Today, we are very health conscious and the trend is always to go Natural and Organic. We are aware of the bad side effects coming from synthetic or man-made stuff. This synthetic stuff may range from chemical pesticides, plastics, sweeteners and food colouring. Food supplements may or may have natural or synthetic sources too. You may ask why do we need to make synthetic vitamins when we can just get them from natural sources? The answer is that it is cheaper or more cost-effective to synthesize a vitamin. Natural vitamin sources are always the best source but they are expensive to produce.
Synthetic vs Natural Vitamins
The large number of the vitamins you find on the pharmacy or store shelves today are manufactured synthetically using chemical processes. They are not derived directly from plants and animals but some manufacturers still make natural vitamins. Most manufacturers of natural vitamins and some of their supporters claim they are better than synthetic vitamins. Is there any truth in these claims?
It is quite difficult to make a distinction between “synthetic” and “natural” vitamins. Some people define natural vitamins as a concentrated nutrient which is derived from a high-quality natural source. The objective is to maximize the retention of all the natural materials, this means that no artificial colours, sweeteners, or preservatives should be used in the final product. A natural vitamin source contains co-factors that always come with the nutrient in nature.
For example, some co-factors that always exists with Vitamin C are various bioflavonoids. The natural vitamin should be as concentrated from its natural source as possible. There should be no extreme heat, extreme pressure, artificial chemicals and toxic solvents. Sugar or chemical tablet coatings should not be used also on the final product. The nutrients are also prepared from high-quality raw ingredients.
Synthetic vitamins are usually made in the laboratory from coal tar derivatives. There are no co-factors in synthetic vitamins. Most of the food supplements that are sold on the market are synthetic and usually, they are cheaper to produce compared to natural vitamins. Another way to compare natural and synthetic vitamins is to look at the differences in their molecular structures. Natural health authorities often claim that these synthetic vitamins are not as effective as natural vitamins.
Mainstream doctors and nutritionists claim that synthetic vitamins are identical in molecular and chemical structure to natural vitamins so they are just as effective. It is logical to think that if natural vitamins and synthetic vitamins have the same chemical structure, then they would have the same effect and bioavailability inside the human body.
In the case of Vitamin E, the d- a form of vitamin E is derived from vegetable oils and other natural sources. This is different from the dl- form ( often called the synthetic form of vitamin E). dl-tocopherol is a mixture of the d-form and the l-form (usually found in a 1:1 mixture). The human body consumes only the d- form. The l- form does not give anyone health benefits and normally excreted as waste by the body. This means that when you are consuming the dl- a form of vitamin E, you get an effective dose of just about half the vitamin E dosage that is printed on the label.
The main advantage of synthetic vitamins aside from lower price is that synthetic vitamins have dose consistency and purity. Synthetic vitamins adhere to the strict standards set by the (USP) United States Pharmacopeia. USP grade vitamins are guaranteed to be free from contamination and are of very high purity.
Natural Vitamin C
The Vitamin C that exists on oranges is identical to the vitamin C derived from other plant sources, this is because plants containing vitamin C biosynthesize this substance in the same manner. When Vitamin C was first isolated and manufactured in a tablet or capsule form, we did not know anything about bioflavonoids. Bioflavonoids were discovered later. It was later found out that in nature, bioflavonoids always exists with Vitamin C. Research say that bioflavonoids increase the absorption of Vitamin C by 30%.
“Natural vs. synthetic ascorbic acid: Natural and synthetic ascorbic acid are chemically identical. As assessed by at least two studies, there appears to be no clinically significant difference in the bioavailability and bioactivity of natural ascorbic acid and synthetic ascorbic acid “
( Source: The Bioavailability of Different Forms of Vitamin C by Jane Higdon, R.N., PhD. LPI Research Associate )
Q., Is there a difference between “natural” and “synthetic” vitamin C?
A. There is no difference according to Linus Pauling. Unlike vitamin E, the molecular structure of vitamin C is known, it is the ascorbate ion, and the body can’t tell the difference between the bioidentical (“synthetic”) molecule and that which is produced by nature in plants and animals. In our view, the most “natural” form of vitamin C is ascorbic acid – the form made in the kidneys and livers of most other mammals, in fact, all species. (Note: Animal livers do not make bioflavonoids or rose hips.) Almost all vitamin C in virtually any product over 200 mg from any company is “synthetic” vitamin C. If you want “natural” vitamin C, be sure to eat plenty of oranges and uncooked red and green peppers.
Natural Vitamin D
Vitamin D is produced naturally by the human body whenever the skin is exposed to direct sunlight. Cloud cover, smog, season, geographic latitude, time of day, and sunscreen affect the amount of UV ray exposure and vitamin D synthesis in the skin. We produce 90% of the vitamin D we need by just exposing our skin to sunlight. The exposure of the skin to UV-B coming from sunlight initiates the conversion of cholesterol in the skin to vitamin D3. Our skin is the best and natural source of vitamin D.
Sunlight Exposure (full body exposure)*
3,000 – 20,000 IU
Salmon (3.5 oz. of fresh, wild salmon)
600 – 1,000 IU
Salmon (3.5 oz. of fresh, farmed salmon)
100 – 250 IU
Fortified Whole Milk, 8-oz. glass**