Natural vs Synthetics
About 95% of the vitamins and minerals sold in stores today are synthetic
Beware! Many products substitute wholefood vitamins for cheaper synthetic alternatives. Unfortunately just because a product says it is natural, it does not guarantee that it contains 100% naturally derived ingredients. Always read the label carefully (see below for how to do this).
Synthetic vitamins and minerals often contain added food colouring, which may adversely affect sensitive individuals, including children.
How are synthetic vitamins made?
Scientists began to study food in the early 1900s. The compounds they found are what we now refer to as vitamins and minerals. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies were identified soon after and it was assumed that the individual compounds found in foods were responsible for good health. Before long, the pharmaceutical industry began to manufacture these individual compounds, making synthetic replicas of vitamins and minerals.
For example, its possible for manufacturers to isolate and extract a sugar molecule from corn and chemically tweak it so that it mimics the ascorbic acid molecule found in food. They will then label this as vitamin C. This same vitamin is also made synthetically using hydrogenated sugar processed with acetone (an active ingredient in nail polish remover!).
Ingredients used to make synthetic vitamins can include coal, tar, petroleum and chalk.
Why should I avoid synthetic vitamins?
- Synthetic vitamins and minerals contain chemical compounds that do not occur in nature.
- Evolution dictates that we will thrive when we eat food we gather from the earth, not ingredients we isolate in a lab.
- The Organic Consumers Association of America emphasises that isolated vitamin and mineral compounds are not used or recognised in the body the same way as their natural counterparts are. (www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_3697.cfm)
- Megadoses of synthetic vitamins can have toxic effects, unlike natural wholefood-derived vitamins, which are safer to take.
- This is because natural wholefood vitamins contain the complex web of naturally occurring cofactors, so they are complete, better absorbed and put less stress on the excretory organs (including the kidney and the liver).
- Manufactured vitamins do not include all of the other highly valuable bioflavonoids, enzymes and phytonutrients found in natural food sources of the vitamin.
- Natural vitamins are effective in smaller quantities than synthetics. This is because the natural forms of wholefood vitamins come complete and work without needing to borrow components from the body, unlike synthetic vitamins.
- Synthetic vitamins often have a different molecular shape than naturally occurring vitamins. This is important because some of the enzymes in the body will only work with molecules of the correct shape.
How do I read a vitamin label to see if the ingredients are 100% natural, or synthetic?
- Look for the words ‘100% natural ingredients’. Some products may say they are natural, because the claim ‘natural’ can be made if just 10% of the ingredients are from natural food sources.
- Identify wholefoods in the formulation – the sources of these whole vitamins. For example, acerola cherry is an ingredient found in Flightamins and a natural food high in vitamin C. If you can read ‘ascorbic acid’ written on a label, you can almost certainly be sure that the formulation is synthetic.
- Look at the ends of the ingredients. Do they contain words ending with ‘ate’ or ‘ide’? For example, carbonate, gluconate, hydrochloride. These endings are sure signs that the formulation is synthetic.
- Search for the letters ‘dl’. Ingredients that have ‘dl’ before them are synthetically produced. For example, dl- alpha-tocopherol is a variety of vitamin E.
Below is a list of natural sources as well as synthetic sources of common vitamins and minerals. Take a close look at your vitamin labels to see if what you are consuming is 100% natural or synthetic. The list was taken from http://energyfanatics.com/2008/10/19/how-to-natural-synthetic-vitamins/
- Vitamin A: Natural sources are carrots, fish oils, sweet potatoes, and spirulina. Synthetic sources are from acetate, palmitate, retinol, or if there is no source then it is usually synthetic.
- Vitamin C: Natural sources are citrus fruit, chickweed, acerola cherry, rose hips and green pepper. Synthetic sources are from ascorbic acid, calcium ascorbate and ester C.
- Vitamin D: Natural sources are fish oil and shitake mushroom. Synthetic sources are irradiated ergosterol (yeast) and cholecalciferol. If the source is not given it is usually synthetic.
- Vitamin E: Natural sources are D-alpha tocopherol, wheat germ oil, safflower oil, nuts and rice bran. Synthetic sources are mixed tocopherols, DL-alpha tocopherol, or if the source is not given, it is probably synthetic.
- Vitamin K: Natural sources are alfalfa, menaquinone, phylloquinone, wheat grass, barley grass and spinach. Synthetic source is menadione. If there is no source then it is presumably synthetic.
- Vitamin B1 (also known as Thiamine): Natural sources are yeast, wheat grass, wheat germ, beans and blackstrap molasses. Synthetic sources are thiamin mononitrate and thiamin hydrochloride.
- Vitamin B2 (also known as Riboflavin): Natural sources are rice bran, wheat grass, wheat germ, yeast, flaxseed and rose hips. If the source is Riboflavin it is synthetic.
- Vitamin B3 (also known as Niacin): Natural sources are yeast, barley and wheat grass. If the source is niacin it is synthetic.
- Vitamin B5 (also known as Pantothenic Acid): Natural sources are wheat grass, yeast, rice bran, chlorella, flaxseed and rose hips. If the source is calcium pantothenate it is synthetic.
- Vitamin B6 (also known as Pyridoxine): Natural sources are wheat grass, rice bran, yeast, chlorella, wheat germ, bee pollen, flaxseed and rose hips. If the source is pyridoxine hydrochloride it is synthetic.
- Vitamin B7 (also known as Biotin): Natural sources are rice bran, wheat grass and wheat germ, liver, yeast, chlorella, kelp, flaxseed and rose hips. If the source is D-biotin it is synthetic.
- Vitamin B9 (also known as Folate): Natural sources are wheat grass and wheat germ, rice bran, chlorella, flaxseed, kelp and rose hips. If the source is pteroylglutamic acid or folic acid, it is synthetic.
- Vitamin B12 (also known as Cobalamin or Cyanocobalamin): Natural sources are cobalamin, wheat grass and wheat germ, rice bran, yeast, chlorella, kelp, bee pollen, rose hips and flaxseed. Synthetic versions are streptomycin fermentation and cyanocobalamin
To view a table that shows the difference between the whole food ingredient and the chemical additives used to make natural/synthetic vitamins visit http://www.doctorsresearch.com/articles4.html