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In thinking about dietary supplements, you have to keep in mind that there’s a big difference between synthetic vitamins and whole food vitamins. You also have to remember that your health can be improved with the power of superfood nutrients, too.
Is Every Vitamin Really A Worthwhile Vitamin?
Big retailers like Costco and GNC would have you believe all vitamins are equal. Not so.
It’s a bit like the situation with white bread and sprouted wheat: They are both called “grains,” but they certainly create different health effects. Similarly, synthetic vitamins are not the whole, complex vitamins that nature provides. I believe that this explains the failure of vitamins A, C and E and beta carotene to reduce cancer and heart disease in the large prospective clinical trials.
What is a synthetic vitamin? Synthetic nutrients are essentially manufactured nutrients. They are just the part of the natural whole complex vitamin that can be isolated and reproduced. They contain no cofactors or enzymes that are found in the whole complex as nature provides them.
The observations and studies by doctors Weston A. Price,  Francis M. Pottenger Jr.  and Royal Lee   gave us much understanding of the very different effects among whole food complexes and synthetic vitamins many years ago.
They found that food acts very differently to reverse disease than do isolated vitamin molecules, such as foods “fortified” with synthetic vitamins. Dr. Royal Lee taught that the crystalline vitamin molecule cannot be split off from the whole complex (found in nature) without destroying its biological activity: Before it can function as a nutrient, it must recombine with the other members of the complex, such as trace mineral activators.
In addition to the basic vitamins and minerals from whole food sources,  we know of other even more important micronutrients found in plants (called phytonutrients) that act to help prevent and reverse disease. These are the polyphenolics (anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins, stilbenes, flavonoids, isoflavones, lignans, tannins); phytosterols; carotenoids (beta carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, astazanthin, lycopene); terpenes (essential oils); and a long list of others. There are more than 5,000 phytonutrients that can be identified in our food supply. 
Accordingly, I find that the scientific literature clearly and consistently supports that the use of food sources of these micronutrients helps prevent and reverse chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and neurodegenerative disease (like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s). 
Here are a few examples of large clinical trials and epidemiological studies to support this:
- A Harvard study  of heart attacks reported in the June 2001 Annals of Internal Medicine looked prospectively at 84,251 women ages 34 to 59 who were followed for 14 years, and 42,148 men ages 40 to 75 who were followed for eight years. Each fruit or vegetable serving (mostly from green leafy vegetables and vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables) increase per day correlated with a 4 percent lowered risk for coronary heart disease, effectively a 36 percent reduction in heart attack rate if people in the study consumed 9 vegetable/fruit servings daily.
- The same researchers also found that “an increment of 1 serving per day of fruits or vegetables was associated with a 6% lower risk of ischemic stroke.”
- In the December 2000 Journal of the American Dietetics Association, authors reported  the substantial evidence that fruits and vegetables greatly help prevent cancer, cataracts, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diverticulosis and hypertension.
- A 1995 Harvard University study  of 47,894 men demonstrated that eating 10 or more tomato product (high lycopene content) servings a week was associated with a 34 percent reduction in prostate cancer.
We know that synthetic vitamin supplements are cheaper and easier to measure for industry control.
I find that nearly all vitamin manufacturers today produce their vitamin-mineral formulas by combining synthetic isolates with industrially-processed minerals. I suggest you take your vitamins and minerals in the form of powders that are actual freeze-dried or dehydrated foods. These are essentially “green drink” powders of actual foods.
Typically these products are labeled with the measured amounts of each vitamin, mineral, and other phytonutrients. Most importantly, the labels state all the real food sources contained in the product such as fruits, vegetables, roots, plants, herbs, yeast, or fish.
Also, labels should read, “100 percent natural” on the product’s label, not just “natural.” Undesirable synthetic salt forms of nutrients include the words acetate, bitartrate, chloride, gluconate, hydrochloride, nitrate and succinate. Synthetic forms of vitamins also include: vitamin a as acetate or palmitate; vitamin b1 as thiamine mononitrate or hydrochloride; vitamin b2 as riboflavin; vitamin b5 as calcium d-pantothenic acid; vitamin b6 as pyridoxine hydrochloride; vitamin b12 as cobalamin; PABA as aminobenzoic acid; folic acid as pteroylglutamic acid; choline as a chloride or bitartrate; vitamin C as ascorbic acid; vitamin D as irradiated ergosteral or calciferol; and vitamin E as dl-alpha tocopherol acetate or succinate.
In contrast, conscientious companies producing whole food micronutrient supplements like Food Research International grow plants hydroponically to enhance their concentration of nutrients. Then they dry the plants and test them for potency by HPLC (high performance liquid chromatography). That yields real food nutrients from real foods, with naturally occurring substances (such as enzymes, amino acids, lipids, and/or bioflavonoids). 
Superfood Nutrients The New Medicine
Ever heard of spirulina, chlorella, acai berries, gogi berries, maca root, mangosteen, noni and other foods known to be extremely high in phytonutrients? These and other berries, fruits, roots and greens can be consumed daily as your “superfood” nutrition. I’ll give you details in my next article.
So you will feel good,
Michael Cutler, M.D.
Easy Health Options
 Hu FB. Plant-based foods and prevention of cardiovascular disease: an overview. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Sep;78(3 Suppl):544S-551S.
 Walsh, et al. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Dec;86(6):1687-93.
 Albarracin SL, Stab B, Casas Z, Sutachan JJ, Samudio I, Gonzalez J, Gonzalo L, Capani F, Morales L, Barreto GE. Effects of natural antioxidants in neurodegenerative disease. Nutr Neurosci. 2012 Jan;15(1):1-9.
 Joshipura KJ, Hu FB, Manson JE. The effect of fruit and vegetable intake on risk for coronary heart disease. Ann Intern Med. 2001 Jun 19;134(12):1106-14.
 Van Duyn MA, Pivonka E. Overview of the health benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption for the dietetics professional: selected literature. J Am Diet Assoc. 2000 Dec;100(12):1511-21.
 Giovannucci E, Ascherio A, Rimm EB, Stampfer MJ, Colditz GA, Willett WC. Intake of carotenoids and retinol in relation to risk of prostate cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1995 Dec 6;87(23):1767-76.