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Facts on Synthetic Vitamins: Why You Should Go with a Food Derived Nutritional Supplement

Even if you weren’t health conscious, you would probably find it absurd to pop a petroleum or sugar pill after your morning meal. Yet you may be doing exactly that without even realizing it if you’re a user of synthetic vitamin supplements. 

Known as United States Pharmacopoeia vitamins, or USP vitamins, these supplements neither meet naturopathy standards set some 60 years back nor carry the same scope and depths of benefits as any vitamin or nutritional supplement derived from food sources. 

Naturopath Robert Thiel, Ph.D., outlines what you’re really getting from the stuff inside those little green USP vitamin bottles – and how you’d be much better off with the food derived nutritional supplements.

Vitamin Processing and Structure  

The Synthetics

While you may not be popping straight-up petroleum or eating a mouthful of sugar, many synthetic vitamin supplements are either processed with or contain petroleum derivatives or hydrogenated sugars, both of which make the list of things you’d rather not put in your body. 

USP vitamins may additionally contain things like coal tar derivatives and processed fish oils. Their processing methods may use other acids and even industrial-grade chemicals, like good ole formaldehyde.

To make matters worse, most synthetic vitamins have a crystalline structure. Without their usual lineup of supporting substances, the isolated, crystalline so-called vitamin can be far less effective in doing the full scope of the job nature designed it do to. 

The Food-Derived Kind

Food derived vitamins are chemically and structurally different than their synthetic counterparts. Their true food sources often include things like: 

  • Acerola cherries
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Lemons and limes
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Oranges
  • Rice bran
  • Animal products (from some companies) 

How to Tell the Difference

Reading the labels, and understanding what you’re reading, is one of the most effective ways to be sure you’re putting a true vitamin into your body. The chemical makeup between synthetic and true vitamins is different, as is the source and contents. You want to look for vitamins that are 100 percent food, without even a single USP vitamin analogue. 

History of Good Health

The belief that synthetic vitamins aren’t up to snuff is nothing new. Naturopathy standards established in the 1940s stated that: 

“Naturopathy does not make use of synthetic or inorganic vitamins... Naturopathy makes use of the healing properties of...natural foods, organic vitamins.”

That means if you are truly trying to follow the naturopathy route, you’re going to want to steer clear of synthetic vitamins. 

Don’t Believe the Twists

Synthetic vitamins are a rollicking market, and part of the market may be made up of people who are simply unaware of what those vitamins contain, how they are made or led to believe misleading information about their nutritional supplements. 

The ‘Natural’ Nonsense

For instance, let’s say a little green vitamin bottle is labeled, “natural.” The term “natural” does not have an official, mandated definition, so manufacturers can pretty much get away with slapping that word on just about anything. The term alone does not a healthy product make, and it by no means necessarily designates the product contains only natural food substances. 

The ‘Organic’ Cover up

You are already familiar with the definition of “organic” in the naturopathy realm. It refers to a plant that thrives according to a strict set of standards and, therefore, lacking all the chemicals and other detriments with which non-organic produce ends up riddled. 

From a scientific standpoint, however, “organic” is defined as anything that contains carbon. Since petroleum derivatives are hydro-carbons, they indeed contain carbon, and they thus fit the scientific definition of organic. By this definition, plastic made from petroleum derivatives would also be organic. No more needs to be said. 

The ‘Vegetarian’ Vein

Unless a non-food vitamin contains fish oil, they may be touted as being “vegetarian.” Bearing the vegetarian distinction in the synthetic vitamin world does not mean the so-called vegan food supplement was made from plants. It just means it was not from animals. It’s somewhat akin to calling a bicycle “vegetarian” since it contains no animal products, either. If you want a vegan supplement, you need to go with food derived vitamins.

A red flag also goes up when a product hails itself as “vegetarian” and “contains no yeast.” Unless someone is hiding a deep secret, true version of certain vitamins, such as many B vitamins and Vitamin D, come from yeast. You’re most likely staring a synthetic in the face if it proclaims to be vegetarian and with no yeast. Either that or the substances are so isolated that they are a far removed from being considered food.  

Quick Snapshot Comparison

Just to give you the general gist of the makeup of synthetic non-food vitamins versus those derived from food sources, let’s take a gander at Vitamin A. Note the difference between the source as well as the difference in the chemical makeup of the synthetic versus the food-derived version of the vitamin. 

Vitamin A, aka Betacarotine

Food derived vitamin:

Comes from carrots with a chemical makeup of retinyl esters and mixed carotenoids

Synthetic Analogue:

Comes from methanol, benzene and petroleum esters; refined oils; and acetylene with a chemical makeup of Vitamin A acetate; Vitamin A palmitate and isolated betacarotene 

When the word “isolated” appears without the word “food” near it, such as with the above betacartone, it usually means the “isolated” substance is most likely an isolate, or the inferior crystalline-structured substance rather than the real deal. 

The Bottom Line

Published scientific reports have already made the determination that food derived vitamins are superior to vitamin analogues. Reasons include: 

  • Synthetic and food-derived organic supplements don’t typically enter the bloodstream in the same way
  • Particle size matters when it comes to nutrient absorption, and your body prefers the smaller size of true vitamin particles
  • Proper nutrient absorption depends not only on isolated nutrients, but the way the nutrients react with other nutrients in the foods from whence they come
  • The vital role the chemical makeup plays in vitamin bioavailablity
  • The detriment of the synthetic vitamins’ crystalline structure 

The bottom line is that synthetic, non-food vitamins are not vitamins at all, but rather cheap imitations (that are not always all that cheap). While synthetic vitamins do have some value, a pill packed with petroleum derivatives and sugar is simply not able to deliver the full slate of benefits you find in the organic, true food derived vitamin.

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Please note: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. None of our products is intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your treating doctor. Spa Bali and Wellness does not dispense medical advice, prescribe, or diagnose illness. The views and nutritional information expressed by Spa Bali and Wellness are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service. If you have a severe medical condition, see your physician of choice.