Nutrients come from food.
Food contains vitamins, minerals, trace minerals, enzymes and micro nutrients.
These nutrients are present in the right amounts, especially if you eat USDA certified organic food.
Organic food is grown without chemical fertilizer, which contains large amounts of a few minerals but not the full complement of trace minerals.
Our bodies are designed to absorb nutrients from food.
It’s possible the assorted micro nutrients play very important roles that we don’t even know about. Either by themselves or because they help us process other nutrients.
People have been eating food since the beginning of time.
Only in recent history has the idea of bottled synthetic vitamins become fashionable.
Many people even think that popping a daily multivitamin means they’re getting all the nutrition they need.
But they don’t realize that most laboratory made vitamins will not contain micro nutrients. Micro nutrients are required for optimal health.
Why I Don’t Take Synthetic Vitamins
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First off, let me state that I’m not a medical professional or a nutritionist.
I am writing only from the perspective of a supplement consumer.
There may be legitimate reasons a doctor may want you to take a single nutrient, which is made in a lab. Iron deficiency anemia and a Vitamin B12 deficiency are two examples.
So always defer to your physician for medical advice.
Also, when I talk about laboratory made vitamins, I refer to those synthetic pills formulated in the lab, from various compounds. Not multivitamins made from food.
I do take a food based vitamin about once a week. Just in case anything is missing from my diet.
On the day I take it I notice I feel calmer and more centered.
So why not take this natural food based vitamin every day?
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work this way. At least not for me.
If I take this food based vitamin more often, it doesn’t have the same effect. (This happens to me with all dietary supplements. I need to take much less than the standard dose.)
It even seems to make me a little jittery. Like too much of a good thing. I think it’s my body’s way of telling me I don’t need to take it every day.
Also, it reinforces my personal belief that we’re really supposed to get our nutrients from food. Not from a bottle.
But I do love this brand of vitamins, which you can see below.
Even if the bottle contains more natural food based vitamins. (I do realize these are made in a lab too. However, because they are made from highly concentrated food, they contain micro nutrients.)
This is also why I think it’s a very bad idea to eat junk food, and then pop a multivitamin with the assumption you’re getting all the nutrients you need.
Instead, make your nutrition count. Eat real food. Eat whole food. Organic if possible.
Are Synthetic Vitamins Bad for You?
So everything above is my personal opinion.
I was unable to track down very much scientific research on whether food based vitamins are nutritionally superior to synthetic vitamins.
This could be because Americans spend upwards of $30 billion a year on supplements, a figure that includes vitamins.
Synthetic vitamins are what line supermarket and drugstore shelves.
These are the vitamins that are readily available.
Mainstream medicine is fine with synthetic vitamins. Prevalent thinking dictates that they’re just as good as food based counterparts.
A 2001 article published in Scientific American assured us that synthetic vitamins are processed no differently than food based vitamins. (The exception was Vitamin E. The natural version is better absorbed.)
I thought this article was weak in that it didn’t explain about micro nutrients when comparing vitamins, side by side. So the reader could assume that synthetic and food based vitamins are pretty much the same.
However, only food based vitamins will contain the micro nutrients present in food.
To her credit, though, the author later pointed out that, “Foods contain substances other than vitamins and minerals for good health.Fruits, vegetables and whole grains contain phytochemicals, or plant chemicals, that can help to fight the development and progression of many chronic diseases, including cancer.”
I was happy to see her advice, “Foods first.”
Are Synthetic Vitamins Unhealthy?
There is a scarcity of research on synthetic vs. natural vitamins.
Unfortunately. Because so many people take multivitamins.
One paper I did find noted the lack of research.
Published in the Medical Hypothesis journal, it pointed out there may be legitimacy to the idea that food based vitamins are superior to synthetic vitamins.
The authors wrote:
“There appears to be a tendency to label those who profess that natural vitamins are better than synthetic ones as quacks. This broad brush label may be stifling legitimate nutrition research. This paper describes physiochemical differences between certain natural and synthetic vitamins, proven clinical advantages of natural vitamins, and some of the effects this labeling may lead to. It concludes that lessons of history as well as modern science support the view that natural vitamins are nutritionally superior to synthetic ones.”
Should You Take Whole Food Vitamins?
Medical studies are great. I love them and I love to cite them in my posts.
They can offer proof where it’s needed.
However, studies also have limitations.
They’re only as good as their design.
Plus, someone needs to do them in the first place.
Sometimes, you just have to make your own decisions.
I personally don’t need a study to tell me that a multivitamin made from food is probably superior to synthetic vitamins.
Nor do I need anyone to confirm that a multivitamin that contains micro nutrients is what I want to take.
Also, it’s indisputable that Ascorbic acid is an isolate. It’s a component of whole Vitamin C found in foods.
Yet check just about any bottle of synthetic multivitamins. You will probably see Ascorbic acid listed as “Vitamin C.”
If you want more Vitamin C in your diet, either eat more fruit or check out this post on Best Natural Sources of Vitamin C.
Also, to every rule there is an exception. I do have one Ascorbic acid product in my house known as Lypospheric Vitamin C. It is not whole Vitamin C and I know that. But I keep it on hand as an immune booster when I’m fighting a cold or another kind of infection.
These statements have not been approved by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Pregnant women should not take supplements unless under medical direction.