from DoctorsResearch Website
Even though natural health professionals agree that humans should not try to consume petroleum derivatives or hydrogenated sugars, most seem to overlook this fact when vitamin supplementation is involved.
This paper explains some of the biochemical reasons that food vitamins are superior for humans. It also explains what substances are commonly used to make vitamins in supplements.
Furthermore, it explains some of the advantages of food vitamins over the non-food vitamins that are commonly available.
The truth is that most vitamins in supplements are made or processed with petroleum derivatives or hydrogenated sugars [1-5]. Even though they are often called natural, most non-food vitamins are isolated substances which are crystalline in structure .
Vitamins naturally in food are not
crystalline and never isolated. Vitamins found in any real food are
chemically and structurally different from those commonly found in
‘natural vitamin’ formulas. Since they are different, naturopaths
should consider non-food vitamins as vitamin analogues (imitations)
and not actually vitamins.
Even back in the 1940s, professionals interested in natural health recognized the value of food, over non-food, vitamins.
Also, it should be mentioned that naturopathic definition of organic back then was similar to the official US government definition today - why does this need to be stated? Because one pseudo-naturopath once told this researcher that a particular brand of synthetic vitamins contained “organic vitamins”, because a sales representative had told him so.
Sadly, that sales representative either
intentionally gave out false information or gave out misleading
information - misleading because by its ‘scientific’ definition, the
term ‘organic’ can mean that it is a carbon containing substance,
hence by that definition all petroleum derivatives (hydro-carbons)
are organic. But false, because those type of vitamins are not
organic from the true naturopathic, or even the U.S. government’s,
Isolated non-food ‘vitamins’ (often called ‘natural’ or USP or pharmaceutical grade) are not naturally “included in the diet”, do not necessarily “originate primarily in plant tissues”, and cannot fully replace all natural vitamin activities. As a natural health professional, you should be able to read and interpret, even misleading supplement labels.
For those who are unsure, hopefully this
article will provide sufficient information to determine if vitamin
tablets are food or imitations.
Synthetic vitamins were originally developed because they cost less .
Assuming the non-food product does not contain fish oils, most synthetic, petroleum-derived, supplements will call their products ‘vegetarian’, not because they are from plants, but because they are not from animals.
Most vitamins in vitamin supplements
made from food are in foods such as acerola cherries, broccoli,
cabbage, carrots, lemons, limes, nutritional yeast, oranges, and
rice bran (some companies also use animal products).
Composition of Food and Non-Food Vitamins [1-10]
Some companies also use
brewer’s yeast which is inferior to nutritional yeast in many ways
(including the fact that it has not had the cell wall enzymatically
processed to reduce possible sensitivities).
As shown in table 2, the chemical forms of food and synthetic nutrients are normally different. Health professionals need to understand that since there is no mandated definition of the term ‘natural’; just seeing that term on a label does not mean that the supplement contains only natural food substances.
One of the best ways to tell whether or not a vitamin supplement contains natural vitamins as found in food is to know the chemical differences between food and non-food vitamins (sometimes called USP vitamins).
Because they are not normally in the
same chemical form as vitamins found in foods, non-food vitamins
should be considered by natural health professionals as vitamin
analogues (artificial imitations), and not actually as true vitamins
Chemical Form of Food and Non-Food Vitamins [1-10]
If even one USP vitamin analogue is
listed, then the entire product is probably not food (normally it
will be less than 5% food). Vitamin analogues are cheap (or not so
cheap) imitations of vitamins found in foods.
This researcher is unaware of any
frequently used vegetarian non-yeast way to produce vitamin D or
many of the B vitamins, therefore, if a label states that the
product “contains no yeast” then in pretty much all cases, this
demonstrates that the product is synthetic or contains items so
isolated that they should not be considered to be food.
In the text, Medical Mycology John Rippon (Ph.D., Mycology, University of Chicago) wrote,
Some people, however, are allergic to
the cell-wall of yeast  and concerned supplement
companies which have nutrient-containing yeast normally have had the
cell-wall enzymatically processed to reduce even this unlikely
First it seems to assume that the process of getting the amount of the vitamin into the bloodstream is the same (which is frequently not the case [3-10]).
Secondly, scientists understand that particle size is an important factor in nutrient absorption even though particle size is not detected by chemical assessment.
Thirdly, scientists also understand that,
Fifthly, most non-food vitamins are
crystalline in structure .
Food vitamins are in the physiochemical forms which the body recognizes, generally are not crystalline in structure, contain food factors that affect bioavailability, and appear to have smaller particle sizes (see illustrations in table 3).
This does not mean that non-food
vitamins do not have any value (they clearly do), but it is
important to understand that natural food complex vitamins have
actually been shown to be better than isolated, non-food, vitamins
(see table 4).
