What would the world be like if we didn’t have vitamins? We probably wouldn’t be writing about this right now because we’d all be extinct. That’s how important vitamins are to our bodies. Not only do vitamins help our bodies to function properly. They also help keep life-threatening conditions such as organ failure, depression and obesity at bay. When speaking of vitamins, you’ll hear people talking about natural and synthetic vitamins. A lot has been said about whether synthetic vitamins provide the same benefits as natural vitamins. So, what’s the big difference between natural and synthetic vitamins?
What is Natural Vitamin?
A natural vitamin can be created directly by plants or can be naturally created in your body through the process of digestion. Since these vitamins are sourced from the food we eat, they don’t contain any chemical tablet coatings and have not undergone through any heat, pressure or toxic solvents.
It also means that they don’t contain any artificial additives, colors, preservatives or sweeteners. These are purely raw ingredients that supply nutrients as a whole.
What is a Synthetic Vitamin?
Synthetic vitamins, on the other hand, are made in the laboratory. They are artificially made to mimic how natural vitamins and minerals act in our bodies. Synthetic vitamins can be in the form of pills, tablets, powder, or liquid and do not include whole food supplements. Also known as isolated vitamins, they are not derived directly from plant materials but are rather manufactured in an industrial setting, using chemicals. Unlike naturally occurring vitamins, synthetic vitamins lack the co-factors and transporters that make natural vitamins unique. Because of this, the synthetic vitamins and minerals can’t always be used by our bodies and may either be stored until your body obtains or creates the nutrients required to use them or are excreted.
Natural Vitamins Vs Synthetic Vitamins
When it comes to comparing the two types of vitamins, health doctors, nutritionists, and experts are divided. Some claim that synthetic nutrients are not effective at all and may even be harmful to your body while others strongly believe that synthetic vitamins have a molecular composition similar to that of natural vitamins. As Dr. Donal Golberg, R.Ph puts it, “To get high potencies of vitamins and minerals in a dietary supplement, synthetic or highly processed vitamins, and minerals must be used.” He adds, “To get 500 milligrams of vitamin C and 10 milligrams of the various B vitamins from natural sources would require a tablet the size of a football.” Isobel Jennings, Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, Cambridge University contributes to this topic by adding that, “Synthetic vitamins may perform some of the functions of their natural counterparts while being useless for others.
Chemicals vs. Nature
But what may be more important is the fact that synthetic vitamins, prepared from chemicals instead of nature, are frequently less active biologically than their natural counterparts, thereby reducing any beneficial effect they may have.” In addition to that, synthetic vitamins lack all of the naturally occurring co-factors, enzymes, and co-enzymes that must function together to have the required biological effects. Plants being the natural source of vitamins means that you get more than just the vitamins.
Plants also supply our bodies with essential nutrients and antioxidants, without which our health would be negatively affected. One analysis by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which investigated approximately 30,000 U.S. adults. It concluded that daily intake of essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A and K, magnesium, copper, and zinc from foods (natural), were directly linked with reduced risk of dying over a certain period of time. No evidence was found where synthetic vitamins and minerals were used.
Advantages of Synthetic Vitamins
With all that’s been said, we can’t rule out the importance of synthetic supplements. As the name suggests, they supplement a diet with vitamins that you might not be able to get otherwise.
- It’s easier to know exactly how much vitamin C you’re getting from citrus fruits when in supplement form than when eating citrus fruit. The reason behind this is that while one citrus fruit might contain 50 mg of vitamin C, another may carry only 10 mg of vitamin C. This greatly depends on the location it was grown and the conditions of transportation. With synthetic vitamins, there is no such discrepancy as the measure of the nutrients is consistent.
- Most synthetic vitamins are produced with the highest form of purity by following the strict standards of the United States Pharmacopeia (USP). It’s therefore advisable to ensure that you only buy supplements containing ingredients certified by the USP.
Better in Natural Form
Conflicting reports such as these are what brings confusion in the health industry. But sometimes natural is better and at other times, synthetic is better. Sometimes it doesn’t matter. It all boils down to treating and preventing deficiencies and other health conditions. Essentially, it’s better to get most of your vitamins and minerals from foods. You can’t put all the natural goodness of raw veggies and fruits in a bottle. It’s, therefore, important to talk to your doctor first to learn which minerals are best taken natural and those that are helpful when taken as supplements.
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