daily Intake), relates to the amount of vitamins we require daily for maintaining health and is based on the assumed nutrient value of synthetic supplements.
The RDA’s, DV’s or other “standards” that are generally accepted by most agencies and institutions were originally established through animal testing using synthetic vitamins – supplements that we have already determined as indigestible and severely lacking in nutritional value.
There is a proposal for a new standard for vitamins and nutrients called the: “Naturally Occurring Standard” or “NOS”. This standard, which will completely revolutionize the supplement industry, is related to verifiable amounts of naturally-occurring vitamins, minerals or other nutrients as found in natural foods and botanicals.
It is our strong opinion – in the interest of public health – that the NOS should be adopted by the food industry as a consumer standard for all food supplements or fortified foods. The NOS symbol printed on dietary supplements or food products labels will ensure that a product contains only naturally-occurring whole food materials, enabling consumers to make the healthiest choices for themselves and their family. For more information on NOS standards, see the resources section in the back of this book, or go to www.nosg.org.
Synthetic vitamin E products are used in cheaper supplements as dl-alpha tocopherol. So-called “natural” vitamin E, d-alpha tocopherol, is common in many other supplements. However, even though this vitamin E is a natural form, it is very unnatural for two reasons. First, it’s in an isolated form without the rest of the naturally-occurring vitamin E complex. In nature, alpha tocopherol exists with seven other vitamin E compounds: three other tocopherols and four tocotrienols.
Second, supplements of alpha tocopherol are usually very high, unnatural doses. Normally, consuming a full days worth of high vitamin E-rich foods would yield about 30-40 IU of alpha tocopherol, yet the typical dose in supplements is 10 times that, sometimes much more.
Almost all vitamin C in dietary supplements is synthetic, and as such is listed on the label as “ascorbic acid.” The dose also helps identify it as synthetic — it’s almost impossible to get much more than 100-150 mg of vitamin C from food into a tablet or capsule. The amount of vitamin C in a natural supplement, therefore, may be listed in the supplement facts panel as “vitamin C 100 mg” and will not list “ascorbic acid” (or any other of the many types of synthetic vitamin C).
A study on vitamin C (Am J Clin Nutr; Jan 2008) showed adults taking the synthetic version had serious side effects. Doses of 1,000 mg of vitamin C a day impaired their energy systems (significantly hampering their endurance capacity), specifically by weakening the mitochondria of the cell (which burns fat and sugar). It also had significant adverse effects on the antioxidant system (a key immune regulator). Those who take vitamin C often take this amount or more, and it’s almost always synthetic. Children may be even more vulnerable.
Almost all the B vitamins on the market are synthetic. In this case, the dose is not such a good indicator. The common synthetic B vitamins are usually listed by one of various synthetic names (i.e., folic acid). The truly natural ones, on the other hand, are referred to as active B vitamins. The commonly used active B vitamins are listed on the label, and below:
Thiamine (B1): Thiamine pyrophosphate; Thiamine triphosphate
Riboflavin (B2): Riboflavin-5-phosphate; Flavin mononucleotide (FMN)
Niacin (B3): Nicotinamide (adenine dinucleotide)
Pantothenic acid (B5): Pantethine
Pyridoxine (B6): Pyridoxal-5-phosphate
Folic acid: Folinic acid; 5-methyl tetrahydrofolate
Cobalamin (B12): Methylcobalamin; Adenosylcobalamin
Choline: Phosphatydlcholine [/su_box]
If you read the label and don’t find these active names for the B vitamins, most likely they’re synthetic. Some synthetic vitamins may convert to their active forms once in the body, but they require additional nutrients. For example, in order for the body to utilize synthetic folic acid additional vitamin C, niacin and vitamin B12 are required.
Vitamin A in its natural form is actually a large group of natural compounds. Natural vitamin A only comes from animal sources, and the truly natural dietary supplement forms usually are from fish oils. Synthetic forms, which don’t contain any natural vitamin A compounds, are typically in a dry form (tablet or capsule). The synthetic form of vitamin A is significantly more toxic than the natural form. The most commonly used synthetic form is vitamin A palmitate.
Beta carotene is not vitamin A, but is a phytonutrient, some of which converts to vitamin A compounds in the body. However, this conversion is not very efficient. Most supplements that list vitamin A will also state, in parentheses, beta carotene. Those listing vitamin A without noting beta carotene are probably synthetic, unless some type of fish liver oil is listed somewhere on the label.
Vitamin D comes in two natural forms: Vitamin D2, called ergocalciferol, comes from plants. Vitamin D3, called cholecalciferol, is from animal sources, and is the active form, like the vitamin D obtained from sunlight. A variety of synthetic vitamin D compounds have been developed, the most common being calcitriol, doxercalciferol and calcipotriene. All vitamin D supplements can be toxic in high amounts, although one could not overdose on vitamin D from the sun.2