Many of us know that we probably aren’t getting all of the vitamins and nutrients we need to function at our best, and often we turn to supplements to make up for it, assuming we can get almost all of the vitamins and minerals we need through the various pills and powders we find in the drug store. Unfortunately, that’s not entirely true. There is a lot of misinformation out there about vitamin supplements, and while it may be a hard truth to swallow, for the most part, you’d be better off without them. Let me explain.
While many of the popular vitamin brands are advertised as having 100% of your daily vitamin needs, this is only technically true. These vitamins are generally synthesized from an isolated source, which means your body has almost no idea what to do with them and just expels them through your urine, rendering them effectively useless. So even if you spend hundreds of dollars on supplements each month, if you aren’t eating a healthy, balanced diet, then there is a good chance that your body is deficient in many essential vitamins and minerals.
Why Is This a Problem?
Many supplement companies exploit people’s honest desire to do the right thing for themselves and their families by buying vitamins, profiting off of selling them useless pills. When buying synthetic vitamins, not only are you not getting access to the nutrients that you think you are, you may actually be increasing, rather than decreasing, your risk of disease. The most common synthetic compounds used in these supplements, in fact, are the vitamins themselves, and the majority of the vitamins on store shelves and those used to fortify foods, including “natural” foods, are synthetic.
Let’s take the very popular vitamin C, for example. Many of us are aware that this vitamin can help us avoid getting sick and recover from illness quickly, but this is one of the most commonly synthesized vitamins on the market. Generally, artificial vitamin C will be listed on the label as “ascorbic acid.” It is unlikely that manufacturers will be able to get more than 100mg of vitamin C from various foods into a tablet, so if you see a supplement that says vitamin C 100mg, it’s more likely to be from a natural source.
Where’s the Harm In Synthesized Vitamins?
One study showed serious side effects in adults who were taking 1,000mg of Vitamin C per day. This dosage impaired their energy systems, depleted their endurance, and weakened the mitochondria of their cells, which burn fat and sugar. It also had significant effects on the antioxidant system, which is a key immune system regulator. This study was performed on adults, so the effects on children would, presumably, be worse.
With regards to the vitamins that you may think are top of the line and that come from fruit and vegetable concentrates, well, here’s what Dr. Philip Maffetone had to say in a paper he published called “Serious Dangers Of Synthetic And Unnatural Vitamins”:
Unfortunately, most fruit and vegetable concentrates used in dietary supplements are dried with very high heat, destroying various nutrients. They don’t supply much nutrient but are used in the supplement to make it appear natural, while all the nutrients listed on the label come from synthetic or other unnatural additions. These so-called “whole food” supplements containing fruit or vegetable concentrates have to be “spiked” with synthetic vitamins and other unnatural nutrients in order to list any appreciable amounts of nutrients. Read the supplement facts panel carefully.
Vitamin B is a big one as well, as it is one of the more popular supplements. If a vitamin B supplement is synthetic, it will most likely be listed as folic acid. To avoid this, choose active B vitamins, which are sold under the following common names :
Thiamine (B1): Thiamine pyrophosphate; Thiamine triphosphate
Riboflavin (B2): Riboflavin-5-phosphate; Flavin mononucleotide (FMN)
Niacin (B3): Nicotinamide (adenine dinucleotide)
Pantothenic acid (B5): Pantethine
Pyridoxine (B6): Pyridoxal-5-phosphate
Folic acid: Folinic acid; 5-methyl tetrahydrofolate
Cobalamin (B12): Methylcobalamin; Adenosylcobalamin
So What Are Our Options?
If you are concerned you’re not getting adequate vitamins and minerals through diet alone, then it may be a good idea to supplement. But keep in mind that it may not be as difficult as you think to get what your body needs from food alone. Just one orange, for example, hits the recommended daily intake for vitamin C, and there are loads of other foods that you might eat on a regular basis that contain vitamin C as well. If you are eating a lot of organic fruits and vegetables, then you are definitely on the right track toward good health. A good rule of thumb is to eat a colourful diet comprised of a wide variety of organic fruits and vegetables, in season when possible.
If you still feel as though you need a supplement, it is definitely worth putting in some extensive research. When purchasing, you want to make sure that the supplement is unpasteurized and coming from whole, organic foods. Choose liquids or lozenges where possible. Find a company that you can trust, and if necessary just call and ask them about their supplements. The more you know, the better. Also, there are some vitamins that support each other and work well in the body together, like vitamin D and calcium for example, magnesium and calcium, vitamin C and iron, etc. You can find liquid multi-vitamins available that are coming entirely from plant based ingredients. Something like this may be the best option for overall vitamin intake, however some of us are more deficient than others in certain vitamins. To be sure, talk to your dietician or natural health care provider, either of whom can help you determine what’s right for you and if there is anything specifically that you are lacking.
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