Vitamin and Mineral Supplements – To take or Not To Take

Written by Cyndi

Time To Read: 17 minutes

September 13, 2012

As a young nutrition student I was taught that even though the vitamin or mineral is made in a laboratory, there is no difference between the vitamins and minerals found in food and the synthetic version made in a chemical laboratory.  This statement never ever sat well with me, but as a young 22 year old, what does she know, my professors were gods and science was the ultimate when I was doing my bachelor of science.

When I first started to consult as a nutritionist, I trusted a supplement company and the head of that company.  I would talk about diet to my clients, but always gave some sort of supplement.  I had fallen into the trap that our food could not give us the nutrients we need, people were growing increasingly sick, so it was important to supplement.  I even took supplements myself, the best I thought.  I also at this stage wanted to have children, so took supplements in the lead up to pregnancy.

Fast forward 30 years, and I wish I knew then what I know now.  I had no idea how the vitamins were made I just trusted the companies that made the supplements that I used.

Becoming a food distributor and learning about supplements and how they are made has started a whole new learning curve with regards to who makes the vitamins and minerals, who puts them together, how do they put them together, what is a gel cap made from, how is a capsule made and what are the ingredients of the capsule as well as how is a tablet bound.  I’ve also found that they add synthetic vitamins to natural super foods to increase the vitamin percentage as well as increase potency of fish oil with synthetic derivatives.

Every week I seem to learn something more that infuriates me.  I have spoken about many of these things before but in dribs and drabs as I learn them.  This month I really want to make sure that you become empowered when you are in front of all the supplements at your local pharmacy or health food store or natural therapist, so that you know exactly what you are taking and you can make an educated decision about the product.

At the end of this article I will go through the things to look for on a label so that you know whether it is laboratory based supplement or real food.  This way you make the educated decision on whether you will consume the supplement or not, rather than being cajouled by pretty packaging with great marketing.

We all can do better as we know better, I know that this goes for me too.  I look at the mistakes I’ve made, but at the time it was the information I had and I did the best I could.  But now that I am armed with new information I can share this with others and hopefully help our future generations to not make the same mistakes.  There is a revolution happening and people are no longer complacent about their health and wellbeing, they are no longer trusting their health care provider but rather questioning and becoming informed. As Dr Jack Kruse says, ‘question everything’.

This whole thing about supplements came to a head after my brief mention of it in my last newsletter.  I was hauled across the coals by a natural therapist who said that they had enough opposition from the medical fraternity and why was one of their own slandering the supplement market.  I wrote back to her explaining my position.  But my main theme was; “do I keep this a secret when I know better, because of my investigation and just let the craziness of the supplement industry perpetuate out of control or do I become a messenger”.  I ask you, please to not shoot the messenger and if you don’t believe me and you are a natural therapist or someone who wants to know more, do your own investigation and you will find out exactly what I have.  Phone calls seem to be better than google.  Although having said that there are many road blocks that seem to stop you finding out the whole story – I don’t know the whole story, but just part of the story was enough for me to be concerned.

Just like drug manufacturers who have seminars and teach doctors how to use the drugs and show them the wonderful research, we also have supplement companies who have seminars and teach chiropractors, naturopaths, iridologist, nutritionists etc how wonderful their supplements are and what they can be used for.  Remember I was one of delegates at these seminars when I was just fresh out of university.  These companies are not deliberately being deceitful, it is a belief in the supplement philosophy.   I just have a different philosophy.

I’m also not saying that drugs and supplements are on a par.  Far from that!  Medications have contributed to many deaths, ill health, side effects, psychosis, physical disability, birth defects, allergies, intolerance, rashes and mental illness, to name a few.  In fact the supplement industry is far from these problems, the new annual report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers shows zero direct deaths from multiple vitamins; zero deaths from vitamin A, niacin, vitamin B-6, vitamin D, or vitamin E.  I don’t dispute this at all.  Vitamins are far safer than medications which in the past have killed tens of thousands a year.  The issue is not the death rate the issue is this; “is taking vitamin and mineral supplements the best thing to do for optimum health or is it more important to get what you eat under control so that the body functions better and is able to ward off lifestyle diseases that debilitate and kill a large proportion of the modern society?”  It is a question worth asking.

