Vitamins – Are you getting the real thing?

The Whole Picture

Are the vitamin supplements you use providing complete nutrition or only a fragment of true nutrition? If you know what to look for, the answer can be found in the ingredients of the supplement. The key is to look for whole food vitamins and to understand that ascorbic acid is only a part of vitamin C and alpha-tocopherol is only a part of vitamin E. Therefore, if ascorbic acid and alpha-tocopherol are listed on the label as vitamin C and vitamin E, then you are probably only getting a fragment of true nutrition.

Vitamins, as found in nature, are groups of chemically related compounds. There is part of this complex that science identifies as the “organic nutrient.” In the case of vitamin C, this organic nutrient is ascorbic acid. In the case of vitamin E, it is alpha-tocopherol. Many people think that if you supply the body with these simplified “organic nutrients” in the amounts specified by the RDA, you provide all the ‘nutrition’ required for health.

The problem with this idea is it does not take into consideration all of the enzymes, precursors, co-enzymes, antioxidants, trace elements, activators and numerous other naturally occurring synergistic micronutrients that we may or may not know about at this time. These other elements are required for the organic nutrient to be used by the body, and many of these elements provide health benefits of their own.

For example, alpha-tocopherol is only one part of the vitamin E complex. A complete, natural vitamin E not only contains alpha-tocopherol, but also provides gamma-tocopherol, and the other tocopherols and tocotrienols. These other components of vitamin E are as important as alpha-tocopherol and these components work together synergistically to create all the observed health-promoting effects of vitamin E. Yet, only alpha-tocopherol is given an RDA and is what is most often listed on supplement labels.

Supplements containing only alpha-tocopherol are not only less effective, but may create nutrient imbalances. Research has shown that alpha-tocopherol supplementation actually suppresses gamma-tocopherol levels. Gamma-tocopherol is as important as alpha-tocopherol for health and studies have shown that reduced gamma-tocopherol levels are associated with heart disease.

Nature provides more than just the few vitamins that have RDAs and are listed on a supplement label. There are over 600 carotenoids from natural sources that clearly show biological actions distinct from their function as precursors of vitamin A. Not to mention the numerous bioflavanoids that not only enhance vitamin C absorption and bioavailability, but also posses their own anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antioxidant activities.

Some of these nutrients, such as the proanthocyanidins (OPC), actually posses properties stronger than the typical vitamins listed on the label. For example, research has shown that OPC from grape seed extract provides significantly greater protection against free radicals and free radical-induced lipid peroxidation and DNA damage than vitamins C, E and beta-carotene. The natural components of foods work together with the officially recognized vitamins and minerals to promote health and prevent disease. These plant phytochemicals cannot be ignored as part of providing complete nutrition.

In choosing a vitamin supplement, the best way to provide all the natural phytochemicals and natural components is to choose whole-food supplements and remember that the benefits of vitamin supplements cannot be measured by dosage alone. In fact, natural food complex supplements are typically of a low dose, which may lead some people to believe they are not as potent or valuable. Actually, the opposite is true. ‘Natural’ or ‘whole food’ refers to vitamins as found in natural foods, unaltered in any way that might change their molecular, biological or biochemical combinations, or their action. They are foods with only the water and fiber removed. These vitamins are natural and familiar to the body with all of the natural cofactors present. If the product provides whole-food vitamins, you should see listed on the label the exact food source from which that vitamin is obtained. It may be listed next to the vitamin or it may be listed in a proprietary blend.
Crystalline vitamins are vitamins that have a natural food as their original source, but these foods have been treated with high-powered chemicals, solvents or heat to reduce them down to one specific, pure crystalline vitamin or amino acid. In this form they no longer contain the synergistic components (the enzymes, co-enzymes, minerals, mineral activators and co-vitamin helpers) that are essential for assimilation and utilization in the body.

Synthetic vitamins are those developed in a laboratory, where a scientist has reconstructed the exact structure of the crystalline molecule by ‘putting together’ or chemically combining the same molecules from other sources (mostly coal tar). Both crystalline and synthetic vitamins have been robbed of important food values, even though the labels may show high ‘vitamin’ potencies. In actuality, they are void of valuable nutrients, so they do not perform nature’s curative, life-generating process.

The bottom line is read your label and look for names of foods and plants you recognize such as green pepper, orange peel, rose hips, acerola cherry, alfalfa, or wild yam rather than chemical names of nutrients such as thiamin mononitrate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, calcium pantothenate, ascorbic acid or pteroylglutamic acid.

You can be sure that you are getting the highest quality, natural, whole food vitamins by using our whole food products. Whole food products ensure that you are getting the complete balance of nutrients as nature intended by using whole food vitamins. For a complete list of products and ingredients, visit the Whole Food Natural Health Supplements!