Thursday, September 8, 2011

Synthetic Vitamins vs. Whole Food Vitamins

Synthetic Vitamins vs. Whole Food Vitamins

What You Need To Know

By Beverly Cangialosi

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Table of Contents

Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4

Chapter 1 Two Philosophies of Science and Orthodoxy . . . 5



Chapter 2 Synthetic Vitamins vs. Whole Food Vitamins . . . 10

What are Vitamins?

Whole Food Vitamins

Synthetic Vitamins

Chapter 3 Evidence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14


Chapter 4 Sources of Whole Food Vitamins . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16

Not as Easy as it Looks

Sources of Whole Food Supplements

Reading Product Labels

Whole Food Supplement Companies

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The information contained in this report is largely drawn from the work of

Judith DeCava, CNC, LNC, and has been influenced by the work of Patrick

Shelley, Dr. Richard Drucker PhD, and Dr. Bruce Lipton, M.D. All opinions

expressed are my own.

The information contained here has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug

Administration or any other governmental authority unless otherwise

specifically noted. All opinions expressed are my own and are in no way

intended to offer health advice. Anyone seeking help is advised to consult

with their physician or other health care professional. The statements

contained here are not intended to encourage anyone to avoid seeking medical


All statements contained here are for educational purposes only.

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First Things First

This report is intended for health conscious individuals who are taking or

who would like to take supplements to maintain or improve their health. For

those individuals, it is vitally important to have good information if they are to

make an informed decision about the quality and efficacy of the products that

they buy. Nothing could be more important in that discussion than the nature of

synthetic vitamins vs. whole food vitamins. Is there a difference? Do they work

the same way in the body?

But, before we get to that, I think it is important to take a look at the way

in which we determine scientific truth. Once that is understood, it will be easier

to evaluate the evidence.

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Chapter 1

Two Philosophies of Science and Orthodoxy

There are two philosophies and approaches possible when searching for

truth. They have been in conflict with each other for millennia. Ancient Greek

philosophers were debating the subject a very long time ago.


Science in the Western Tradition can be considered Reductionist. The

familiar concept that “the whole is the sum of its parts” characterizes this

approach. Another way of saying that is that everything can be broken down

into ever smaller and smaller parts until you have the basic building blocks.

These building blocks, when understood, account for every quality seen in the

whole. This has been largely the approach taken in the West.

The cornerstone of western science has been the scientific method. This

method depends on three fundamental things—observation, measurement, and

repeatability. As science developed, emphasis was placed on the repeatability

factor. It became more and more dependent on the verifiability of test results.

To assure that test results could be reproduced and verified by someone else,

only one variable was allowed. The obvious result was that western science

tends to isolate factors that can be controlled experimentally each and every

time that the experiment is run. By understanding the isolated constituent to its

fullest, the hope is that all of the characteristics of the whole can be accounted

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for and understood. If something is not understood about the whole, it is

thought to be because we don’t know everything there is to know about the

constituents that make up that whole. This approach worked well for classical


According to Dr. Andrew Weil, the problem with this approach is

that it is not useful when looking at biological systems. Living systems are

highly complex and interrelated. Isolating one factor can lead to the exclusion

of important information. For example, if there is more than one constituent

part contributing to a quality seen in the whole, the interrelatedness of these

two constituents may be overlooked.


There is an alternative approach to classical science that is gaining

ground. At once ancient and new, it recognizes that “the whole is greater than

the sum of its parts”. Holism asserts that it is impossible to fully understand a

whole thing by dividing it into its constituent parts because to do so changes it.

It ceases to be what you started with and behaves very differently than the

original. To illustrate this, if you take water (H2O) and divide it into its

constituent parts, you get two molecules of hydrogen and one molecule of

oxygen—neither one of which bears any resemblance to water. In fact, both

hydrogen and oxygen are explosive gases, whereas water is a completely inert

liquid. In this case water is a completely new thing with completely different

qualities from its two atoms when separated. There are those who now believe

that our understanding cannot progress until we develop a method for looking

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at whole systems and accounting for the interrelatedness of the parts to the

whole. And there is no place that this is more true than in the biological


Challenging Orthodoxy

Underlying assumptions are always difficult to challenge. We are all

familiar with the case of Galileo who suffered at the hands of the Church for

his belief that the Earth revolved around the Sun—a very dangerous belief to

hold when the Church had declared that the Sun revolved around the Earth.

