Have you heard of the Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA) of nutrients?
According to the National Institutes of Health, the RDA should help 97 to 98% of healthy individuals meet their nutrient needs.
But what you’re not told is that you need to meet your body’s nutrient needs from real foods. Because if you try to meet your RDA requirements using synthetic nutrients, you could further worsen your health. And create additional nutrient deficiencies.
Your body cannot use synthetic nutrients
Real food nutrients and synthetic ones often look identical under a microscope. However, your body can easily differentiate between the two based on:
1. The nutrient’s source
Let’s consider vitamin B1, thiamine, which is naturally found in various vegetables. Its synthetic version (and various other man-made vitamins) often comes from a coal derivative, a ‘dead’ product.
Our body can tell when something is biologically active or not . Keep reading to find out how.
The molecules in synthetic vitamins are often mirror images of those in real foods.
For instance, vitamin E is present as D-alpha-tocopherol in real foods. DL- forms of vitamin E are synthetic and largely ‘ignored’ by the body .
You see, the liver produces specific binding and transport proteins which select the natural d-alpha form of vitamin E. Due to their structure, the DL-forms of vitamin E will not bind to these proteins.
In other words, your body can use real-food vitamin E but not its synthetic cousin.
Gilbert Levin, Ph.D., explains this beautifully : “Because its structure is reversed, a left-handed molecule cannot take part in chemical reactions meant for right-handed molecule any more than a left hand can fit in a right-handed glove... its odd geometry would prevent it from being metabolized by the body."
The foods we eat are complex – we don’t eat isolated nutrients but various co-factors such as vitamins, enzymes, and minerals in a single package.
These nutrients work together synergistically, in ways that are not yet fully understood, to confer specific health benefits. Or simply facilitate absorption .
If one co-factor is missing or is not present in its natural form or amount, entire biochemical pathways will be unable to proceed normally [5-7].
Since synthetic nutrients are mirror images of just a fraction of real food nutrients, they don’t come with these co-factors. The body must therefore use its own mineral reserves to absorb the synthetic vitamins [5-7].
And since the body hasn’t adapted to these differences, taking large doses of synthetic nutrients can spell a great deal of trouble.
Mega-doses of synthetic nutrients: Bad news for your body’s biochemistry
When you take high doses of synthetic supplements, your body must use (deplete) its existing stores of real nutrients to (6, 8 -10):
In other words, synthetic supplements can put you at risk of developing nutrient deficiencies without fixing existing ones! The higher the nutrient dose, the more work your body will have to do.
Another issue is that the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K get stored in our fat tissue where they can build up and cause toxicity [8 – 11].
What you can do about this
All of us are exposed, daily, to pesticides, obesogens, and other nasty chemicals that increase our body’s needs for quality vitamins. In a perfect world, we would get all the necessary nutrients for optimal health from real foods.
Unfortunately, the declining quality of the air, water, and soil is rapidly making this an unrealistic goal.
Therefore, most of us would probably benefit from quality nutrient supplementation, more than ever before. Real food derived supplements could fill our nutrient gaps without harming our health in the process.
Murray, Richard P. "Natural vs. Synthetic." Health Tlc
Traber, M. G., Elsner, A., & Brigelius-Flohé, R. (1998). Synthetic as compared with natural vitamin E is preferentially excreted as α‐CEHC in human urine: studies using deuterated α‐tocopheryl acetates. FEBS letters, 437(1-2), 145-148.
Jacobs Jr, D. R., Gross, M. D., & Tapsell, L. C. (2009). Food synergy: an operational concept for understanding nutrition–. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 89(5), 1543S-1548S.
Liu, R. H. (2003). Health benefits of fruit and vegetables are from additive and synergistic combinations of phytochemicals. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 78(3), 517S-520S.
Jacobs, D. R., Tapsell, L. C., & Temple, N. J. (2011). Food synergy: the key to balancing the nutrition research effort. Public Health Reviews, 33(2), 507.
Jacobs, D. R., & Tapsell, L. C. (2013). Food synergy: the key to a healthy diet. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 72(2), 200-206.
Yetley, E. A. (2007). Multivitamin and multimineral dietary supplements: definitions, characterization, bioavailability, and drug interactions–. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 85(1), 269S-276S.
Berdanier, C. D., & Berdanier, L. A. (2015). Advanced nutrition: macronutrients, micronutrients, and metabolism. CRC Press.
Gropper, S. S., & Smith, J. L. (2012). Advanced nutrition and human metabolism. Cengage Learning.
Stipanuk, M. H., & Caudill, M. A. (2013). Biochemical, Physiological, and Molecular Aspects of Human Nutrition-E-Book. Elsevier health sciences.
Blomhoff, R. (2001). Vitamin A and carotenoid toxicity. Food and Nutrition Bulletin, 22(3), 320-334.