Dr. Leia Discusses Difference Between Synthetic and Natural Vitamins

Are all Vitamins Created Equal? – Learn About Additives, Fillers,
and Synthetically Created Nutritional Products

Question for Dr. Leia: I am wondering why some brands of vitamins cost so much more
than others.

When I try to discern which is best I notice many have additives or are synthetic versions.

Does this mean they are not as good, or are synthetic vitamins an improvement? Any information or shopping
tips you could give would be so appreciated. Thanks, Marisa

Dr. Leia’s Answer:

The world of vitamins is vast and varied, with many different brand names and formulations. I always like
to tell my patients to buy the brand which contains the least or no additives, fillers, waxes, or colorings.
Additives or fillers are used in encapsulation to bind or hold the ingredients together and to fill up the
capsule. The colorings are added to make the vitamin look more attractive to the buyer. The best vitamins,
in my opinion are those that contain the designated vitamins and little or nothing else.

Additives are not synonymous with synthetic. Some so called natural vitamins can contain additives and some
synthetic vitamins can also be free from additives. Synthetic vitamins are those which are synthesized or
made in the laboratory and are not found in nature in their natural form. Sometimes, this means that the
molecules have been re-arranged and that a isomer or mirror-image of the natural vitamin has been created.
Mirror images may not have the same reaction or absorption in the body.

I like to use Vitamin E as an example. Natural vitamin E is designated with the letter ” d – ” and
the synthetic form is designated with the letters “dl – “. Here is an example of a mirror image

Hold your hands facing each other.

Now, separate your hands so that the palms are now both facing in the same direction, toward you.

Wiggle your thumbs on each hand. Notice where your thumbs are located on each hand.

Your left hand has the thumb on the left side and your right hand has its thumb located on the right side.

Pretend the thumb is a configuration of a chemical formula with the thumb being a hydrogen molecule. You can
easily see that your hands represent the same formula, however, the hydrogen molecule is exactly reversed
in each hand.

These are called mirror images. And the natural “d-” formula costs twice as much as the synthetic “dl” formula.
I don’t know why the natural form is more expensive, but maybe the laboratory can synthesize or make the
synthetic form in larger quantities thereby charging less for them. For the most part, I feel that nature
is the best chemist, so it is well worth it to pay the extra amount for the natural products.

Choosing Between Brand Name Vitamins

Now if you have to chose between brand names, some brands appear to be a lot more expensive than others. In
the vitamin industry, most of the time, the raw materials come from the same or similar sources. It is up
to the brand company determine the formulation, and in doing this, the number, the amount, and the potency
of the vitamins are taken into consideration when formulating the product. Looking at the potency is important.

For instance, one capsule of Brand A contains 100mg. and two capsules of Brand B contains 100mg. Both bottles
contain 100 capsules. This means that Brand A is twice as strong as Brand B and therefore, if the price is
the same, it would be a better buy. If the bottle is a complex, meaning that it contains many different vitamins,
then the more complete the complex or the greater the number of ingredients, than the more expensive the
vitamins might be.

I hope that this helps you sort through the myriad of products which you might encounter on the shelves of
stores. Always read the ingredient lists and compare the bottles item for item. Sometimes, though, it might
be impossible to compare apples to oranges, so buyer beware. Be sure you have the correct product for your

There is a great resource for checking to see if what the label on the vitamins you buy does indeed contain
all of the ingredients which are listed. Consumer Labs does a great job of running a check on major brands
of vitamins and supplements. So you might like to check out their site: ConsumerLab.com.

By Dr. Leia Melead

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