But what we should also be aware of is that it can be no less dangerous today to

hold beliefs that are considered unorthodox.

Science (operating largely as a reductionist enterprise) has successfully

convinced the world that it is a completely impartial discoverer of truth and

that it has no agenda other than the truth. Yet, those who challenge the

established orthodoxy can and have been cruelly treated. Professional

organizations have mercilessly persecuted many people who challenged their

established views. Some honest researchers who were ahead of their time were

hounded out of business, prosecuted and had their good names destroyed for

espousing ideas contrary to the prevailing view.

A good example of this is the case of Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis who realized

in 1847 that if doctors would wash their hands before treating a patient that

lives would be saved. He based his conclusions on his observations in a

maternity ward where the death rate from puerperal fever was extremely high.

Not only was he ignored and ridiculed by his fellow doctors, he eventually had

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a nervous breakdown and died in an insane asylum. His vindication came only

after his death. Truth sometimes has to fight to be recognized. If we are to

search for truth, we must keep this in mind.

Vitamins were discovered around the turn of the last century. Their vital

role in metabolism and disease prevention and cure was established. Following

their discovery, chemical isolates were produced and a period of intense

research took place. Between 1920-60 there was great controversy among

researchers and scientists about the effectiveness of synthetic vitamins. During

this period, a large number of experiments were conducted that questioned their

effectiveness and safety.1

However, in 1962 the misguided Kefauver Law was passed at the urging

of medical special interests that had a devastating effect on the future studies

and dissemination of information concerning nutrients. It defined a drug as any

“Articles intended for the use in diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or

prevention of disease.” In one fell swoop, the regulation of nutritional

substances came under the jurisdiction of the same agency that regulates drugs.

From that time forward, no claims of any kind concerning the curative power

of nutrients has been allowed unless the nutrient has been tested using the same

protocols as drug testing. 2

One of the inevitable consequences was that the use of whole foods in

experiments was virtually eliminated. Controlled drug experiments can be done

much more easily with isolated chemical fractions than with complex

substances. The older methods based on observations in a clinical environment

were replaced by experiments (in the reductionist tradition) with chemically

“pure” isolates. The problem is, of course, that chemical isolates are not the

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same as whole food. Researchers no longer seem to know the difference. It’s

hard to compare the effects of synthetic vitamins versus whole food vitamins

when there is an underlying assumption that synthetic vitamins are the same as

whole food vitamins and researchers are not able to use whole food vitamins in

their research.

For example, a recent study reported this surprising finding.

Observational studies had shown that people who ate a diet rich in Vitamin E

and C have a lower risk of cancer. To test the validity of this observation, a tenyear

long study was conducted. The study, however, showed that there were no

protective benefits from supplementing the diet with Vitamin E and C.3 There

was no suggestion, however, that the studies might be flawed because they had

used only synthetic forms of both vitamins. It didn’t seem to be worth noticing.

Now that we have seen some of the issues, let’s look at them more


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Chapter 2

Synthetic Vitamins vs. Whole Food Vitamins

If you are like many people, you think that vitamins come from food. At

the very least you probably believe that all vitamins are exactly the same as the

vitamins in food. The truth is more complicated than that. To begin with, would

you be surprised to learn that a term like Vitamin C is not a specific term for a

unique structure, but a term that applies to a class of compounds that show

similar activity? Just as there are many different kinds of carbohydrates and

many different kinds of proteins, there are many different versions of Vitamin

C. And the same is true of other vitamins. The differences turn out to be

important. For example, in an early study, Vitamin A from spinach worked

better than Vitamin A from Cod Liver Oil to cure nightblindness.4 How could

that be if all vitamins are the same?

What Are Vitamins?

The term vitamin according to Wikipedia refers to “…an organic

compound required as a nutrient in tiny amounts by an organism. A compound

is called a vitamin when it cannot be synthesized in sufficient quantities by an

organism, and must be obtained from the diet.” Vitamins function to facilitate

metabolic processes such as assisting enzyme reactions.

