Synthetic vs Natural Vitamins
We get them from sunshine, our diet, or from the store in the form of capsules or liquids. Vitamins are vital to our health and to the proper functioning of our bodies, whereas vitamin deficiencies can lead to a wide range of problems spanning from obesity to anorexia, depression or fatigue. It’s synthetic vs natural vitamins, and not all are equal – most are synthetic – the question is whether or not synthetic vitamins are good for you.
A healthy, organic diet should provide all the 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 and do not come straight from natural sources, whereas natural vitamins are derived directly from plant material containing the vitamin.
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 form, which comes packaged with other vitamins, enzymes and minerals that control the way the body recognizes, metabolizes and uses them to make what it needs. Synthetic vitamins are also devoid of necessary trace minerals and therefore must use the body’s own mineral reserves which may lead to mineral deficiencies.
It is interesting to note that more than 95% of all vitamin supplements sold today are synthetically produced. Synthetic versions of vitamins contain chemical compounds that do not necessarily occur in nature. The synthetic version of Vitamin E is often referred to as the dl- form. The dl- form is a combination of the d-form (the naturally occurring form) and the l-form, however the body doesn’t actually use the l-form – we excrete it! Fat soluble vitamins in their synthetic form are especially dangerous because they can build up in your fatty tissues and cause toxicity, as the synthetic form is more concentrated, rather than the amount that you would get from a food-based form.
Vitamins A, D, E and K are all fat soluble, and 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, however the reality is that most people don’t get sufficient amounts of fat soluble vitamins from their diet.
The Organic Consumers Association published an ingredient chart to help consumers identify natural and synthetic vitamins. Many vitamin producers want you to believe that you are getting a natural product, but unfortunately, vitamins can be labelled 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.