Do I really need to take vitamins?
Yes, the last of the hold-outs, the AMA, finally published an article on the need for multiple vitamin supplements in the June 27th, 2002 Journal of the American Medical Association. It was titled: All Adults Should Take a Daily Multivitamin by Dr. Alan Gaby, MD. The question is; what type of multivitamin should you be taking?
Synthetic or Natural Vitamins - What's The Difference?
What Are Vitamins?
In Judith DeCava's book, The Real Truth about Vitamins and Antioxidants, she defines a vitamin as "a complex mechanism...of functional, interrelated, interdependent components. A vitamin consists of, not only the organic nutrient(s) identified as the vitamin, but also enzymes, coenzymes, antioxidants and trace element activators." A vitamin complex is not simply an individual chemical or several chemicals. It must contain all factors that make up the vitamin in its entirety. Just like a car is not four tires, nor a wheel, nor an engine, but rather it is a "car" when all parts are complete and working together.
There are two points of view when it comes to supplements. One is that
vitamin parts can be synthesized, in high concentrates (high potency). This is
the principle followed by most supplement manufacturers, the majority of which
are pharmaceutical companies. These vitamins are termed "synthetic".
(Though they can be labeled "natural" even if they come from sugar or coal tar).
The other viewpoint is that vitamins and mineral elements are so complex,
and have so many parts that are dependent upon each other, that when separated
they no longer can produce a normal nutritional effect on the body. According
to this theory, an overdose of any one vitamin, as it occurs with separated out
or synthetic vitamins, can be hazardous to the body. Complete vitamins, with
all of their parts and necessary cofactors are often termed "whole food
vitamins", since they are derived entirely from whole foods.
Vitamin C is Not Simply Ascorbic Acid
An excellent example of the difference between whole food and synthetic
supplements, is vitamin C. The majority of books and magazines on the subject
of nutrition refer to vitamin C as ascorbic acid. These terms are used
interchangeably. However, vitamin C is not simply ascorbic acid. Ascorbic acid
is the outer skin of vitamin C, much like the skin of an orange. Vitamin C also
contains bioflavonoid complexes, tyrosinase, and several other factors. What do
you get if you purchase a synthesized bottle of vitamin C? You are buying
ascorbic acid, a small part of vitamin C, manufactured from super-refined corn
sugar. Ascorbic acid does have strong effects on the body but is more of a drug
than a nutrient. Because your body needs all parts of a vitamin to function, it
will leech the other necessary cofactors from itself in order to use the
ascorbic acid. This puts a lot of extra stress on your body, according to
Dennis Nelson, in his book, Maximizing
Another example of whole food versus synthetic is vitamin B complex. Coal
tar is the source of many synthetic B vitamins. Coal tar is not alive, and
research confirms that it does not work as well in our bodies as natural
sources of B vitamins, such as wheat germ.
Potency of Natural Versus Synthetic
One thing that may be confusing is the potency of natural versus synthetic.
Natural food concentrates have a much lower "potency" in milligrams
or micrograms. This may lead you to believe that they are less effective and
not as powerful as synthetic vitamins. Vitamins are measured based on animal
testing using isolated vitamin fractions. It requires a large amount of the
separated vitamin to achieve a specific reaction in animals (and in humans).
According to Judith DeCava, this reaction is a drug effect and not necessarily
a nutritional reaction. Food concentrates cause potent nutritional reactions
since they are working with their natural synergists to be properly used by the
body. As Judith DeCava states "...a minute amount of a vitamin that is
left intact in its whole food form is tremendously more functional, powerful,
and effective nutritionally than a large amount of a chemically-pure, vitamin
fraction. Therefore, only small amounts of natural vitamin complexes are
required. They are organic micronutrients, nutrients needed in tiny quantities,
to accomplish many big biochemical jobs."
Judith DeCava's book, The Real Truth
About Vitamins and Antioxidants, is thoroughly researched and
documented. If you want to delve deeper into the benefits of whole food
vitamins versus the efficacy and possible harmful effects of synthetic
vitamins, I suggest reading this book and the many cited works she lists.
What is Best For Our Children?
What is in the best interests for our children? According to many
nutritionists, including Dr. Betsy Meshbesher, a nutritionist and owner of a
national vitamin company, whole, organic foods in their natural state are best.
Feeding your children organic fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains
instead of potato chips, macaroni and cheese, granola bars and other highly
processed foods will give them the nutrients they need to be healthy. What do
you do if your child won't eat nearly enough whole foods? Then use whole food
vitamins such as wheat germ oil, which provides a substantial amount of vitamin
E complex as well as other vital nutrients. Or use rice bran syrup or
nutritional yeast, which are excellent sources of the vitamin B complex.
Am I not getting all I need from the food I eat?
No, the soil we grow our food on is depleted in vitamins and minerals. By planting over and over again in the same soil, through transportation and storage, food loses vitamins and minerals. Food also loses some of its nutrients and enzymes (parts of food that help digest food) when cooked. In addition, we are not all the same in our abilities to digest food and utilize the nutrients from food.
Do I really need to take so many different types of supplements?
Maybe, No, if your diet is very good. Yes, if your diet is lacking in nutrients and you are eating foods that drain you of nutrients. The vitamins we are recommending are considered whole food supplements. If we are not getting all the nutrients in the foods eaten at breakfast, lunch and diner, then consider the supplements a side order of the missing elements in each of the meals. The more you are missing - the more you need to take.
It does not seem right that I have to take so many pills!
We have become so drug conscious that we are starting to think that vitamins and minerals are like drugs. We refer to drugs as pills and know that we should not be taking lots of pills. We get weirded out by taking so many pills. The supplements we recommend are not medicine or drugs, they are food.
Think of the supplements as a portion of food. At mealtime, imagine a space for them on your plate and realize they are simply, concentrated food. They are packed with the natural vitamins and minerals the body uses to function at its optimum. Between meals, think of them as a snack to feed the cells, tissues and organs of your body so they can have the building material necessary to function at their optimum.
How do I know if they are working or not?
In our wellness exam patients fill out a symptom survey with over 200 questions. We have performed tests that measure how your body is functioning. The symptoms and test findings represent certain parts of your body that may not be functioning up to their best and the supplements recommended are designed to feed those parts of the body. If over a two to four week period you feel no different, then they may not be working or what you need. Our experience is usually a positive one. There are no guarantees or promises. Just our experiences in seeing patients feel better and function better. So, eat up, it is good for you!!