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In addition, different forms of these organic compounds are appropriate

for different species. So, while some animals can use ascorbic acid as vitamin

C, humans cannot. That begs the question, what happens to all that ascorbic

acid in human vitamin pills? I’ll answer that in the following sections.

Whole Food Vitamins

As stated, vitamins are obtained from food. According to Dr. Robert

Marshall, whole food contains a living energy, a resonance not present in

inorganic substances.5 Vitamins were first observed and studied as a naturally

occurring compound within a food matrix containing all of the cofactors

necessary for the vitamin to perform its functions perfectly. These include

minerals, trace elements, enzymes, co-enzymes, amino acids, fatty acids,

antioxidants and other unknown factors. In this way, nature has assured us of

receiving the full benefits of the vitamins that we ingest.

When a vitamin is separated from its whole food matrix, it cannot

function normally, and the body no longer recognizes it as a vitamin. Instead, it

sees it as a foreign substance that must either be transformed into a vitamin by

providing all of the missing cofactors, or excreted to rid the body of the toxic

substance. If the body is able to provide the necessary cofactors, the vitamin

can then be utilized. However, if the cofactors are not present or if the body is

depleted of its stores through this process, it stands to reason that the result

could be an even more depleted state.

Vitamins, when they are obtained from food, sustain life effectively and

safely. In this form, vitamins are able to assist the body to maintain and repair

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itself. And it is in this way that vitamins have the ability to have a profound

effect on the health of the body. Where these nutrients were not available and

the body has gone into disrepair, a whole vitamin can help the body to heal.

Synthetic Vitamins

Synthetic vitamins are produced from chemicals in a laboratory. These

chemicals are generally not from food substances, but from substances such as

coal tar or ground up rock. These materials are very inexpensive and

pharmaceutical companies can produce USP vitamins for pennies. However,

the vitamins produced are in no way related to real food vitamins that are

processed by nature into a perfect living whole food. They are, instead, isolated

chemical fractions of a vitamin that cannot function as a real vitamin because

of the missing cofactors and in many cases because they do not have the correct


All molecules have a property called “handedness”. They come in “lefthand”

and “right-hand” varieties. Their chemical formulas are identical, but

they refract light differently. For any given nutrient, our bodies are able to use

either the “left-hand” or the “right-hand” version, but not both. Unfortunately,

large amounts of synthetic vitamins are in the wrong form.

Additionally, while whole food vitamins are recognized and assimilated

into the body, synthetic vitamins are seen as foreign objects.6 They will either

be transformed into a usable but inferior vitamin, or they will be excreted from

the body as quickly as possible. It is for this reason that a large amount of the

synthetic vitamins taken are excreted through the urine very quickly after

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ingestion. According to the Physicians Desk Reference (1996, p.1542), the

amount that is absorbed is only about 10-20% (after going through a

transformation process).

At first, it may seem that a synthetic vitamin is having a positive effect. In

time, however, the person may become even more depleted because they have

used up their supply of cofactors—leaving the body depleted of both the

vitamin and previously stored cofactors. In fact, isolated vitamin fractions act

more like a drug—perhaps able to cover up the symptoms but having no

curative effect7.


Synthetic Vitamin Whole Food Vitamin

1. Comes from inorganic source 1. Comes from living source

2. May be wrong variety of the vitamin 2. Correct form

3. May be wrong form of the vitamin 3. Correct form

4. Isolated fraction of a vitamin 4. Whole form with all cofactors

5. Often toxic 5. Non-toxic

6. Acts more like a drug—palliative 6. Facilitates metabolism—curative

7. Can deplete the body of nutrition 7. Does not rob the body of nutrition

8. Cheap to produce 8. More costly

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Chapter 3


In this chapter, I will report three instances where the differences between

synthetic vitamins and whole food vitamins have been demonstrated.

1. A study linking Vitamin A supplements (in synthetic form) with birth

defects showed that women who received

• 10,000 iu daily from nutritional supplements had a 240% greater

incidence of birth defects.

