All Vitamins Are Not the Same
The plethora of supplements on the market boggles the mind. Which is best? Which will give me the best for my dollars? The consumer is left to sort through unbelievable amounts of marketing designed to convince you to buy. The objective of the supplement company is money. If reducing supplement quality equates, for instance, to increased shelf life, which equates to a greater profit margin, they are willing to sacrifice quality for quantity of sales. The consumer is relegated to making a decision based on whose marketing is more effective, rather than how the product will actually work in their body. After all, supplements are taken to support function, not to support the vitamin industry!
Read Labels. Before you read this article any further, take out your vitamin supplements and have them next to you as you read on. The new nutritional disclosure labels actually make it more difficult to determine what are healthy ingredients and what are not. The old labels (still on many products), tell you more about what is really in the product. As a general rule of thumb, if you see vitamins listed in the ingredient section of the label, it is synthetic or fractionated; otherwise it would be listed as the food.
Now on the new labeling, you have to look under the “Nutrition Facts” section as well (where it lists what percentage of the daily value of basic nutrients is contained in the product). Where the vitamins are listed, look where it displays parenthesis (for example: “Vitamin A (as beta carotene)”. The word “as” generally denotes a synthetic or fractionated source, unless it sounds like a food. The ingredient label (since it is supposed to be food that you are eating) should sound like a food. So instead of the label saying, for example, “Vitamin C (as ascorbic acid)”, it should say “Vitamin C (from acerola cherries)”.
Forget the word “Natural”. It means nothing. This word has been grossly abused and no longer has any valuable meaning. Most supplements claim to be natural. Some say they are not synthetic. Few reference “fractionated”. The truth lies somewhere in-between.
Don’t be swayed by marketing propaganda. No supplement company is going to tell you their product is no good. If they did, they would soon be out of business. Their marketing is all geared towards making you believe it is the best product you will ever take! They will go to extreme cost to make you believe that. It is up to you to sort through what is marketing hype and what is really good. The intent of this article is to help you with that.
Be aware of fractionated vitamins. A “fractionated” vitamin means that the manufacturer altered the “natural” vitamin, generally to make it more shelf-stable. For instance, most Vitamin E is sold as “d-alpha tocopherol”. D-Alpha tocopherol and its many adulterations is not true Vitamin E. It is only a “fraction” of the Vitamin E complex. Vitamin E contains alpha, beta, gamma and delta tocopherols, “E-factors”, “F-factors”, selenium, xanthine and lipositols. D-alpha tocopherol is only one small fraction of the
Vitamin E complex. As a result, it does not have the same effect in the body and can actually cause damage. Your vitamin label should list Vitamin E as “Vitamin E (as wheat germ oil)”, or have wheat germ oil in the ingredient section, and
not labeled “Vitamin E (as d-alpha tocopherol)” or similar variation. Some will show Vitamin E as “Mixed tocopherols”. This simply means a little more was added back – any combination of alpha, beta or gamma tocopherols, but it is still missing all the other essential fractions.
Drug-like responses are all you can expect from synthetic or fractionated supplements. They will not heal or support bodily function. They will only help you initially to “feel better”. This is because the fractionated vitamin, containing only a fraction of the whole nutrient will search your tissues looking for the missing fractions, and then pull them out, in order to complete the complex. Initially, this will make you feel better, however, long term it will leave you more depleted than you were before you started taking the supplement. The vitamin supplement literally stripped your reserves! Examples of fractionated or synthetic vitamins include: d-alpha tocopherol, ascorbic acid, beta-carotene, thiamine mononitrate, cyanocobalamin, ergocalciferol, and many more. Basically, anything that doesn’t sound like a food is either synthetic or fractionated and should be avoided!
Here is an example of a good label and a bad label: Good Label: Ingredients: Carrot powder, beet powder, flax meal powder, brown rice powder, alfalfa juice powder, soybean lecithin, green tea leaf powder. All these ingredients sound like a food or plant. They sound like something edible. Here’s a example of a Bad Label: Ingredients: Dicalcium phosphate, magnesium oxide, ascorbic acid, d-alpha-tocopherol acetate, thiamine hydrochloride, ferrous fumerate, beta-carotene, hydrogenated vegetable oil, croscarmellose sodium, silicon dioxide, talc, carnuba wax, yellow beeswax, artificial colors (titanium dioxide, FD&C Yellow No. 6, FD&C Red No. 5, FD&C Blue No. 1). It all sounds like chemicals, not food. These later ingredients are not food, and should not be eaten.
Many well meaning doctors will give you supplements that sound like the bad label above. The problem is they just don’t have the time to learn or investigate this. They are dependent upon the same propaganda the consumer is for information, plus the pharmaceutical claims as well (and they want the profits too). Make sure that if you are confused about supplements beyond the basics (stay with FOOD sources) and see a doctor who specializes in whole food nutrition.