Many people nowadays are having a healthy lifestyle. Supplements and vitamins are selling like hot cakes. But what are good vitamins and how are they made?
Vitamins are necessary for normal growth and development and for your own health. They are nutrients that you get through your diet, which is extremely important, since your body cannot make vitamins itself.
However, there are 3 exceptions:
- Niacin is produced by the body from the amino acid tryptophan. More about niacinamide.
- Vitamin K is produced in small amounts in the intestinal tract and has an influence on blood clotting
- Your body converts dietary vitamin precursors, such as provitamin A (carotenoids) and provitamin D, into vitamins A and D. Vitamin D is then produced in the skin through exposure to sunlight.
Which vitamins are there?
There are 13 essential vitamins in total.
Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble vitamins, the other nine are water-soluble vitamins. The difference lies in the absorption capacity of your body. Fat-soluble vitamins are contained in the fat of foods and can be stored in the body’s tissues. The water-soluble vitamins are in the moisture of foods and are more difficult for your body to store. When there is an excess of water-soluble vitamin, this leaves your body through the urine.
Natural Vs Synthetic Vitamins, Who Wins?
Natural vitamins, as the name suggests, can be extracted from plants and fruits or have an animal origin. These substances are often much more complex than the synthetic variant.
The synthetic vitamins are produced in laboratories or through industrial processes. They bear a remarkable resemblance to natural vitamins, as they have the same structure and 3D shape. However, the body finds it difficult to distinguish the difference between the two forms, natural and synthetic.
It is important to understand that the synthetic variety is more isolated than the natural variety, which contains a wide variety of supporting nutrients. This allows the natural vitamin to be more easily absorbed by the body. For example, vitamin K is absorbed better and faster in its natural form than in the artificial form. On the other hand, this does not apply to certain vitamins, such as vitamins D, B5, B6, B11 and B12, which are absorbed faster in pill form. For these vitamins, the body must first convert the substances into the more active form. For example, pre-vitamin D needs sunlight to be produced.
Is natural really natural?
NO, when a vitamin is labeled natural it does not necessarily mean it is 100% natural. A vitamin can be labeled as natural if it contains 10% of the natural source. 90% of it should still be synthetic.
To find a natural vitamin supplement, look for one with a label that says “naturally occurring food sources.”.
Effectiveness of natural vitamins versus synthetic vitamins.
As mentioned above, the absorption capacity of synthetic and natural vitamins can differ. Let’s take a look at vitamin E, the main antioxidant that also influences gene expression and cell signaling, which is extremely important for health and disease prevention. The natural version of vitamin E is much more efficient than the synthetic version. This is because the natural variant consists of eight compounds: four tocopherols and four tocotrienols.
This probably doesn’t tell you anything, but together they form a vitamin E complex. When only one of the four compounds is processed in vitamin E supplements, the concentration and the effect decreases. The body then benefits less from the health effects than when the full vitamin E complex is used. This does not apply to every vitamin.
Vitamins D, B5, B6, B11 (folic acid) and B12 may be better absorbed in (synthetic) pill form. This is because your body has yet to convert the vitamins from food into a more active form. This process takes place in your stomach and intestines. In that case you depend on several factors such as the acidity of the stomach. People who use antacids have a lower acidity, which means that vitamin B12 is absorbed less well.
The advantages of synthetic vitamins are: stability, reproducibility, easy production and fewer impurities.
What are synthetic vitamins made of?
Anything can be used as starting materials for synthetic supplements. Did you know most of the vitamins available on the market are made from petroleum? Not because it’s so good for your body, but because it keeps production costs low. In addition, coal tar and acetylene gas are also commonly used. That may not sound very healthy, but it is.
Vitamin E is obtained through food from, for example, sunflower oil, nuts, seeds, fruit, soybeans. This origin is better for your body than the synthetic variant.
The synthetic variant consists of a chemical mixture of eight epimers. The synthetic form and the natural form are almost identical and the body has a harder time distinguishing between them. Nevertheless, studies show that the natural variant is absorbed 3.42 times faster and better than the synthetic one.
Vitamin A can be found in carrots (beta carotene), dairy, eggs and margarine. The vitamin ensures normal growth, healthy skin, hair and nails and proper functioning of the eyes and immune system. Unfortunately, the synthetic variant (retinyl lactate) does not even provide half of these good functions and is much less effective. Coal tar, vinyl and/or palm oil are also added here. Palm oil leads to deforestation of rainforests, which is the habitat of the orangutan.
