Did you know that some supplements may contain food concentrates such as blueberry, broccoli, or spinach, in very small amounts so the label can read “Natural?”
Or that most companies don’t produce supplements made from whole foods but by synthetic means?
From Phillip Maffetone DC, The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing (Emphasis added)
Food sources of naturally occurring vitamin C have biological effects, acting as antioxidants and protecting DNA from oxygen damage— something that occurs in endurance athletes often during training and especially when anaerobic. The dose of vitamin C contained in a high-quality meal of vegetables and fruits may be 100 mg or less. However, the synthetic counterpart (ascorbic acid and the various similar forms), found in almost all dietary supplements, may function differently. High doses of synthetic vitamin C, typically 500 to 1,000 mg tablets, can perform as an antioxidant but can also transform to a deadly pro-oxidant— which can cause excess free-radical activity and inflammation.
Vitamins C [is] often sold under the “natural” label— as are most others, including all the synthetic vitamins. In nature these vitamins occur with other chemical components including a wide variety of phytonutrients. In addition, synthetic supplements have lower bioavailability. Synthetic vitamin C, for example, is not as biologically available and the body gets rid of it more quickly, in comparison to vitamin C in real foods. Studies have shown that vitamin C from food is 35 percent better absorbed, and excreted more slowly, than synthetic vitamin C.
There are also other potential side effects associated with HSAIDS (“High-Dose Synthetic and Isolated Dietary Supplements.”), including the following:
- Popular doses of vitamin C supplements can be toxic when they react with the iron in the body or iron in dietary supplements. This is because of the powerful free radicals produced by iron.
- Consuming popular doses of iron can result in excess ferritin (the body’s storage form of iron), which has been associated with an increased risk of heart disease and liver stress. High iron intake can also produce damaging excess free radicals and intestinal distress.
- Common preparations of copper, zinc, or selenium supplements can be toxic and can even cause disease.
- Popular doses of vitamin K and B6 can be toxic.
- Consuming popular high doses of vitamin A can result in bone loss and increase the risk of hip fractures in the elderly.
- Consuming popular doses of beta-carotene has been shown to increase lung cancer risk.
Other important considerations:
- None of the nutrients that can cause harm in the body from dietary supplements are harmful when consumed in real food.
- Taking a dietary supplement can promote a false sense of security that you’re getting all the nutrients needed for optimal endurance and health.
- While researchers have found for decades that consumption of vegetables and fruits significantly decrease the risk of many diseases, most studies have concluded that dietary supplements containing the same vitamins and minerals do not.
- The International Olympic Committee states that up to one in four dietary supplements can produce a positive test for banned substances.
Within the dietary supplement industry, the biggest players— those that manufacture the synthetic vitamins and raw materials used to make HSAIDS— are the pharmaceutical companies themselves. The natural foods companies that make real food dietary supplements are generally small and not as welcomed into the natural foods market yet. However, the image that “natural” dietary supplements are prevalent, and the marketing of supplements as “real food” is widespread. But most of these claims are untrue when you read the fine print or know how products are actually made. Because of the wholesome image of “natural foods,” some supplements may contain food concentrates such as blueberry, broccoli, or spinach. However, these plant materials are not only added in minuscule amounts, they also are often made from foods cooked at very high temperatures. The reason for their inclusion, as market researchers tell us, is that it looks good on the label; an ad can even say the product contains real food, or some other claim about being made from fruits and vegetables. But a careful look at the label shows that the vitamins in these products are usually synthetic, were added separately, and are not from those “real” foods. Discerning and uncovering these hidden tricks is often not easy for the average consumer. Another gimmick commonly used in the supplement industry is the use of yeast that’s been fed synthetic vitamins. The technique is simple: feed a nutrient to living yeast, then dry the yeast and add it to a dietary supplement as a source of nutrients. In the case of minerals it may be a useful technique, and claims of “natural” can be made honestly since all minerals— from calcium and magnesium to manganese and zinc— exist on earth in a natural form (most carried to this planet from the sun during the earth’s creation). But feeding a synthetic vitamin made by a drug company to yeast, adding the yeast to a supplement and then calling it “natural” and “real-food” is grossly misleading and deceptive.