I’ve had some interesting discussions with people about why I don’t formulate products that contain whole-food vitamins. And they also mistakenly believe that products like Absorb Plus contain synthetic vitamins or minerals – because if vitamins are not whole-food, then they must be synthetic.
First of all, minerals are rarely (if ever) synthetic because they are fairly cheap to extract/refine. Vitamins can be synthetic (especially watch out for Vitamin E) but the fact that they are synthetic is often indicated in the nomenclature.
D-Alpha Tocopherol – Natural Vit. E
DL-Alpha Tocopherol – Synthetic Vit. E
L-proline – Natural amino acid
D-proline – Synthetic amino acid
All other vitamins are extracted from the whole food, or source material. Some use chemical extraction/filtering processes, others use natural methods like water, fermentation, steam, etc.
When I formulate health products, I only select natural-source and naturally-extracted nutrients – to do this, I get the manufacturing flow chart from the raw supplier to check through all the filtering/extraction processes.
Sometimes you can get a natural-extraction form of the vitamin, but it’s in a matrix of sucrose and synthetic Vitamin E, for example (yes, this has actually happened). None of these bases are ever listed on any label, nor do most formulators, or manufacturers, even KNOW they are part of the vitamin. You will only find out when you request extra documentation (beyond the Certificate of Analysis) from the raw material supplier. So that is another reason I obtain the entire flow process chart from source material through the extraction/fermentation process, to the finished material.
Does synthesized mean toxic? Not necessarily. You have to keep in mind that many of the studies that show the beneficial effects of vit/min supplementation use synthesized or chemical-reactant forms. Perhaps because these forms are cheaper, or can be patented. But also because whole food forms are not available or not suitable for clinical trials – not isolated enough to be able to attribute the effect to one particular substance.
As you can see with the Vitamin E example, some vitamins/minerals are molecularly identical to the natural form found in food, and some are not. Some can be extracted from natural sources and some cannot (or are not available).
When you’re researching clinical trials on vitamins or minerals, I encourage you to not just to accept them wholesale, but look for credible, scientific data to back up each statement. And you must trace the information back to it’s original data. For example, an article that was circulating on Facebook referenced a study where the first assertion was that Chromium chloride “has negative affects on the reproductive system for both men and women.”
However, in the original reference given to back up this statement, you will notice they differentiate between trivalent chromium (chromium III) and hexavalent chromium (chromium VI). And the study says that the rats (not humans) were given BOTH for most of the study and they also don’t tell the us the weight-dependent dose. So we have no way of assessing whether the substance is the issue, or the dosage. Remember that even ingesting too much water can kill you. But regardless, the NIH database already recognizes that hexavalent chromium is toxic.
But trivalent chromium is a safer form. If you are not going to consume chromium as part of your natural food intake (it is present in bananas, potatoes, broccoli etc.), then it has to be in an extracted, or synthesized (hopefully molecularly identical) form. Of course, to have a naturally-extracted substance, derived from natural source material is ideal.
There are MANY health gurus on the web who just repeat what they heard somewhere else, without ever checking source references. For example, this happened with bentonite clay and I found literally HUNDREDS of sites, doctors, practitioners all re-quoting the same statement, which turned out to be wrong. As it was mis-quoted right at the beginning, but because no one ever bothered to check the source study, they just kept re-quoting the incorrect information. So I wrote a blog post about it to set the record straight. That’s just one example.
As the formulator of Absorb Plus – and as someone who has also personally used the product for months – I am always revising and improving the formula as better forms of the ingredients become available. There is always the balance between the ideal and what is currently available. For example, another factor is taste – while a certain form may show better absorption, it may also have a very strong taste that’s going to make the shake difficult for kids to drink. So in that case I make the choice to have the milder form.
In summary, I try – because don’t forget I personally ingest all these products myself! – to source as close to nature as is possible at that time. I hope I’ve managed to give you an understanding of the complexity of product formulation. And when that product needs to be elemental, it is even more difficult to juggle between the ideal and reality.
And, YES if you can tolerate whole food sources of nutrition, you absolutely should consume those! Here’s a blog post I wrote with recipes and ideas.
And did you listen to my latest teleseminar with Dr. Goldberg – who does not take ANY daily supplements?
Hope that helps and above all, listen to your gut! Your gut knows what it needs and what is best for you, at this time.