How to tell if vitamins are natural or synthetic is sometimes difficult. In general, the majority of vitamins are synthetic. According to Dr. George Obikoya in his article, "synthetic vitamins are made in a laboratory setting from coal tar derivatives. No co-factors are present. Most food supplements sold on the market today are synthetic and often cheaper to produce than natural vitamins". So how can we tell which are synthetic made and which are natural?
- First, we should define the difference between natural and synthetic vitamins. Synthetic basically means a process of isolating a vitamin, which Dr. George Obikoya describes as being done through "extreme heat, pressure, or possibly with use of toxic solvents".
- Check the labels of the vitamin container. Vitamins that are isolated from their bioflavonids could be considered synthetic. This is because in a natural state, vitamins contain many co-factors and antioxidants, which help activate the vitamin itself. If your supplement does not contain these other compounds, it’s probably from an isolated synthetic source.
- Check for preservatives. If you consider a natural form of vitamin to be free of preservatives, it’s good to also check your supplement for these compounds. Many preservatives are added to supplements to maintain their shelf life. Fresh vitamins, such as those found in fruits in vegetables deteriorate by means of time, heat, light, and cooking preparation.
- Research the manufacturer. As Dr. George Obikoya recommends, check to see if your supplements, “are USP grade, meaning that they come from licensed production laboratories”. This does not mean that they are not synthetic. What this does mean, however, is that they have a greater potential to be free from other contaminated, harmful, or other synthetic compounds which might adversely effect your health.
- If still in doubt, try and obtain the vitamins through natural sources. Some may consider vitamins in pill form chemically equal to what is found in food. However, vitamins derived through eating fruits and vegetables will tend to be richer in nutrients, especially with the cofactors that help activate and utilize vitamins.
"Natural Vitamins vs. Synthetic." Vitamins Information Center. Web. 27 Apr. 2010. <http://www.vitamins-nutrition.org/vitamins/natural-vitamins-synthetic.html>.
Obikoya, Dr. George. "Natural Vitamins vs. Synthetic." Vitamins Information Center. Web. 27 Apr. 2010. <http://www.vitamins-nutrition.org/vitamins/natural-vitamins-synthetic.html>.