The body needs vitamins and minerals (micro nutrients) as well as fats, protein and carbohydrates (macro nutrients) in order to function and be healthy.  Some are essential, which means we must eat them for survival, others can be made by the body as long as the building blocks are available.  Some of our nutrients are synthesised by the microbiomes (microorganisms) within our gut and other spaces in the body.  If we take antibiotics and don’t eat foods that our evolutionary past has dictated then a less than functioning at full health body is the result.

Never in the history of our evolution did we ever find a single nutrient without a cloud of macro and micro nutrients surrounding it.  In other words food was the delivery tool and with no antibiotics, chlorinated water and preservatives in food our microbiomes were able to synthesise the other essential nutrients that symbiotically have provided us for eons.

A lot of modern illness is a result of the current broken lifestyle and that is a lifestyle that is incongruent with our evolutionary biology.  This is perpetuated by modern luxuries.  Instead of having a lot of our health behaviours being dependent on survival we now have an option to not engage in things that keep us healthy.

If you want to be healthy you have to cultivate and maintain daily personal habits that enhance health survival.  At the moment we have the option to not engage in these practices.  By having a daily plan that emulates a survival mechanism we can change our health potential.  Emulating a survival mechanism in part is about, eating the real foods from real sources.  I believe if we don’t turn this around then we will continue this epidemic of child hood diseases that cannot perpetuate a healthy human species to continue into the future.  I guess some might say I’m taking this to the extreme, but it is my firm belief that we must go back to a lifestyle that is congruent with our evolutionary biology and supplementing with isolated and synthetic nutrients is not part of our past.

So let’s continue with the topic at hand and that is how to know whether the supplement you are taking is from natural sources or synthetic and is it part of your survival mechanism that is important to engage.

My first realisation in all this was the iodine that was added to table salt – it was called potassium iodate.  I learnt how it was mined, processed and then came into the country – in a barrel marked poison not only via mouth but on skin.  So I started to look at the iodine in supplements and found it was the same iodine they added to table salt – potassium iodate.  Hmmm!

Then research on calcium supplementation was pointing to the fact that one of the worst advice that was given to premenopausal women and women after menopause was to take calcium supplements to prevent osteoporosis.  Most of the calcium in supplements is not from natural sources and is not absorbed from the gut, what is absorbed often runs free in the blood system and can contribute to calcified arteriosclerosis as well as lipping and spurring on bones.  And men are not free from problems with calcium supplementation.  Men who have a high intake of calcium supplements appear to have a greater risk of CVD (cardiovascular disease) death, researchers from the National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Md., reported in JAMA Internal Medicine.  The men on over 1,000 mg/day calcium supplementation had a 20% greater risk of total CVD death (including 19% higher heart disease and 14% higher cerebrovascular disease risk of death).

Iron was another food fortifier and supplement that made me realise there was some crookedness in this department.  When I found out that some iron supplements as well as most foods fortified with iron were magnetic (you can remove them with a magnet) I began to question every fortification and every laboratory based supplement.

My next question was, how were the vitamins and minerals made and what were they made of?  This is not easy to find out, but I did find out that some Vitamin A is made from Acetone. Vitamin C from Keto Acid and other vitamins from petrochemicals.

When you are buying a tonne of something the real truth comes out in the ingredients, you get to ask the questions about the source of the vitamins, the ingredients of the capsule or how the tablet is made.  Basically the supplement market has been taken over by the chemical companies.  Chemical companies in Germany are making many of the ingredients for many Australian supplement companies, including people I’ve always trusted.  How do I know?  I called them and asked them what the source of their vitamin C was or their vitamin D, they said they didn’t know because they used a supplement manufacturing company in Sydney that did all the making and sourcing of the supplements.  I rang that company and asked them. I then found out that the same company made many supplements for many Australian supplement companies.
Even Practitioner only companies are not at fault and make their vitamins and mineral supplements from synthetic sources and have flavours, colours, and other additives that I won’t and don’t consume and I won’t or don’t recommend.  Ethics is the most important issue in a company.  When I see a company that I trust add additives, preservatives, flavourings and soy protein isolate to their products I lose all trust in them and their products.

