Jenny Crissman MS L.Ac.
In general Drugs are considered to be artificial and Vitamins are considered to be natural. The truth is both can be artificial or natural. Many vitamins produced today are artificial. But the inclusion of the title “Natural” on the label doesn’t ensure any better quality. Many products labeled “Natural” , i.e. cane sugar, palm oil, toxic mushrooms, herbs... can potentially cause harm. The same goes for all “ Natural” vitamins!
This blog will outline some of the differences between manufacturing techniques/terminology so you can have a better idea of how to source your supplements and invest properly in your health!
Let's start with the worst and end with the best- In my opinion!
Purely Synthetic Vitamins: These vitamins are manufactured in a lab and are assimilated different than the nutrients found in nature. These vitamins can have the same chemical constituents , but they have a different “shape” or actual makeup. This “shape is important because some enzymes in the human body only work properly with a vitamin of a the correct make up or “shape”. So basically you have a source of concentrated synthetic nutrients with no appropriate delivery system.
Money down the drain!
Nature- Identical Synthetic: This category of vitamins includes nutrients manufactured in a lab but use the molecular structure “shape” identical to nutrients occurring in nature. However, the true source of the nutrient may not be the same as what we would think of in nature nor is it in the same combination with other nutrients found in nature that would maximize it's utilization.
Vitamin C/ Ascorbic acid is a good example. Ascorbic acid is the the most popular form of synthetic Vitamin C. Naturally occurring Vitamin C /Ascorbic acid contains the same molecules as synthetic Vitamin C/Ascorbic acid. But, in food Ascorbic acid is found within the Vitamin C Complex along with other compounds so it can be absorbed. Nature- Identical Ascorbic acid is often derived from corn starch, corn sugar or rice starch, ( not an orange), and is chemically dependent on volatile acids added to the supplements to create absorption. This is not the ideal combination for utilization.
More money down the drain!
Nature Sourced: These vitamins include nutrients sourced from vegetables, animals or mineral sources. However, before making them into supplements they undergo significant processing and refining. When a vitamin is labeled “Natural” it only has to include 10% of actual plant derived ingredients and the remaining 90% can be synthetic!
Consider Vitamin E: Natural Alpha-tocopherol is just one single isomer and synthetic Alpha-tocopheral is a combination of eight isomers. This combination is still considered Vitamin E, but the consumption of the combined isomers greatly inhibits bioavailability.
More money down the drain!
Food Cultured: These vitamins are often labeled as “Whole Food” supplements. The process to manufacture them is the same as the one used to culture foods like yogurt, kefir, miso and sauerkraut. These supplements are often grown in yeast or algae. Raw materials are grown and then harvested and made into the vitamin supplements. This culturing creates nutrients that are more bioavailable than those of previously mentioned vitamins. Sometimes food cultured vitamins are combined with synthetic vitamins to increase potency, so read the label!
Money well spent!
Food Based: There is currently no regulatory definition, so companies are free to make up their own to suit their needs. This lack of clarity has led to a lexicon of misleading terms.
The goal of the Whole Food supplements are to provide nutrients for the body that are as close as possible to how they are found in nature. Manufacturing safeguards help to maintain the nutrition within each Whole Food ingredient because during manufacturing nutrients are easily degraded by heat, pH changes and light.
The Best way to spend your Money!
Even given this information, with the myriad of vitamins and food supplements on the market it is wise to ask your trusted healthcare provider to help you maneuver the labeling and the sourcing to ensure you are not throwing your money away or even worse-potentially causing more harm than good!!