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Synthetic vs. Natural Vitamins

Here are some facts that you won’t find advertised on most of the vitamin supplements at your local vitamin store:

  • The majority of commercial vitamin supplements are made up of synthetic vitamins
  • Synthetic vitamins do not perform the same functions in your body as vitamins found naturally in whole food
  • Many synthetic vitamins deplete your body of other nutrients and tax your kidneys before being excreted through your urine

If you want a comprehensive understanding of what vitamins are and what they do in your body, it would be best to take a full course in biochemistry. Do you remember all of those molecular formulas and chemical reactions that you studied in your high school chemistry class? Biochemistry is really just an extension of chemistry, with an emphasis on the thousands of chemical reactions that occur in your body on a moment-to-moment basis.

Anyone who studies biochemistry learns that vitamins do not exist as single components that act on their own. Vitamins are made up of several different components – enzymes, co-enzymes, and co-factors– that must work together to produce their intended biologic effects.

Vitamins that are found naturally in whole foods come with all of their necessary components. The majority of vitamins that are sold in pharmacies, grocery stores, and vitamin shops are synthetic vitamins, which are only isolated portions of the vitamins that occur naturally in food.

A good example is vitamin C. If you take a look at a variety of vitamin C supplements, you will find that the majority of them contain only ascorbic acid or a compound called ascorbate, which is a less acidic form of acorbic acid. Ascorbic acid is NOT vitamin C. It represents the outer ring that serves as a protective shell for the entire vitamin C complex, much like an orange peel that serves as a protective shell for an orange. Real vitamin C found in whole foods like fruits and vegetables contain the following components:

  • Rutin
  • Bioflavonoids (vitamin P)
  • Factor K
  • Factor J
  • Factor P
  • Tyrosinase
  • Ascorbinogen
  • Ascorbic Acid

When you take only ascorbic acid found in your synthetic vitamin C tablet or powder, your body must gather all of the other components of the full vitamin C complex from your body’s tissues in order to make use of it. In the event that your body does not have adequate reserves of the other components, ascorbic acid itself does not provide any of the health benefits that the full vitamin C complex does. After circulating through your system, the unused ascorbic acid is eliminated through your urine.

Just like vitamin C, almost all other vitamins that we know of offer their full health benefits when they are in the presence of a number of enzymes, co-enzymes, co-factors, and even minerals. For example, Vitamin D may have as many as twelve different active components, while vitamin P has at least five different components. The mineral copper is needed for full vitamin C activity, while vitamin E works closely with the mineral selenium to provide its health promoting, anti-oxidative effect.

Clearly, it is best to get your vitamins from whole foods because whole foods provide complete vitamins rather than fractions of them. In many cases, whole foods also provide the minerals that are necessary for optimal vitamin activity. For example, sunflower seeds are an excellent whole food source of vitamin E and the mineral selenium, both of which need each other to offer their full health benefits.

How do you know if the vitamins on your kitchen counter are from whole foods or if they are synthetic?

If the list of ingredients includes an actual vitamin like Vitamin C” rather than an actual food that contains natural vitamin C like “acerola cherry powder”, you can bet that it is a synthetic vitamin.

If you choose to use nutritional supplements, it is in your best interest to use only those products that list actual foods as their ingredients rather than synthetic and isolated vitamins. While some synthetic and isolated vitamins have been shown to provide minimal health benefits, on the whole, most of them cause more harm than good and you are far better off spending your money on whole foods.

It is important to note that the principles in this article are just as relevant and applicable to minerals and mineral supplements.

Two whole food supplements that my family uses on a regular basis are a super green food mixture and an acerola cherry powder product.


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this is what i've been trying to tell everyone that i know that takes these synthetic vitamins and minerals. they are convinced that it is healthy, and won't listen to me when i say that most of it just gets peed out, and that it hurts your body to try to absorb these synthetics.
i'll have to show them this article now. thank you for taking the time to write it.

I just found this article on accident, and not only do I agree with the post.. I also agree with the comment above mine. Anything created to mimic something natural, will never be quite as good.

I've been telling family and friends this same message, but it goes in one ear and out the other. I too will print many copies of this article and maybe they will believe Dr. Kim !

I've been doing a lot of research on the subject. A good article to distinguish between natural and synthetic is: (see Table 2) A couple of other sites describe the same information. From this table it seems that most brands are all or mostly synthetics. From other articles it appears that even the Whole Food vitamins use synthetics as a source, see:
still searching...

FORGET them and find people with critical thinking minds to call acquaintances or friends which are very rare.
I teach MOTHER NATURE'S FARMACY world-wide. Anytime I receive "Negative," LOW VIBRATIONS from bottom feeders I make a point to elude them in the future. ONLY, ONLY those COMMITTED to Positive Changes will I work with as others live to drag others down as best they can to their low vibrations.

to the best of my knowledge our body is designed to absorb natural and organic substances. when we take synthetic thing, very less portion of it get absorbed by our body and unabsorbed portion gives side effect to our body. also value for money goes down.

While I'm a big fan of Dr. Mercola's website, and he says the same thing about vitamins, this explanation was much more direct, simple and easy to understand. Thanks!

I am not a big fan of Mercola. Being an allergist I find so many people allergic to all forms of cows dairy, which he, as spokesperson for the Weston A Price Foundation keeps on promoting. WAPF have been severely critisised for promoting erroneous 'health' advise about raw milk, and so has Mercola.
He also has the (bad) habit of being long winded in his articles, while Dr Kim is short and to the point.
Happy days!

A spoonful of chlorella daily is another tasty way to get vitamins and minerals.

The first vitamins I took were made of whole foods. It is nice to get some clarification about the synthetic types and now I am glad that I did not ingest them.