How do you make a best selling supplement?

Many supplements like glutathione and Coenzyme Q 10 have become big sellers in the supplement market, which by the way in the US alone annualises to a 28 billion dollar industry.  These isolated supplements are never found in nature alone, they are always found in nature with other macro and micro nutrients, they can be found in organ meats, nuts, seeds, muscle meat, vegetables in varying amounts.  But what happens is that the biochemical pathway for energy is dissected which may be a pathway that needs hundreds of different nutrients. For some reason one nutrient is given priority by a biochemist and that single nutrient becomes a best seller.  The body has millions of biochemical reactions happening every second of the day, thousands of nutrients are needed in order for these reactions to be successful.  The wisdom and innate intelligence of the body knows how to do every single one of them.  The single most important thing for these biochemical reactions is the by-product of real foods which allows them all to operate optimally.  One nutrient all by itself does not cut it.

The typical Australian, American, Modern diet is not adequate it is a diabolical disaster, thus the thriving supplement market.  But if you are reading this article no doubt you are already on a journey to eating real foods and no packaged processed foods.  You will probably be sourcing your foods from farmers markets and knowing what is a real food and what is a modified, plastic food.  You may even have a garden growing greens and herbs which all contribute to a wonderful nutrient load.  There could be some of you reading this that are perhaps not at this point, or travel or live with more stress and need a little help with some food based supplements, I’ll make sure I tell you how to find these.

Let’s now look at how you decipher the thousands of companies and their ingredients as to what is real and what is not.

Reading a label for supplements is much the same as reading a label for food.  The only problem is that supplement companies do not have to disclose all their ingredients.  You will have to call the company to find that information.  For example I was given a children’s fish oil capsule to investigate.  They were colourful, they smelt sweet and tasted sweet, yet the ingredient list did not depict what I was tasting and smelling.  I called the company and asked for an ingredients list.  They told me that it was part of their secret formula and they would not be giving it out.  They did say that if I had an allergy to something that I could tell them and they would say whether it was in the fish oil capsule or not.  Needless to say I wasn’t happy with that answer.  As a young Mum I called a popular child’s multi vitamin and mineral range as it did not tell me what the sweetener was on the label. I was informed that it was aspartame.  Once again, not happy.

