Many people don’t get enough nutrients from the diet alone (
Here’s the difference between natural and synthetic nutrients:
- Natural nutrients: These are obtained from whole food sources in the diet.
- Synthetic nutrients: Also referred to as isolated nutrients, these are usually made artificially, in an industrial process.
Synthetic nutrients do not include “whole food supplements,” which are made from concentrated, dehydrated whole foods. The majority of supplements available on the market today are made artificially. These include vitamins, antioxidants, minerals and amino acids, among others. They can be taken in pill, capsule, tablet, powder or liquid form, and are made to mimic the way natural nutrients act in our bodies.
To figure out if your supplement is synthetic or natural, check the label. Natural supplements usually list food sources or are labeled as 100% plant or animal-based. Supplements that list nutrients individually, such as vitamin C, or use chemical names like ascorbic acid, are almost certainly synthetic.
Synthetic nutrients are dietary supplements made artificially in a laboratory setting or industrial process. Natural nutrients are those found in whole foods.
The accepted view is that synthetic nutrients are almost chemically identical to those found in food. However, the production process of synthetic nutrients is very different to the way plants and animals create them. So despite having a similar structure, your body may react differently to synthetic nutrients. Additionally, it’s unclear how well synthetic nutrients are absorbed and used in the body. Some may be more easily absorbed, not others (
It is unclear how well synthetic nutrients are absorbed and used in the body. Your body will use nutrients best when taken in whole food form, with a wide variety of food compounds.
Natural whole foods may help manage and prevent heart disease, diabetes, cancer and early death. These benefits have been linked to the wide range of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber and fatty acids found in whole foods.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables provide us with fiber, vitamins, minerals and plant compounds, which are thought to be responsible for many health benefits. Observational studies show that higher fruit and vegetable intake is linked to a lower risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis and some brain disorders (
Scientists believe that the high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish are responsible for improved heart health. Many large observational studies have shown that people who eat fish regularly have a lower risk of heart attacks, strokes and death from heart disease (
Beans and Legumes
Experts believe that the high soluble fiber content and the wide range of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in beans and legumes may help reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers (
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are high in antioxidants, minerals and healthy fats. They have been associated with a reduced risk of early death, heart disease and diabetes (
Whole grains contain many valuable nutrients, including fiber, B vitamins and minerals such as iron, magnesium and selenium. Whole grain consumption has also been associated with protection against cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity (
Evidence supports the idea that natural nutrients found in whole foods can prevent against a wide range of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer and premature death.
Although it’s clear that natural nutrients are associated with many health benefits, the evidence for synthetic supplements is mixed.
Some observational studies have found multivitamin use to be associated with a lower risk of heart disease and cancer (
One large study looked into the effects of a high-dose multivitamin on heart health. After almost 5 years, the study found that multivitamins had no beneficial effect (
However, several other studies have linked multivitamin supplements to improved memory in older adults (
Single and Paired Vitamins
One review found no clear evidence that single or paired supplements benefit heart disease (
Despite knowing that adequate vitamin D levels are critical for good health and disease prevention, vitamin D supplements are also under much scrutiny (
Several reviews have found no evidence to support antioxidant supplements, including beta-carotene, vitamins A, C, E, and selenium (alone or in combination) for reduced risk of death and cancer (
Studies about the beneficial health effects of many synthetic nutrients have been inconsistent, weak or shown no effect.
There is no clear evidence to suggest that most synthetic nutrients are beneficial for healthy, well-nourished people.
However, there are certain groups who may benefit from supplementing with synthetic nutrients. These include:
- The elderly: This group tends to be at a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency and may also need more vitamin B12 and calcium for bone health (
57Trusted Source, 58Trusted Source).
- Vegans and vegetarians: As certain vitamins and minerals are found mainly in animal products, this group is often at a high risk of deficiency for vitamin B12, calcium, zinc, iron and vitamin D (
59Trusted Source, 60Trusted Source).
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women: These women may have to supplement their diet with extra vitamins and/or minerals (such as vitamin D) and avoid others (such as vitamin A) (
- Women of childbearing age: This group is often encouraged to take a folic acid supplement to reduce the risk of neural tube defects if they do become pregnant. However, taking more than you need may have some risks.
- People with nutrient deficiencies: Certain dietary supplements may treat nutritional deficiencies, such as iron supplements for treating iron deficiency anaemia (
For certain groups of people at risk of nutritional deficiencies, certain synthetic supplements can be beneficial.
In general, taking supplements according to the amounts directed on the package is safe for most people. However, the
If you already consume a wide range of nutrients through your diet, taking extra supplements can exceed the recommended daily intake of many nutrients. When taken in excess, water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C and B vitamins are flushed out of the body through your urine. However, fat-soluble vitamins — vitamins A, D, E, and K — may be stored in the body. This means that there is a risk of them accumulating to high levels, leading to hypervitaminosis.
Pregnant women need to be especially careful with their vitamin A intake, as excess amounts have been linked to birth defects (
Other studies have linked multivitamin use to increased cancer risk, and iron supplements can be harmful for people who don’t need them (
Taking large amounts of synthetic nutrients can have harmful health effects. Recommended daily doses are safe for most people, but caution is advised.
The Oshun Health products are natural/non-synthetic supplements extracted from whole food.