Physical and Structural Differences
Why then, according to the ingredients listed in a recent catalog, would a supplement company that Dr. Lee originally founded currently include ascorbic acid, inorganic mineral salts, and/or other isolated nutrients in the majority of its products?
Dr. Lee, like the late Dr. Bernard
Jensen , was also opposed to the use of other
isolated, synthetic, nutrients .
Comparison of Certain Biological Effects of Food and Non-Food Vitamins
An in vitro study performed at this
researcher’s lab with a digital ORP meter demonstrated that a citrus
food vitamin C has negative ORP, but that ascorbic acid had positive
A US government study which compared the
in vivo effects of a high vitamin C food (containing 80 mg of
vitamin C) compared to about 15.6 times as much isolated ascorbic
acid (1250 mg) found that the vitamin C-containing food produced the
greatest increase in blood antioxidant levels (it is believed that
bioflavonoids and other food factors are responsible) .
Why should people take supplemental synthetic ascorbic acid when it is NOT been proven to have antioxidant effects in humans?
The other quantitative is that in humans,
De-emphasizing vitamin C containing
foods by attempting to consume higher quantities of isolated
ascorbic acid simply will not have the effects on plasma vitamin C
levels, ORP, ORAC, or other health aspects that many consumers of
isolated ascorbic acid hope it will [3,27,29].
Let’s take vitamin E as another example - the body has a specific liver transport for the type of vitamin E found in food  - it does not have this for the synthetic vitamin E forms (nor for the ‘new’ vitamin E analogues that are frequently marketed) - thus no amount of synthetic vitamin E can truly equal food vitamin E - the human body actually tries to rid itself of synthetic vitamin E as quickly as possible .
As another example, it should be
understood that certain forms of vitamin analogues of B-6 ,
D , and biotin  have been shown to have
almost no vitamin activity.
This is due to the fact that they are
normally chemically and structurally different (they also do not
have the naturally occurring food factors which are needed by the
body) from vitamins found in foods (or vitamin supplements made up
entirely of foods).
Types of Available
Food vitamins will normally state something like
“100% Food” on the label. Sometimes the label will also state “No USP nutrients” or “No synthetic nutrients”.
First of all, no non-food vitamin this researcher has seen says “100% food” on the label and none of them state "No USP or synthetic nutrients” - thus if none of these expressions are present, it is normally safe to conclude that the vitamins are not from food. If a label states that the product contains USP vitamins or ‘pharmaceutical grade’ nutrients, then it should be obvious to all naturopathic practitioners that the product is not food.
Also, if a multi-vitamin or a B-complex
formula states something to the effect that it “contains no yeast”
that is basically a guarantee that it contains synthetic nutrients.
‘Food-based’ vitamins are almost always
USP vitamins mixed with a small amount of food. This mixing does not
change the chemical form of the vitamin, so it is still a vitamin
analogue and not a food vitamin (this differs from food, as true
food vitamins are not simple mixture).
If the product were a food, it would normally state that the vitamin C was in food or from acerola and not use the term ‘vitamin C’ twice in a row on the label (many companies mix ascorbic acid with acerola). Many companies use the term ‘yeast-free’ on their synthetic vitamin labels, apparently implying that yeast should not be used in vitamins.
There are a couple of problems with this.
The first is that several non-food isolated vitamins are produced by yeast, before they are industrially processed and isolated, thus it is unlikely that any multiple vitamin formula has not been partially made up of yeast, yeast extracts, or yeast by-products [1,2].
The second problem is that nutritional
yeast is not the same as brewer’s yeast, which is essentially a
waste by-product .
They are not in the same chemical form or structural form as real vitamins are in foods; thus they are not natural for the human body. True natural food vitamins are superior to synthetic ones [8,16,41]. Food vitamins are functionally superior to non-food vitamins as they tend to be preferentially absorbed and/or retained by the body.
Isolated, non-food vitamins, even when
not chemically different are only fractionated nutrients.
It is not always clear if these advantages are due to the physiochemical form of the vitamin, with the other food constituents that are naturally found with them, or some combination. Regardless, it seems logical to conclude that for purposes of maintaining normal health, natural vitamins are superior to synthetic ones [8,16,41].
Unlike some synthetic vitamins, no
natural vitamin has been found to not perform all of its natural
That was the standard set for the
profession in 1947 - that standard - that commitment to real
naturopathy should remain for natural health professionals today.
Note: Some of these studies (or citations) may not conform to peer review standards.
Therefore, the results are not conclusive. Professionals can, and often do, come to different conclusions when reviewing scientific data. None of these statements have been reviewed by the FDA.
All products distributed by
Doctors’ Research, Inc. are nutritional and are not intended for the
treatment or prevention of any medical condition.