Synthetic vs. Natural Vitamins

Contributing Writer
Jeffrey Barkstrom

When is a vitamin not a vitamin? Why don’t vitamins work like they used too? How did we get to this strange place?

When I was in college, a group of us were talking about our future careers. One person was getting a degree in chemical engineering and he said he was going into chemistry “because people got to eat.” This struck me as strange and the whole group went silent contemplating this fact that a chemical engineer was going into the food industry.

Fast forward 30 years later, we are now seeing that compounds and chemicals in our foods are not the same as eating the whole food. The vitamin industry hasn’t gotten the message yet.

The problem is the way vitamins are defined by measurements by the government. Take vitamin C for example, it is a complex of different parts of which at least 8 parts have been identified as beneficial. The government only measures one part as a yard stick to say how much “vitamin C” is in a product. The part they measure is called ascorbic acid which is the outer shell of the vitamin C complex. Ascorbic acid is made currently by fermenting and then adding some acids to corn sugar. Not what I picture when I think vitamin C. Vitamin B is even worse and made from coal tar and hydrochloric acid. This synthetic B is obviously missing all the other plant derived nutrients of B vitamins.

Whole food vitamins are derived from foods that actually contain the vitamins from the food sources that actually have all the vitamins in them. Vitamins work best in their amazing complex pattern that they have in nature. We don’t know what all the different parts of a plant do, but they tend to work better as a whole.

So when is a vitamin not a vitamin? When it is not made of food and it is missing all the parts of that vitamin. Why did vitamins stop working? 90% of vitamins sold are not made out of food. How did we get here? That’s a long story.

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