As people become more aware of nutritional deficiencies, taking supplements has become a daily necessity for many Americans. Although nutritional supplements can replenish the nutrients your body needs and provide some health benefits, they are not a substitute for a balanced diet. They may also come with some unknown side effects and risks.
An analysis of data spanning the period 2001-2008 found that about 90% of Americans are deficient in vitamins D and E, and more than 40% suffer from other types of malnutrition. According to statistics, 35% to 80% of Americans take supplements regularly. For people over 60 years old, the proportion is even higher, reaching around 80%.
Supplements are mostly synthetic and have potential risks
When people buy supplements, they may think they are getting a concentrated, pure version of a vitamin or mineral extracted from food. But in fact, the active ingredients in the bottle are often synthetic, meaning they’re made using industrial chemicals. Two scientists from the University of Nis in Serbia point out that there is actually no difference between different brands of supplements.
“No matter where you buy your vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, whether in a health food store or elsewhere, more than 95 percent and nearly 100 percent are produced by just a few pharmaceutical and chemical companies,” the scientists noted in the paper. of the same products. These companies control the vast majority of the global market for vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.” (pdf).
Some synthetic vitamins may even be harmful to your health.
A representative example is synthetic vitamin E, also called all rac-alpha-tocopherol (all rac-alpha-tocopherol), which is incorrectly called d,l-alpha-tocopherol (d,l-alpha-tocopherol). It is very different from naturally occurring vitamin E. Vitamin E in natural foods is a single molecule, while full-ac-alpha-tocopherol is a mixture of eight different molecules and is made through an industrial petrochemical process.
Research shows that taking artificial vitamin E may increase your risk of prostate cancer. One study tested daily supplements in about 35,000 men, who took either selenium, artificial vitamin E, selenium and artificial vitamin E, or a placebo every day and found that those who took artificial vitamin E The risk of prostate cancer increased by 17%.
Synthetic beta-carotene is also different from naturally occurring cis beta-carotene. Taking supplements has been reported to increase mortality in lung cancer patients.
Other synthetic vitamins that may be toxic include:
• Vitamin B1 (Thiamine): Thiamine Hydrochloride
• Pantothenic acid: Calcium D-pantothenate
• Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine): Pyridoxine hydrochloride
• Vitamin B12: Cyanocobalamin
• Folic acid: pterylglutamic acid
The difference between synthetic and natural
Nutrients in whole foods are often present along with nutrients that promote or inhibit their absorption, but most artificial vitamin and mineral supplements on the market are single. For example, vitamin C supplements only contain ascorbic acid as an ingredient, while magnesium supplements use magnesium compounds such as magnesium oxide as the active ingredient, and the other contents in the capsule are fillers and flavors.
Vitamins need to be paired with minerals, and taking them alone is not effective
Vitamins and minerals need to work together to work; molecular nutritionist Eric Potratz wrote in an email to The Epoch Times that most vitamins “do not function without trace minerals.” To help synthesize or activate various proteins and enzymes, it may even not work at all.”
For example, Jayney Goddard, founder and co-president of the British Society of Lifestyle Medicine and president of the Complementary Medicine Association (The CMA), says that magnesium absorption requires the help of boron and vitamin D, so it is usually recommended to supplement these at the same time. Two nutrients.
But other trace minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, share the same absorption pathway, so when a person overdoses on magnesium, it affects calcium absorption and may even cause calcium deficiency.
Additionally, different supplement ingredients have different bioavailability. Taking magnesium supplements as an example, the absorption rate of common magnesium oxide is only 4%, while other compounds such as magnesium citrate and magnesium glycinate have higher bioavailability.
Some synthetic vitamins may not be as effective as natural vitamins.
Some studies suggest that synthetic vitamins are less effective than natural vitamins or have different physiological effects because they lack accompanying dietary nutrients, such as phytonutrients.
“Most people do not realize that these artificial vitamins and minerals are not complete vitamins and minerals and lack the organic substances found in natural foods,” the Serbian researchers wrote.
For example, when you take ascorbic acid (a common form of artificial vitamin C), your liver must convert it into dehydroascorbic acid. One study also found that artificial vitamin C was more easily absorbed when taken with bioflavonoids than taken alone.
However, the reliability of this idea remains controversial because different vitamins have different mechanisms of action and plants contain thousands of phytochemicals, many of which have not yet been discovered or studied.
The bottom line is, phytonutrients can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they can enhance the absorption and function of certain nutrients, but on the other hand, they can also act as antinutrients, interfering with the absorption of other minerals and vitamins.
“In foods, these competing effects allow the body to avoid eating too much of certain micronutrients,” Jayson Calton, a board-certified micronutrient expert, wrote in an email. Carlton is also a board-certified expert in integrative health, alternative medicine, and sports nutrition. His wife, Mira Calton, is a licensed nutritionist and micronutrient specialist and a Board Certified Specialist in Integrative Health.
Phytonutrients remain largely a mystery, and it’s still unclear which phytonutrients should be paired with which vitamins for optimal absorption.
One way to address the imbalances that can result from taking vitamins and minerals separately is to look for products that are already formulated so that minerals and vitamins are taken into the body at the same time.
When the Carltons create their daily supplements with a blend of synthetic and natural nutrients, they spend a lot of time matching nutrients that work together and try to avoid mixing ingredients that cancel each other out. “We spent six years doing research,” Mira Carlton said.
Vitamins work like the intricate clockwork inside a clock
Dr. Royal Lee, considered by some to be the most prominent nutritionist of the 20th century, theorized that vitamins are made up of many components that work together, like a complex clockwork. Same.
For example, ascorbic acid is not the same as vitamin C, but is just a component of vitamin C. Therefore, isolated and purified ascorbic acid is not enough for the body.
However, Royal-Lee’s theory has not been proven and has little acceptance in mainstream medicine, although some studies do show that natural vitamins may be more beneficial than synthetic ones.
Lee’s theory may apply to B vitamin complexes. Because the vitamin B complex contains vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9 (folate), and B12, these eight vitamins may interact with each other and work synergistically during metabolic processes.
When a person supplements a single B-complex vitamin, it will increase the consumption of other B-complex vitamins to work synergistically. Studies show that folic acid supplementation is often associated with lower vitamin B12 levels.
Synthetic supplements may also have some effect
This is not to say that synthetic supplements are completely without benefits. Since they are purer molecules than those obtained from natural foods, they can quickly boost vitamin and mineral levels to a sufficient level.
Most folic acid supplements on the market are made with folic acid. Folic acid is synthetic, but is more easily absorbed than folic acid found in naturally occurring foods.
Jason Carlton points out that L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate (L-5-methyl-THF) is rare in nature but can be made from folic acid and may work better than natural and synthetic folic acid.
L-5-Methyl-THF is the active form of folic acid and can be used directly by the body without any conversion or change, while natural and synthetic folic acid are inactive and require further conversion to be effective.
If a person has a mutation in the methyltetrahydrofolate (MTHFR) gene, there may be problems with the conversion mechanism, which reduces the body’s ability to convert natural and synthetic folate into their active forms.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people with these mutations increase their intake of natural and synthetic folate to ensure adequate folate levels in the body, some believe this may be potentially toxic, depending on the genetic mutation. type. Another suggestion is to take active folic acid directly, which avoids the health risks of conversion mechanism problems and any related problems.
On the other hand, vitamin D3, also known as cholecalciferol, is primarily synthesized in the laboratory from lanolin and can quickly boost vitamin D levels in most people who live indoors and out of the sun.
Natural supplements may just be expensive synthetics
Natural and whole-food vitamins on the market are often marketed as being healthier than synthetic supplements. But in reality, they’re not that different.
Due to the lack of regulation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, vitamins labeled “natural” are likely all made from synthetic vitamins.
Whole food supplements are derived from foods. Freeze-drying is a common method used by whole-food supplement manufacturers to preserve most nutrients without the use of chemical treatments while giving the supplement a long shelf life.
Even these products, the Carltons wrote on their blog, are mostly only partially whole foods, with synthetic ingredients added to ensure nutritional levels match the labels. Some manufacturers also ferment natural food supplements with yeast and bacteria. These microorganisms have been engineered to synthesize vitamins for themselves.
The main reason why these artificial vitamins and minerals are added to whole food supplements is because the vitamin and mineral content in these supplements cannot be guaranteed because whole foods can be affected by factors such as soil conditions, harvesting, extraction methods, etc. influence.
In a true whole-food supplement, such as the palm fruit supplement example, the ingredients list clearly states the source of each nutrient, or there is a complete list of proprietary formulas, Potratz explained in a blog post. Show all the whole foods included. However, in synthetic supplements, only a single nutrient is listed.
When the ingredient list includes Saccharomyces cerevisiae or Lactobacillus bulgaricus, it means the artificial vitamin was produced through fermentation, Potratz writes.
Back to just getting it from meals?
While supplements are just an addition to a healthy diet, it can be difficult for people to get all the nutrients from a whole-foods diet, Mila Carlton said. This is because industrial agricultural production methods result in less nutrients in fruits, vegetables and grains. Even livestock farming is affected.
“When we were writing five different nutrition books, we looked for any study we could find that showed adequate levels of micronutrients could be achieved through diet alone,” says Jason Carlton. “But the researchers were very direct in showing that they Such a diet cannot be created.”
Research shows that levels of nutritional minerals, vitamins and protein in fruits and vegetables have declined by a median of 5% to 40% or more compared to historical data.
Dr. Jana Schmidt, a natural medicine physician, says it’s difficult to meet optimal nutrition through diet alone, “unless they eat very pure, very nutritious food and get all the necessary nutrients from food they grow themselves.” Something.”
Growing crops at home can help improve nutrition. “If you can pick the fruits when they are ripe, their enzymes and nutrients will be at their highest,” she said.
Bonnie Kaplan, a nutritionist and professor emeritus at the University of Calgary, points out that there is currently no precise way to determine how much nutrients a person needs to consume optimally. Some people can stay healthy even if they don’t get enough vitamins, while others may need more.
Sally Fallon Morrell, author of “The Nourishing Tradition” and president of the Weston A. Price Foundation, hopes supplements won’t become a necessity.
Fallon Morrell and her husband run a dairy farm that uses no herbicides, pesticides or artificial fertilizers. She advises those who can afford it to look for organic, healthy foods, which are often grown in more nutrient-rich soil.
For the English report, please see the English version of The Epoch Times:The Supplements You Take May Not Be True Nutrients, and Have Potential Risks: Experts.
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