Synthetic VS. Natural Vitamins: We Have No Idea What’s Better
Posted by Anni on Wednesday, May 9th, 2012
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, we don’t have all the answers when it comes to vitamins. In some cases, the research simply hasn’t be done. In other cases, biochemistry is so complex we can draw only rough conclusions about which formulations help or harm our bodies. There is a lot of media hype surrounding “bioavailability.” This is the idea that only naturally occurring vitamins actually help our bodies. It makes intuitive sense, but intuition and science are two separate beasts.
I have been unable to find any reputable source on this topic. Several hours of online research has revealed a shocking informational black hole. Don’t get me wrong, there are many pages of results, but these results are from naturopaths, whole foods lovers, and holistic “doctors” (the quotes reflect the lack of any type of medical degree, and yet these folks do call themselves doctors).
There are chiropractors weighing in on the subject too. (Chiropractic is an unscientific practice. While massage therapy has been shown to relieve stress and help heal muscles, the energy theory behind chiropractic “medicine” is religion, not science.) There is also a staunch homeopathic voice in the fray which is strange since homeopathy is based on a bizarre philosophy of like causing like: they treat with a substance that causes symptoms like those a patient is having. So arsenic treats a headache because it causes headaches, even though arsenic had nothing to do with the patient’s illness. Beyond that, homeopathic treatments are so diluted they are indistinguishable from water. The amount of “medicine” in a homeopathic solution is the equivalent of a grain of rice in the solar system. And yet, homeopathic remedies are sold in every major grocery store and pharmacy, right next to the vitamins. This underscores my main point: that the onus is on the consumer to determine what supplements are beneficial and that there often isn’t enough information out there for consumers to make informed decisions.
A glut of homeopathic medicines for sale in the UK:
So what in the world to all of these folks know about vitamins? In essence: they know what they feel. Often myths abound, passed from one person to the next across the Internet. A search for “synthetic vs. natural vitamins” turns up pages of results from places like the Global Healing Center, Organic Consumers, and Nutriteam (note the complete lack of any references, scientific or otherwise, alongside the complete abundance of blatant health claims). In conclusion, none of this is science. Until I see a legitimate peer-reviewed study examining the “bioavailability” of natural vs. synthetic vitamins, I’ll base my decisions on price.
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