Hive Health Media

Do Synthetic Vitamins Do More Harm than Good?

There are always studies coming out about the dangers of vitamin deficiencies. The list of diseases and ailments you could open yourself up to by not taking a multivitamin can be simply terrifying.  While it’s true that today’s produce has nowhere near the nutritional content that it had 100 years ago, the bigger danger is thinking that a multivitamin is some kind of insurance against any possible deficiency.

We tend to imagine that we have some simple filing system for everything we put into in our bodies.  We imagine the body quickly sorts through the components of a multivitamin tablet, sending each vitamin to its correct place in the body. Some would go into storage, and others would be taken to the kidney to be flushed out if the body already had enough.  Simple, right?

Do You Need Multivitamins?

Unfortunately, this is far from true.  Many multivitamins put a huge strain on the system.  At best, they never dissolve and the body simply chucks them out as trash.  At worse, they leach minerals and vitamin components from your body in order to complete the “pieces” of vitamins that make up a synthetic multivitamin tablet.

You see, a vitamin is actually a complex relationship between a nutrient, one or more enzymes, coenzymes, antioxidants, and trace minerals.  When vitamins are synthetically “isolated” in the laboratory, they are usually formulated chemically to be just the nutrient. Without all the other components of the vitamin, this nutrient is practically useless to the body.

How Does Your Body Absorb Multivitamins?

What does your body do with synthetic vitamins? It tries as hard as it can to make them useful.  If it can pull the missing components from the body’s cells in order to complete the synthetic vitamin, it does so.  If it can’t find all the necessary components, the synthetic vitamin travels to the kidney, adding to the kidney’s chores.

Negative Health Effects of Multivitamins?

Worse, there have been a variety of studies that showed strong negative effects of synthetic vitamins, so negative in fact, that the studies were cut short! In 1996, a study by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center was cut short because the group taking synthetic vitamin A supplements developed a 28% higher risk of lung cancer than the group taking the placebo!

[box type=”note”]A 1995 study at the Boston University School of Medicine showed similar results in pregnant women. Synthetic vitamin A supplements increased the risk of birth defects by 240% at a low dosage to 400% at a high dosage![/box]

Fat Soluble Vitamins

Synthetic vitamin A is just one example.  It’s well known that excesses of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K are more likely to result in toxicity because they are stored in the body, unlike the water-soluble vitamins which are flushed out.  However, this rarely happens when the vitamins come from whole foods or food-based multivitamins.

Multivitamins and Cancer Risk?

Beta-carotene is a form of provitamin A which was once widely publicized for its potential antioxidant health benefits.  However, a systemic review comprised of just under 110,000 subjects found that beta-carotene found in multivitamins actually increases the risk of lung cancer in smokers [6].  Two recent meta-analyses found that multivitamin supplementation neither had any benefit for preventing breast cancer or prostate cancer [7,8]

Centrum vs. One-A-Day

Sadly, the biggest names in the multivitamin world are synthetically produced products.  Centrum, Flintstones Complete chewable multivitamins, and One-A-Day are all synthetic vitamins.  Don’t spend your money on synthetic vitamins that could do more harm than good!  And don’t be fooled by labels that claim to be “all-natural.” Even vitamins formulated with a natural base or a whole-food base can be synthetic.

Naturally Occurring Standards

The best bet if you really want to take vitamins is to look for something that meets the NOS, or Naturally Occurring Standards.  These are vitamins that are truly made from complete whole foods and thus maintain all the components of a vitamin as it occurs in Nature. Otherwise, you would do perfectly well to spend your money on high quality produce, organic when necessary, and make sure you eat a wide variety of unprocessed foods.

Studies cited from:

  1. http://www.drsuzy.com/art0013.html
  2. http://chetday.com/naturalvitamin.htm
  3. http://www.healthyvitaminsrx.com/html/synthetic-vitamins-studies.html
  4. http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_8865.cfm
  5. http://www.renuriche.com/store/catalog/natural-vs-synthetic-vitamins.html
  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18429004
  7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21487086
  8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21273283

Author bio:

About the author: Varsha Aditya is a writer for the popular calorie counter website CaloriesAndMore.com which promotes healthy and sustainable weight loss without all the impossible rules of fad diets.  Visit us to find more articles about sustainable weight loss, and see how CaloriesAndMore.com’s huge database of foods and activities can make calorie counting a breeze.

Varsha Aditya is a writer for the popular calorie counter website CaloriesAndMore.com which promotes healthy and sustainable weight loss without all the impossible rules of fad diets. Visit us to find more articles about sustainable weight loss, and see how CaloriesAndMore.com’s huge database of foods and activities can make calorie counting a breeze.

1 Comment

  1. healthkismet

    January 24, 2012 at 9:06 pm

    Good post, and I agree that multi-vitamins are not the panacea many have given them credit for. They create a false sense of security among people who take them (causing them to eat less of the foods they really need), and some of the side-effects of multi-vitamins are just bad for you, period.

    It’s much better to take a whole food supplement. While they’re more expensive, the benefits of getting the nutrients from raw foods are simply uncomparable to receiving them from a synthetic vitamin, which often have little effect at all.

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