As online dieticians, we always establish the first things first: whole foods. The majority of your nutrition should come from sources of whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables, followed by lean protein and healthy fats. Then, to compensate for the deficiencies in our diet, or damage caused by toxins and free radicals in our body, we need to add multivitamins and anti-oxidants. Some supplements may help ensure that you get adequate amounts of essential nutrients or help promote optimal health and performance if you do not consume a variety of foods in proper amounts. Dietary supplements are not intended to treat, diagnose, mitigate, prevent, or cure disease. In some cases, dietary supplements may even have unwanted effects. Then there is this question: Which are better, “synthetic” or food-based “natural” dietary supplements? The proper nutritional program is essential to an effective online diet plan.
As with most research, both sides are supported and rebutted. Currently, the definition of “natural” in foods and dietary supplements has not been established by the government. Therefore, the interpretation can vary greatly. There is a common misconception that “natural” vitamins and minerals are extracted from plants in their pure form and as such are superior to “synthetic” vitamins and minerals, which are made in a laboratory. This can be misleading because it is not possible to extract pure vitamins from plants without considerable amounts of chemical processing. Also, the biological activity of a compound has nothing to do with its source, but is determined by its chemical structure. So really, whether the chemical originates from a leafy plant or a test tube, it is the same compound.
Some vitamin and antioxidant compounds can be efficiently synthesized in factories to produce products that are identical in chemical form to those found in nature and that are pure and fully safe. Some synthetic vitamins are preferentially absorbed over food sources and vice versa.
Folic Acid, for example, is preferentially absorbed and utilized over natural food folates that must go through several conversion processes to be utilized as folic acid.
Vitamin E, a fat-soluble vitamin, exists in eight different forms. Each form has its own biological activity, which is the measure of potency or functional use in the body. Alpha-tocopherol is the name of the most active from of vitamin E in humans. It is also a powerful biological antioxidant. Vitamin E in supplements is usually sold as alpha-tocopheryl acetate, a form that protects its ability to function as an antioxidant, and is sometimes derived from soy. The synthetic form is labeled “D, L” while the natural from is labeled “D.” The synthetic form is only half as active as the natural form.
There are no known differences in the biological activity of natural and synthetic L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C). As reported by the Linus Pauling Institute, a study in 68 male nonsmokers found that ascorbic acid consumed as cooked broccoli, orange juice, orange slices, and synthetic ascorbic acid tablets are equally bioavailable, as measured by plasma ascorbic acid.
Most important: since the FDA doesn’t regulate nutritional supplements, look for ones that offer purity, safety, effectiveness, bioavailability, and whether natural or synthetic, ones that are best absorbed and utilized by the body. Such standards may be upheld when a product has a GMP (good manufacturing practice) seal on it, is potency guaranteed and may also be reviewed by the following organizations: