NATURAL VERSUS SYNTHETIC

In recent years there has been a shift towards vitamin formulas that contain a range of nutrients to ensure they more closely mimic the mix of nutrients, enzymes and other co-factors found naturally in food. But you can’t take a whole bunch of oranges and extract vitamin C from them to make a supplement, says naturopath and Blackmores health professional educator Sarah Culverhouse. You need to take certain components from the food and alter them so that they can be put in a tablet form. Regardless, the vitamin C in the supplement and the vitamin C in the orange behave the same in your body, even if one involves some synthetic components.

Many health professionals disagree and say that we don’t understand all the co-factors that food contain, so we can’t possibly replicate them in a pill. The rise of wholefood supplements seeks to address this issue. They are made of concentrated, dehydrated foods.

With some brands, additional vitamins and minerals are added to the mix. Many wholefood formulas combine 10, 20, even 40 different kinds of organic non-genetically modified fruit and vegetables. Some brands add probiotic cultures and then ferment the mix and make it into tablets. These formulas contain ingredients like strawberry, pomegranate, sprouted broccoli, barley grass, daikon radish, upland cress and acai berry, which all sound worthy of the cleanest diet. And because the supplements are made of these dehydrated foods, they are said to more closely resemble the bioavailability of real food. But whether they are healthier is still a case of conjecture, because studies have not been done to compare them with the other varieties of supplements gracing the shelves of supermarkets and health food stores.

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