The answer is….it depends. Like any other product or food, there are low quality versions and high quality versions, and everything in between.
Unfortunately, this is another avenue of misinformation creating confusion for consumers.
Let’s look at what supplements are by using vitamin C as an example.
If you look at the components of the entire vitamin C complex, you will find phyto-nutrients, enzymes, co-enzymes, bioflavinoids, and many other parts that all together make vitamin C. If you pull out an enzyme, then what you will have is that enzyme, not vitamin C in its whole functioning form. In order to get the benefits from vitamin C, the whole intact complex must exist. The body uses all parts of it. You wouldn’t buy a clock with a missing part. Every part of a clock has a specific function that when put together wiht the other functions causes the clock to keep time and work properly.
Most supplements are not the whole complex. Whole complex vitamins only come from food. It is not possible to manufacture whole vitamin complexes (in their perfect form) from anything other than food. It is much more difficult and expensive to create supplement from whole food. Therefore, most supplements are created in a lab by making them out of what’s called the “active ingredient.”
Guess what, there is no active ingredient in food or nature. There is only the food and all its amazing parts.
Everyone is familiar with ascorbic acid. Did you know that it is legal to call something vitamin C as long as it has ascorbic acid in it? Ascorbic acid is just the outer shell of the vitamin C complex. It’s like eating the shell of an egg and not the egg itself. This shell can be made in a lab from cornstarch and volatile acids. For this product to work, it must use your body’s reserves of the missing parts of the complex. It drains your body’s reserves and eventually causes a deficiency of the very nutrient you are trying to supply. You might get a response at first, but eventually you fail because you never actually fed yourself.
The power of whole food supplements are generally very underestimated. All research done on supplements are done by the “scientific method” in which these dead and inert synthetic vitamins are used to develop trials and experiments. Since they aren’t foods and human beings only thrive on food, they don’t play out well, hence th poor outcomes and reviews.
The body is an incredible healing machine, if and only if it is fed what it was intended to thrive on…food. Supplements are meant to supplement food, fill in gaps, and support your body naturally. They are not doing this if they throw off your body chemistry and function, strip you of your nutrient stores, and interfere with your health.
So how do you kow if a supplement is synthetic or whole food?
One way is to look at the potency. Whole food nutrients never come in “high potency.” It doesn’t exist in nature. A minute amount of a vitamin in its whole food form is more effective nutrtionally than a large amount of a synthetic one. The ingredients list will have foods listed if it’s whole food. Synthetic versions will say “ascorbic acid,” “niacin,” “acitate,” “tocopherol,” etc. If it does, don’t bother. It’s not food.
Only food heals. It’s just how we are made.