• 20,000 iu daily had a 400% increase in birth defects.

No amount of Vitamin A from whole food had any ill effect. Even liver in a

3 oz. serving containing as much as 30,000 i.u. caused no increase in birth


New England Journal of Medicine November 23, 1995.

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2. A study to show that Beta Carotene (synthetic) prevents cancer showed

the opposite. Men taking a synthetic beta-carotene had an 18% higher

incidence of lung cancer, more heart attacks and an 8% higher overall

death rate.

New England Journal of Medicine April 14, 1994.

Food studies, on the other hand, show the opposite—that food source

vitamins have a protective effect.

3. A study where men were given:

• 500 mg. of ascorbic acid daily

Over an 18 month period, there was a 250% increase in the thickness of the

inner lining of the carotid artery. This thickening directly reflects the

progression of atherosclerosis.

Reported in Reuters Health, March 3, 2000.

Vitamin C from food protects the lining of blood vessels and is a

preventative for atherosclerosis.

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Chapter 4

Whole Food Vitamin Supplements

Many health care professionals advise their patients to supplement their

diet with a vitamin and mineral supplement because they are aware that most

Americans do not obtain the necessary nutrients from their food. Here is the

sobering truth.

As early as 1936 it was reported to Congress that the mineral content of

North American soil was being eroded to the point that people were suffering

from dangerous dietary deficiencies8. In the past 75 years, the mineral content

of our soil has continued to decline. The Rio Earth Summit Report issued in

1992, documents these declining values on a worldwide basis over the last 100

years. According to their report, North American soils have suffered an 85%

decline in mineral content during this period making it virtually impossible to

receive adequate nutrition from foods grown in these depleted soils.

If we are concerned with achieving optimal health, it is vital to

supplement our diet with whole food nutrients grown in more favorable

conditions. According to Dr. Vic Shayne, “To meet the needs of nutrient

deficiencies as well as the nutrient depleters we face each day, whole food

concentrate supplements may be the best answer.”9

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Sources of Whole Food Vitamin Supplements

Locating good sources of whole food vitamin supplements is much easier

said than done. Because of the almost universal use of synthetic vitamins, it is

rare to find a product that is 100% whole food based. Even those products that

contain whole foods routinely add synthetic vitamins to their formulas. In

addition, most companies add fillers, and flow agents to their products—

substances that are toxic. This is the reason that the Journal of the American

Nutraceutical Association made the following observation.

97% of All Nutritional Supplements Contain Toxic Poisons (JANA 1999)

In addition, according to Richard Drucker, ND “If even one USP vitamin

synthetic substitute is listed, then the entire product is probably not real food.

The best source of vitamins comes from certified organic foods grown in fertile

soil and organic, real-food supplements that contain the proper combination of

nutrients to make vitamins effective.”10

Reading Product Labels

To assure that nutritional products are real-food supplements, it is

important that consumers be able to identify products that contain one or more

synthetic vitamins. If a label does not specify that a vitamin is whole food, it

probably is synthetic. Any of the following terms indicate a synthetic:

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• acetate • hydrochloride

• chloride • succinate

• gluconate

Listed below are some of the ways in which synthetic vitamins appear on

supplement labels.

Example Source

Vitamin A Isolated Chemical Fraction

Vitamin A (palmitate) Synthetic

Vitamin B1 (Thiamine Mononitrate) Synthetic

Vitamins B1 (Thiamine Hydrochloride) Synthetic

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine Hydrochloride) Synthetic

Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin) Synthetic

Pantothenic Acid (Calcium D-Pantothenate) Synthetic

Niacin Synthetic

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) Synthetic

Vitamin C (calcium ascorbate)

Vitamin C (Ester C) Synthetic

Vitamin E (d-alpha tocopherol succinate) Synthetic

Vitamin E (dl-alpha tocopherol acetate) Synthetic

In addition, the following ingredients used as fillers, binders and flow

agents are toxic.

