Foods, by design, provide the necessary elements to keep a body healthy. Currently, over 3,800 compounds which have nutritional significance have been identified in foods. The concept of a vitamin supplement is to replace nutrition that is lacking in overly processed foods which support our current lifestyles.
What is a vitamin? An organic substance found in food that is essential for the body’s metabolism.
Vitamins, as found in nature, are groups of chemically related compounds. Science identifies a part of this compound, the organic nutrient. This is the part that is considered the workhorse, or the essence, of the vitamin. In the case of vitamin C, this organic nutrient is called ascorbic acid.
If we assume that the organic nutrient is the only part necessary for health, we ignore the value of all the naturally occuring micronutrients that are attached to the organic nutrient while in it’s natural form (i.e., an orange). Along with the organic nutrient (ascorbic acid), the vitamin C molecule also contains precursors, enzymes, co-factors, activators, trace elements, and antioxidants. Without these naturally occurring micronutrients, the organic nutrient is unusable by the body. In fact, some scientists feel that the organic nutrient mainly acts to protect all all the cofactors, allowing them to arrive intact at the cellular level. As one researcher put it, to take an organic nutrient alone is equivalent to consuming a banana peel without the banana.
This whole concept of extracting only the organic nutrient leads to the subject matter of the three types of vitamin supplements available – synthetic, fractionated and whole-food.
Synethic vitamins are laboratory reproductions of organic nutrients synthesized from corn sugar or non-foods such as coal tar. They contain absolutely no co-factors. They are simply a concentration of the organic nutrient. Without the synergistic micronutrients, synthetic vitamins are of no value to the body. Molecularly (if you want to get down to the scientific nitty gritty), the spin of synthetic vitamins is backward (left), and cannot take part in the chemical reactions meant for a right-handed molecule. They also cause a stimulatory reaction in the body – the body perceives the high concentration of an isolated substance as a threat, activating a stimulatory mechanism to rid the body of it (your urine turns a neon color).
There are also fractionated vitamins. These are made by exposing foods to chemicals, solvents and heat, leaving only the organic nutrient. This process removes virtually all of the co-factors and enzymes leaving an incomplete nutritional substance. It is better than a synthetic supplement in that it is impossible to remove absolutely all of the co-factors and the organic nutrient retains its proper molecular spin. However, without vital co-factors, the body will have to burn energy to use it. Synthetic and fractionated vitamins must be actively transported out of the body, consuming energy and nutrients from other body systmes on the way.
Whole-food vitamins are made by using whole, raw foods. Removing the water and fiber under conditions which preserve the enzymes, precursors, co-factors, activators and other micronutrients naturally occurring in food. When comparing labels, remember whole-food vitamins naturally contain thousands of these nutrients. The main thing is to look for food sources such as carrot, barley and broccoli, on the label. Whole-food vitamins have no side effects, do not adversely interact with prescription drugs, and they insure proper nutrition to fight ailments, diseases, syndromes and even allergies.