Consuming five servings of fruits and vegetables per day will give you an intake of at least 210 mg of natural vitamin C per day (the RDA is 60 mg, although 200 mg has been suggested). Here too, much research shows that the synthetic variant of vitamin C (isolated, ascorbic acid) is less effective and that there are more benefits to the natural variant. Vitamin C, like vitamin E, is an important antioxidant. The effect of the natural variant is also many times more effective on the skin.
Vitamin B6 / B12
5′0-(beta-D-glycopyransosyl) Pyridoxine is one of the natural forms of vitamin B6. To date, only plant foods have been shown to contain this form of vitamin B-6, with yeast and rice bran being the main source of vitamin B6. Pyridoxine hydrochloride is the most common form in vitamin pills, which does not originate naturally from food. Research has shown that the synthetic vitamin B inhibits the effect of the natural form.
Initially, vitamin B12 was abundant in animal products (especially in raw liver). Over time, however, a synthetic isolate has been developed (cyanocobalamin). Here too, research shows that some synthetic forms of vitamin B12 conflict with vitamin B12 activity in the body.
As described above, the production of synthetic vitamins often uses poor raw materials such as coal tar, petroleum, palm oil and vinyl (a type of paint). You want to consume these kinds of substances as little as possible. It is therefore important to eat enough healthy food and to get vitamins from food. Most people can improve their health by eating healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains so that they get enough vitamins and synthetic vitamins are not necessary.
Synthetic vitamins are isolated or simulated nutrients that do not account for the many phytonutrients that come with them. Our bodies have evolved to recognize the whole, not just individual chemicals made to approximate an essential vitamin. Phytonutrients are substances that occur in plant foods and are already extremely important for our body in small amounts.
Vitamin deficiency/too much.
A deficiency of a certain vitamin is bad and can itself lead to disorders and diseases. Just think of the well-known story of 17th century sailors who died during their long sailing trips from scurvy, a disease caused by a shortage of vitamin C. Breast cancer is also linked to vitamins, or at least the lack of them. The development and progression of the disease is related to a too low vitamin D content. Fortunately, our current society has a sufficiently varied diet, which means that vitamin deficiencies rarely occur.
As is often said, ‘too’ is never good, even when it comes to vitamins. And that applies to both extremes: shortage and excess. An excess of a certain water-soluble vitamin is often removed through the urinary tract, but that is not the case for every vitamin. Vitamin B6 is a good example of this. An excess of the substance can lead to neuropathy, a nerve disorder in the nerve endings of your limbs. This is accompanied by vague tingling, tingling in the hands and feet and burning.
These complaints often disappear after the vitamin B6 level has been neutralized again. Fortunately, it is almost impossible to get too much vitamin B6 through food. Via supplements, on the other hand, that chance is greater. In most cases it is therefore not recommended to take vitamin B6.
Tip from Dionne:
KNOW what you are taking. A varied and healthy diet and sufficient fresh air will take you a long way. Are you not getting enough vitamins naturally? Then consult a doctor. Only take those vitamins you need. Always look closely at the ingredient list and stick as close to natural origin as possible. Avoid supplements that use words ending in -acid, -ide, and sometimes -ate or use the “dl” before the name.
Avoid supplements that end in -acid, -ide, -ate, or dl
Lindschinger, M., Tatzber, F., Schimetta, W., Schmid, I., Lindschinger, B., Cvirn, G., Stanger, O., Lamont, E., & Wonisch, W. (2019). A Randomized Pilot Trial to Evaluate the Bioavailability of Natural versus Synthetic Vitamin B Complexes in Healthy Humans and Their Effects on Homocysteine, Oxidative Stress, and Antioxidant Levels. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity
Shahidi, F., & De Camargo, A. C. (2016). Tocopherols and tocotrienols in common and emerging dietary sources: Occurrence, applications, and health benefits. International journal of molecular sciences, 17(10)
Vitamins. (2012). In LiverTox: Clinical and Research Information on Drug-Induced Liver Injury. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
Welsh J. (2018). Vitamin D and breast cancer: Past and present. The Journal of steroid biochemistry and molecular biology, 177, 15–20
Now that you’re here:
Make nutrition part of a prevention program. As a dermatologist, I am often asked if there is a connection between diet and a skin condition. We know the relationship between vitamin C deficiency and scurvy, too little iron can cause anemia, nail abnormalities or itching and zinc deficiency can lead to delayed wound healing. In recent years, more studies have been done on skin diseases such as acne, skin cancer, psoriasis, eczema, rosacea and the influence of diet. More about: voeding bij acne, psoriasis, huidkanker en rosacea