This article first appeared in Today's Dallas Woman, Aug. 1998
Natural vs. Synthetic Vitamins
You're coming down with a cold and your friend advises you to pop a lot of
vitamin C with your chicken soup. Your neighbor's best friend's cousin
proceeds to tell you how mega-doses of zinc have kept her healthy for
the past five years.
ARE THEY ALL ALIKE?
You rush to your corner market, only to be faced with rows upon rows of
bottled vitamins and powders. Unsure of what is considered the "best kind,"
you pick one out at random, assuming all the supplements are alike.
That assumption, however, can be dangerous, especially if the supplement
you've chosen is of synthetic manufacture. Heavy doses of synthetic
supplements can cause many problems ranging from birth defects, to kidney
problems, to diabetes.
ON THE RIGHT TRACK
Our cells need adequate nutrients and minerals to survive and thrive.
Without proper nourishment, those cells can sicken and die. And a lot of us
don't receive the complete nutrients we need. We're constantly eating on
the run, eating out frequently or forgetting to eat altogether. Even those
who eat fruits and vegetables may not be getting quality vitamins and
minerals these days. Unless home grown or organic, produce comes from
commercial farms using fertilizers and other chemicals that leach trace
nutrients from the soil.
There are two basic types of vitamins on the market: synthetic and natural.
Synthetic vitamins have been formed in a laboratory by reconstructing the
vitamin molecule chemically. Natural vitamins are made from food concentrates
such as carrot powder, wheat germ, or buckwheat and their molecular and
biochemical combinations remain untampered with.
THE PRICE FACTOR
Synthetic supplements are less expensive, but synthetic vitamins can
actually be harmful to your system. The human body doesn't use these synthetic
materials as it would more natural foods to repair tissues, boost immunity or
sustain cell life. In addition, true whole food concentrates work in
partnership with one another as complex nutrients. Synthetic supplements have
been split into solo entities, which does little for the human body, and in
many cases, can cause some harm. Huge doses of vitamins A and D can be
dangerous. But even the so-called "innocuous" synthetic vitamins - like
vitamin C - can cause problems. Some manufacturers of vitamin C create it
from the synthetic "ascorbic acid" because it's less expensive and lasts
longer. Large doses of this material have been found to cause collagen
disease, rebound scurvy, kidney stones and impaired mineral metabolism. In
another instance, when zinc is taken in mega-doses, it can result in symptoms
of zinc deficiency. The immune system could be destroyed, rather than boosted.
Vitamin E, a vitamin heralded for its cancer-fighting abilities, was recently
tested (along with the cancer-fighter beta-carotene) in Finnish male smokers
as protection against lung cancer. The New England Journal of Medicine noted
that the smokers in the study who ingested normal doses of synthetic vitamin
E and beta-carotene actually had a higher incidence of lung cancer, more heart
attacks and an 8 percent higher overall death rate.
The best supplements and vitamins for you are those that are made from
natural, organic foods. Remember, no one nutrient provides a panacea for
everyone, so work with your health care professional in choosing supplements
that are best for you.
Suzan J. Smith, D.C., is a chiropractor in Carrollton. She teaches yoga
classes on a regular basis. She has released a yoga video for beginners and
intermediates and a second yoga video for pregnant women.
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