Are synthetic, isolated vitamins and non plant sourced minerals really that different from naturally occurring vitamins, plant sourced minerals, and other micronutrients? The answer is a resounding YES.
Here is what you need to know. Synthetic, isolated vitamins never grew in the ground, were never energized by the sun, and were never alive. They are chemicals; they are NOT food or nutrients. The tragedy is that under the current standards these chemicals can be marketed and studied as vitamins. They are also what are used to determine daily values and to study potential benefit and harm of supplementing your diet with vitamins. However, ingesting chemical synthetic vitamins does not represent vitamin supplementation; it represents the ingestion of chemicals or drugs.
Lately, there have been a lot of stories questioning the benefits of vitamin supplementation. A very important point that needs to be made is that research is clear that vitamin deficiencies are linked to chronic illnesses like cancer and heart disease. The research that fails to show a benefit are studies that do not use vitamins as they are found in fruits and vegetables. These studies use synthetic vitamins instead of whole food supplements.
It is no longer just a question of whether or not you are wasting your money on synthetic vitamins, they may actually be doing you significant harm.
- In a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, 22,748 pregnant women were given synthetic Vitamin A. The study alarmingly reported a 240% increase in birth defects in babies of women taking 10,000 IU daily, and a 400% increase when taking 20,000 IU a day. Women eating natural food sources of Vitamin A showed no increase in birth defects.
- Another study published on April 14, 1994 in The New England Journal of Medicine studied 29,000 male smokers who were given synthetic beta-carotene and synthetic Vitamin E to evaluate the cancer-protective effect of these “vitamins”. After 10 years the men taking the synthetic beta carotene had an 18% higher rate of lung cancer, more heart attacks, and an 8% higher overall death rate. Those taking Synthetic Vitamin E had more strokes. Food sources of these same nutrients, such as fruits and vegetables, consistently demonstrate protection against cancer, heart attacks and stroke.
- In a study published in Feb, 2009 in Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers found that synthetic multivitamin use in post-menopausal women did not decrease risk of cardiovascular diseases or common cancers. In fact the study shows that synthetic multivitamin consumption is associated with a decrease in benefit from the consumption of fruits and vegetables and other healthy lifestyle choices.
“You get what you pay for” is a saying that almost always rings true for dietary supplements. Most mass-market vitamins actually contain chemicals that the EPA has banned from public drinking water at levels above 50 parts per billion. That’s the equivalent of a tablespoon of water in an Olympic-size swimming pool.
Take the multivitamin Centrum, for instance, whose manufacturer Wyeth is one of the most powerful pharmaceutical companies in the world. It contains six chemicals that are know to be toxic in high doses, and in the case of stannous chloride (tin), ferrous fumarate (iron) and manganese sulfate there are significantly higher doses in Centrum than are considered safe for human consumption in a liter of water.
The take home message is – if it doesn’t sound like whole food it’s not, and if it has huge RDA values for all listed vitamins and minerals it is synthetic. Remember, almost all vitamins that we know of only offer their full health benefits when they are in the presence of a number of enzymes, co-enzymes, and co-factors. For example, Vitamin D may have as many as twelve different active components. The mineral copper is needed for full vitamin C activity. This is known as a synergistic effect and is ignored by those manufacturing and marketing synthetic and isolated supplements.
Whole food supplements naturally contain all of the vitamins, minerals and co-factors necessary because the plant itself required and absorbed these nutrients in exactly this way for its own good health. They are the safest, most effective, most beneficial sources of vitamins and minerals. Sounds like common sense!