The term whole food supplements makes many docs feel warm and fuzzy. We conjure up notions of wholeness and wellness. Many DC’s contact me regarding the issue of which supplements to use, whole food or synthetic.
In short, it would be impossible to actually use synthetic supplements, unless you limited yourself to dl-alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E) and vitamin D2, and synthetic Co Q10. I don’t know of any professional suppliers that intentionally use synthetic vitamin E or D, which means that “natural” versus “synthetic” is a sales tool and marketing trick. In this regard, a doctor recently forwarded to me the following comments:
“Whole foods are in a synergistic complex with all cofactors and lots of other phytonutrients, while synthetic vitamins are manufactured and initially have good effects but then may even cause harm in the long run. Royal Lee and others, like Weston Price, have found this to be true.”
This doctor is first confusing whole foods with supplements. Yes, we should eat whole foods, AND we should take “nature identical” supplements. Almost every supplement company supplies “nature identical” nutrients. All of the nutrients in a multivitamin are nature identical, which means the biochemical structure of the vitamin is identical to that found in nature. The manufacturing challenge is to standardize nature, so as to provide supplements that meet or exceed the daily estimated requirements.
Royal Lee passed away over forty years ago, and Weston Price passed away almost sixty years ago. What exactly did Drs. Lee and Price discover regarding synthetic vitamins and the harm they cause? Certainly, there must be something published during the past seventy years that demonstrates how taking a nature-identical multivitamin causes harm. In fact, just the opposite is true, especially when it comes to the handful of long-term studies that have been performed.
For example, almost 90,000 women who were initially free of colon cancer were followed for fifteen years. Both their diets and multivitamin use were tracked. At five and ten years, there was no difference in colon cancer expression. Even at fourteen years there was no difference; however, after fourteen years of multivitamin use, the evidence suggests a seventy-five percent reduction in the expression of colon cancer compared to those not taking a multivitamin.1
Cataract expression has also been studied in the context of multivitamin use. Compared with nonusers, the five-year risk for any cataract was sixty percent lower among persons who, at follow-up, reported using multivitamins or any supplement containing vitamin C or E for more than ten years. “These data suggest a lower risk for cataract among users of vitamin supplements and stronger associations with long-term use.”2
Dr. Bruce Ames, a world famous toxicologist, has been interviewed in several lay magazines due to his efforts in nutritional research. In a recent interview, Ames states that “no matter how well you eat, take a multivitamin daily; it just may save your life.” Of course, Ames was referring to “nature identical” nutrients.
While this article by no means represents an exhaustive literature review, I provided more information herein, compared with the unreferenced opinions put forth by those who supposedly sell/advocate natural vitamins. If you have been led to believe that nature identical supplements cause harm, you should begin asking for data to support such claims. You may be surprised to find that natural-synthetic argument has no merit and we do quite well with nature identical vitamins.
Dr. Seaman is the Clinical Chiropractic Consultant for Anabolic Laboratories, one of the first supplement manufacturers to service the chiropractic profession. He is on the postgraduate faculties of several chiropractic colleges, providing nutrition seminars that focus on the needs of the chiropractic patient. He is also a faculty member at Palmer College of Chiropractic Florida, where he teaches nutrition and subluxation theories. He can be reached by e-mail at
1. Giovannucci E et al. Multivitamin use, folate, and colon cancer in women in the Nurse’s Health Study. Ann Int Med 1998; 129:517-524
2. Mares-Perlman JA et al. Vitamin supplement use and incident cataracts in a population-based study. Arch Ophthalmol 2000; 118(11):1556-63
3. Jaret P. The Ames Prescription. Alternative Medicine. June 2005, p.76-81