Are synthetic vitamins as effective as natural vitamins? If you review the research, you can find arguments supporting both. However, as reported by Dogs Naturally, many synthetic vitamins are made from industrial waste products from the oil and coal industries and most come from China or India, where there is little, if any manufacturing oversight. In our opinion, it is best to get vitamins from locally sourced whole foods, if possible. Not only will the vitamins themselves be of higher quality, but whole foods also contain other plant compounds with potential benefit.
Let’s look at vitamin C as an example. Research shows that the bioavailability (the amount absorbed) after a single portion of orange juice and a synthetic vitamin C drink, both containing 150 mg of vitamin C, is the same. However, only the natural vitamin C protects DNA from oxidative damage. In contrast, other research demonstrates no difference between natural and synthetic vitamin C when other endpoints are measured. Unfortunately, research showing differences between natural and synthetic vitamins is of little help, so we need to rely on common sense to decide what is best. Generally, vitamins and minerals are interdependent and work best when consumed in combination, as found in whole foods. Add to that, our knowledge of the unsavory practices followed by Chinese and Indian manufacturers and it makes good sense to favor natural over synthetic vitamins.
So, how do you know if the vitamins you are buying are natural or synthetic? The word ‘natural’ on the label can be misleading. A vitamin can be labeled as natural if it contains only 10% of the natural vitamin! That means that a vitamin with the word ‘natural’ on the label can actually contain 90% synthetic vitamin. When reading the vitamin label, take note of the potency – natural vitamins from plant sources are never highly concentrated. In contrast, synthetic vitamins are often available in unnaturally high concentrations. In addition, the label for a natural vitamin will show the plant source of the vitamin. For example, yeast is a good whole foods source of vitamins B1, B3, B5, B6, and B9 and liver is a good source of vitamins B9 and B12. Labels listing B vitamins as niacin, nicotinic acid, pantothenate, pyridoxine, folic acid, or cyanocobalamin, are from synthetic sources. Fish oils are a good natural source of vitamins A and D, rose hips and fruits and berries are good natural sources of vitamin C, and wheat germ, tocopherol, and alpha-tocopherol (NOT dl-alpha tocopherol) are good sources of natural vitamin E.
If you feed your pet a raw whole foods diet, you may not need to supplement with vitamins. If you feed kibble, Dogs Naturally found that only THREE brands of kibble use all natural vitamins: Acana Limited Ingredients, Carna4, and Nature’s Logic. To read the Dogs Naturally article on vitamins for dogs, go to http://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/vitamins-dogs-3-reasons-stay-away/.