I am sure many people who will read this have by now heard the growing arguments both for and against taking vitamin supplements. I am equally certain that most of the arguments you will have read leave more questions than answers and seem to be a battle of “he said, she said” rather than a legitimate case. The reason for this, is that both sides tend to leave out the true and most important reasons behind their claims. Hopefully this brief article will lay things clear.
For those readers who have not heard the arguments, I will briefly summarize them:
Those who are against supplements say that it is because they can be harmful and cause illness, even cancer, rather than prevent it.
Those others, like myself, who believe that though it is always best to get our vitamins from the food (and drink) we consume -the most natural manner- know that vitamin supplements are very often necessary and beneficial.
Very often our bodies need much more than what we can absorb from our food, especially today with the depletion of the soils, non-organic and even artificial foods and substances that abound, our own poor diet or illness and many other circumstances can all reduce the amount of vitamins we can naturally attain.
So which of these opinions is correct? Both of them are…yes, that’s right, they are both correct and you shall soon see why.
Firstly, there are indeed some vitamins which have been proven to have possible harmful side effects and even to increase your risk of cancer. But the vitamins that have been shown to have this danger are the lab created kind; the SYNTHETICS. Those are found in all the common, over the counter brands that people buy every day in drug stores and department stores, in pharmacies and grocery stores. Not only are these unnatural substitutes dangerous, but the body has a more difficult time assimilating them because they are not as bioavailable and in general, to do not react or absorb the way that natural products do. 99% of these “vitamins” pass right through your body without being absorbed at all. Your body does however, have to deal with the toxins from them. So you’re getting less out of your supplements and paying more (in the cost of your health).
Among some of the most dangerous are the B vitamins.
For instance, you can pick up many B12 supplements (or one containing B12) and you will see that it lists it as cyanocobalamin. Cyanocobalamin is a cheap, synthetic made in a laboratory. It’s virtually impossible for you to find this form in nature. Low-end vitamin manufacturers use it because it can be bought in bulk and added to products with claims that they “contain vitamin B-12!” What they don’t tell you is that the vitamin is bound to a toxic, poisonous cyanide molecule that must then be removed from your body by your liver. Cyanocobalamin is also up to 100 times cheaper than the higher quality methylcobalamin, which I will talk about below.
In summary, Cyanocobalamin is a low-grade, low-quality and slightly toxic (cyanide) form of vitamin B-12 that’s used by many vitamin manufacturers. I recommend avoiding it completely. It won’t kill you to take it in the short term, of course, but there’s a better and safer solution for B-12.
The proper form of vitamin B-12 to supplement is called methylcobalamin. This is the form that exists in nature, and it is pre-methylated, meaning it’s ready for your biochemistry to put to immediate use. Methylcobalamin has several key advantages over cyanocobalamin:
~Better retention in tissues
~Contains no toxic cyanide
~Supports production of SAMe
So, by this example you can clearly see that certain vitamins worse than others. But the key reason and factor we’re looking at is that they are lab created, not in their natural state, or in other words, “synthetic chemical-bound” vitamins.
On the other hand, when we take supplements that are derived naturally, from herbs or other foods, they are recognized by the body and more easily assimilated, because they are natural. They very rarely can be taken in excess or with any side effects occurring of themselves (unless you have some special sensitivity or allergy, etc..).
Another reason common, over the counter vitamins (and minerals) are not assimilated well and can be harmful is because most often they are not only synthetic, but they are isolated and arranged in various varieties or singly to what man thinks best. But that is not how nature intended to give them, nor how are bodies were made to receive them! And therefore, without their proper companions, like other trace minerals or other vitamins as they would be found together in a natural piece of food, they become even more foreign to our bodies, un-absorbable and less effective. When vitamins are isolated this way and synthetic as well, the combination is a precarious one. We are not only taking in more toxins and adding to our body’s burden, but we are assimilating very little of those nutrients we need and our risk of overdosing or developing unpleasant and even dangerous side effects is very common. This is also true of so many products where “vitamins are added”, rather they be foods or drinks.
Now, in the face of these facts it must also become clear that the best way to get our vitamins and minerals is through the most natural means, the food and drink we consume, whenever possible. This means eating fresh and organic (naturally grown, with no pesticides, chemicals or additives, etc.) fruits, herbs, vegetables, grains, meats, dairy and so on. By eating the most wholesome and organic food possible we will be able to reap the most benefit from it. Naturally, in today’s world this is not always possible. Also when trying to regain or build our health during or after illness or poor lifestyle, we will most likely need extra help. And so we turn to supplements that are easy to obtain and add to our routine and diet, to lend us a hand. There is absolutely nothing wrong in this, provided we make wise and informed decisions when choosing our supplements.
It might sound like there is a lot of work in choosing the right supplements, but actually it’s fairly simple. Always read the labels! Make sure your vitamins and minerals are coming from natural sources, like herbs or other foods. If you see a proper name for a vitamin that you don’t understand or recognize, look it up by doing a simple Google or Wiki search online for it’s definition or ask a qualified Herbalist or Natural Health Consultant for advice before you buy. In the end it’s a lot more simple and rewarding to make an informed decision, instead of an ignorant one. Buying naturally derived/organic supplements is not only safer but it’s practical and more beneficial, not only now, but also in the future; it just makes sense!
It is my hope that this brief article will give you insight into your supplements and how they can affect your health, and that it can help to break through all the confusion and conflicting opinions on this topic.
Just remember.. Buy natural! Buy organic! 🙂