Most chemists maintain that molecule by molecule, synthetic vitamins are identical to natural whole food vitamins. The isolated factor of each may be chemically similar, however there are many cofactors and enzymes that occur in foods that make the nutrients work properly in our body that we have not yet even discovered. Man made synthetic supplements are a combination of the separate factors, never the complex of synergistic factors found in nature. The whole family of B, C, or E vitamins is known as a “complex”.
Synthetic vitamins will never have the effects of organic whole food concentrates simply because they are missing many of the whole complex. Synthetic vitamins may cause improvement of certain conditions for a short time, but eventually end up causing deficiencies and even toxicities of other nutrients later on. Whole food complexes give your body the genuine replacement parts it needs to start functioning better. It is now believed that the “unknown” cofactors found in foods (and therefore whole food concentrates) act as catalysts which make the nutrients effective in our bodies. These cofactors are not found in synthetic vitamins. The reason why synthetic vitamins are so popular is because they are easier and cheaper to manufacture in a lab than to grow and harvest from crops, thereby increasing the profit margin for the companies making synthetic vitamins.
Are the vitamins you take causing deficiencies? Research indicates that synthetic vitamins may actually cause nutritional deficiencies. When you take a synthetic vitamin, it needs the cofactors, normally found in the whole food, in order to complete its action. If they are not in the foods you eat, it will draw the cofactors from your body. You may feel good for a while but when the cofactors run out, you will begin to feel worse. The prolonged action of synthetic vitamins imitates the action of drugs: they over-stimulate, rather than feed your body. Science does not even come close to duplicating nature. Many illnesses, pain, and suffering are the result of dietary deficiencies.
A word about label and supplements: Many consumers are confused by labels. Many labels say “Natural” of “Food Based”, or “Organic”. “Natural” is a term used very loosely. Many things are natural but may not be ideal for human consumption. Also, a product may be labeled “Natural” with as little as 10% of that product actually being what we think of as natural. “Food based” simple means that it started with a food product (such as a carrot) but the rest of it was made in a lab. When referring to supplements, the word “Organic” simply has to mean that there is a carbon molecule in the product, not necessarily that the product was made with organic whole foods as we would expect. One way to tell if a product is synthetic is to look at the label: if you see the word “high potency” it is synthetic. If you see that the milligram dosage is high, i.e. 1000 mg, or 5000 mg, etc., it is synthetic. If you look at the individual nutrients listed and you see, for example, Vitamin C (as ascorbic acid), or Vitamin A (as Beta Carotene), or Vitamin E (as d-alpha tocopherol), it is synthetic. The nutrients will be listed with their food source if it is a whole food concentrate.
A great book that is an easy read and explains vitamins in lay-man’s terms is WHY DO I NEED WHOLE FOOD SUPPLEMENTS? By Lorrie Medford, C.N.