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• magnesium stearate (Over 90% of the vitamin/mineral products consumed today

contain magnesium stearate, also known as Stearic Acid) (filler)

• silicon dioxide (flow agent)

• di-calcium phosphate (DCP) (binding agent)

Know Your Manufacturer

Manufacturers have become skilled at creating the illusion of quality by

indicating that vitamins are in a “food matrix”. They list a whole complex of

foods that make it appear as though all of the necessary cofactors are available.

However, the vitamins are still synthetic, and it is not clear that placing

synthetic vitamins in a food base actually improves the quality because

blending two substances together may not be the same as what is created by

nature in a complex process. In fact, it is unlikely to provide the proper “cell


Another strategy utilized by product manufacturers is to indicate that the

vitamin is from a food source such as acerola cherries. This appears to be an

excellent source. However, the vitamin is still an isolated fraction of the whole

complex. While this is better than a synthetic vitamin, it still does not provide

the entire complex supplied by nature.

To be a complete food the whole food needs to be present. Acerola

cherries are a good source of Vitamin C if the entire fruit is used.

In the end, consumers need to know their supplier. Because of the

widespread potential for abuse, it is important to hold nutrition companies

accountable. Quality cannot be accurately displayed on a label since it involves

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much more than the name of an ingredient and the amount contained. It also

involves where the ingredient is grown, how it is handled and stored, and how

knowledgeable the formulator is. Look for companies that clearly indicate that

their products are from whole foods and that are transparent about their

manufacturing process.

Here are a few questions to keep in mind as you evaluate sources.

Check List

1. Does the company demonstrate an understanding of the importance of whole food

vitamins by expressing a commitment to whole food vitamins only?

2. How are the raw materials obtained?

3. What is their quality?

4. What kind of testing do they do on their raw materials to insure quality?

5. How do they handle the raw materials to preserve nutrients?

6. Who is their formulator?

7. Does he/she know how to create a formula in balance with nature?

Whole Food Supplement Companies

I have searched for companies and products that are made from 100%

whole food or living source that do not contain any other form of toxic

ingredients, fillers, or preservatives. In addition, I favor companies that have

proven integrity, demonstrate superior understanding of product formulation

and are transparent about their sourcing and handling of raw materials.

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The following companies meet the guidelines discussed above.


Whole food vitamins are genuine.

Synthetic vitamins

are imposters.

Choose Wisely.

To a Long and Healthy Life,

Bev Cangialosi


Drucker Labs

Emerald Express

Exsula Super Foods

New Mark (Professional Line)


NutriPlex Formulas (Professional Line)



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1. Murray, Richard P., D.C., P.A. Natural vs. Synthetic Life vs. Death Truth

vs. The Lie. c1995.

2. DeCava, Judith. The Truth About Vitamins and Antioxidants, 2nd ed.,

Selene River Press, Fort Collins, CO, pg. 33. c2006.

3. Physician’s Health Study II. “No Protective Effect on Cancer from Long-

Term Vitamin E or Vitamin C Supplementation”. Reported at:

4. DeCava, Judith. The Truth About Vitamins and Antioxidants, 2nd ed.,

Selene River Press, Fort Collins, CO, c2006 p.18, citing C. Fredericksen,

and Carsten Edmund, “Studies of Hypervitaminosis A: II. A New Method

for Testing the Resorption of Vitamin A from Medicaments,” American

Journal of Diseases in Children, Vol.53, (March 1937). pp.89-109.

5. Marshall, Robert, PhD. “Cellular Resonance” . c2003-


6. Murray, Richard P., D.C., P.A. Natural vs. Synthetic Life vs. Death Truth

vs. The Lie. Appendix A, pp. 1-4. c1995.

7. Murray, Richard P., D.C., P.A. Natural vs. Synthetic Life vs. Death Truth

vs. The Lie. pg. 3. c1995.

8. Senate Document 264, 74th Congress, 2nd Session, 1936.

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9. Shayne, Vic, PhD. Whole Food Nutrition: The Missing Link in Vitamin

Therapy., Inc., Lincoln: Nebraska. pg. 16. c2000.

10. Drucker, Richard, ND. “Vitamins Myths and Truths”. To Your Health.

June 2009 (vol. 03, Issue 06. Accessed at:


11. Marshall, Robert, PhD. “Cellular Resonance” c2003-2009.

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