What Actually Goes Into Supplements?

Most people who take a daily multivitamin or supplement have good intentions when it comes to their overall health and well-being. With so many different products on the market, it’s difficult to find the healthiest ones for your body. Both vitamin supplements and drugs can be classified as natural or artificial. Private label products tend to use higher-quality materials. When creating vitamins, there are several types of manufacturing processes. It’s essential to know where your vitamins come from and what makes them natural and what doesn’t.

Natural Source

Nutrients obtained from minerals, vegetables, and animals are considered natural sources. Before their nutrients show up in your bottles, these sources go through significant processing and refining. For a vitamin to be considered natural, it is required to contain 10 percent of the ingredient in its natural raw state. The other 90 percent is likely synthetic. To reduce costs, some manufacturers extract vitamin E from soybean or vegetable oils. Soybeans are pressed, and the protein is removed by precipitation. The oil is distilled and bottled as vegetable oil. Lastly, vitamin E is extracted from the leftover lecithin and wax.

Nature-Identical Synthetic

Manufacturers prefer this process because it keeps costs down. Nature-identical synthetics have the same molecular structure as those nutrients found in nature. Most supplements on the market currently are made as nature-identical synthetic. Vitamin C is an excellent example that is often manufactured artificially.

Strictly Synthetic

Synthetic nutrients aren’t the same as those found in nature. They have the same chemical elements but in a different form. Synthetic nutrients are essential because the human body makes enzymes that only work correctly with a vitamin of the same form. The base materials for synthetically produced supplements are acetylene gas, petroleum or coal tar. Coal tar is widely used in vitamin B1. Hydrochloric acid is usually added for precipitation. Heating, cooling and fermenting is done until the synthetic supplement is created.


Cultured foods, such as yogurt, miso, sauerkraut, and kefir, are examples of whole food-labeled supplements. Nutrient supplements are grown in algae and yeast. The process of culturing makes them more bioavailable. Synthetic nutrients and minerals are added to the algae or yeast and concentrated within cells. This type is then harvested and made into a supplement. Manufacturers combine synthetic vitamins with food-cultured vitamins to make them more potent.


Food-based or whole-food supplements are made by using enzymes to compound natural and synthetic vitamins with vegetable proteins. It is also done by blending both synthetic and natural nutrients into a herbal or whole-food base. Each process integrates vital vitamins and minerals. Many food-based vitamins and supplements also contain fillers and binders.

Bacterial Fermentation

Fermentation is a metabolic process that bacteria use to generate energy for cell growth. Nutrient byproducts are produced by genetically altered bacteria. Some examples of these nutrient byproducts are CoQ10, riboflavin, vitamin B12, amino acids, and vitamin D2.

Do You Really Need to Take Supplements?

Most people take vitamin supplements because they are afraid that they aren’t getting enough nutrients from the foods they eat. Sadly, this is the reality for many people. The average American diet is lacking in necessary nutrients and vitamins. Even for those who put in the extra effort to eat high amounts of fruits and vegetables, there is a risk of malnourishment. This is because many nutrients don’t make it into our food; instead, they are lost from the soil due to irrigation, fertilizers, pesticides, farming practices, and herbicides.

There are situations in which even if someone eats a balanced diet, he or she still would benefit from a multivitamin. For example, women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should take folic acid daily. This supplement protects babies from being born with neural-tube defects. Older adults have an increased risk of developing osteoporosis and benefit from extra vitamin D. Doctors may recommend vitamin supplements for those who have medical conditions that lead to deficiencies.

People who abuse alcohol or have dietary restrictions should also take a daily multivitamin. The same is true for individuals with digestive conditions, including chronic diarrhea, Crohn’s disease, gastric bypass surgery, and celiac disease, all of which can interfere with properly absorbing vitamins from food. Consult with a doctor if you are unsure of how much of each vitamin to consume.

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