10 Steps to Reading a Supplement Label 
1.    Look for the word natural –  If it does not say 100% natural plant or animal it probably isn’t.  The word natural can be on the product even if only 10% of the product is natural.  If a vitamin/supplement product label uses words like “Food State”, “Food Source”, “Food Base” or “Organic”, what does this mean? Many companies are not being totally honest as it may be a mixture of foods that have been spiked with synthetic vitamins. Many products contain synthetic vitamins which are put into the supplements even though the label says “all natural.” You can work this out by looking at the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA).  If the potency is higher than anything you would find in nature (example 10 times RDA of Vitamin C per serving), the product contains synthetically produced ingredients, no matter what the claim.
2.    Look to see if there are any additives – it may say free from gluten, sugar, flavours, preservative, colour or it may say no added sugar, flavour, wheat, dairy etc.  If it says no or free from you can be assured that it has none of those ingredients, if it says no added then even though the manufacturer has not added the sugar or flavour or additive, the supplier of some of the ingredients may have added it.  This is exactly the same in the food industry.
3.    Does the label have – No Artificial Colour or Flavour? – Another trick is that labels will say no added, free from or no artificial colours and artificial flavours, but what they fail to say is that their are natural colours and flavours.  Remember natural is a very loose term and it may be that the colour or flavour is 10% natural and the rest artificial.  I have a rule of thumb and that is no flavours or colours – artificial or not in a supplement.
4.    Is the supplement in capsule (that can be pulled apart), tablet (bound) or gel cap? Many gel caps are believed to be made from gelatin, yes that is one of the ingredients but some gel caps may also include the following ingredients; glycerin, sorbitol, methacrylic acid, copolymer, hypermellose phthalate, titanium dioxide, propylene glycol, polyethelene glycol, vanillin (synthetic vanilla).  You won’t know because the ingredients of the gel cap, capsule or binders do not have to be on the label.
5.    Does the capsule, tablet or gel cap have an enteric coating? – which means it won’t dissolve until it hits the small intestine – this is important for some supplements and medications. Most enteric coating won’t dissolve in solutions with a pH lower than 5.5.  Enteric coatings are made from plastics and phthalates including some already mentioned in step 4 as well as acrylic resin, shellac and timellitate.  These enteric coatings are dissolved in organic solvents like acetone, methanol, ethanol, isopropyl alcohol and ethyl acetate to name a few,  they are applied to capsules and tablets (supplements and medicines). These coatings may be sprayed on or applied as a chemical vapor.  The solvent will evaporate leaving the coating behind.  You won’t know whether your capsule, tablet or gel cap has an enteric coating unless you call the manufacturer.  My rule of thumb is no tablets or gel caps, but if they come in a pull apart capsule then I know that I can pull the capsule apart use what’s inside and discard the capsule.
6.    Look for manufactured by or manufactured for… when a company leaves the manufacturing process to someone else (outsources), they may lose control of how the product is made and where the vitamins and minerals are sourced. Toxic agents may be added to the product or sneaky substitutions can be made in order to save money.  You can call the company to see if they know their sources and the exact ingredients.  I’ve done this on several occasions and they refer me to the manufacturer of their pills.
7.    Are your vitamins and minerals synthetic?  To find out whether a vitamin or mineral is synthetic there are a few rules of thumb.  If the vitamin ends in ate or ide it has a synthetic source rather then food source.  The source can be acetone, coal tar, nicotine, alloxal, petrochemicals and keto acid. If dl proceeds the vitamin name – it is synthetic, here are some examples as well as some other common synthetic names to help you decipher the nomenclature;  by no means is this table complete but these are more of the common names;


Vitamin or Mineral

Synthetic Product

Vitamin A

       acetate, palmitate, retinol acetate

Vitamin B1

      thiamine mononitrate, thiamine hydrochloride, thiamin nitrate

Vitamin B2


Vitamin B3


Vitamin B6

Pyridoxine Hydrochloride

Vitamin B12


Pantothenic Acid

Calcium D-pantothenate

PABA (para aminobenzoic acid)

Aminobenzoic acid


folic acid, pyerolyglutamic acid


choline chloride, choline bitartrate



Vitamin C

ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbate, calcium ascorbate dihydrate

Vitamin D

      irradiated ergosterol, calciferol, cholecalciferol

Vitamin E

      dl-alpha tocopherol, dl-alpha tocopherol acetate, dl-alpha tocopherol succinate

Vitamin K

      menadione, menadiol acetate, menadiol sodium phosphate


      ferrous fumerate


      calcium carbonate


      chromium chloride


      potassium iodate, potassium iodide


      calcium hydrogen phosphate


      borax, boric acid


      magnesium chloride,





      zinc sulfate monohydrate

8.  Look for Real Foods – for instance if the product is a powder and it has the ingredients; rose hip, acerola, camu camu, these are foods that are high in Vitamin C.  So not only is their natural vitamin C but there is all the other nutrients that the body requires to use vitamin C.  Other things to look for is wheat grass, barley grass, chlorella, spirilina, spinach powder, broccoli powder, bovine liver, powdered herbs, beetroot powder, inca inchi oil, fish oil, avocado, rosehip oil, these are all whole foods, that have been produced by the ground or animal and are in their whole form.  These products are usually dried then made into a powder or extracted and made into an oil.

9.  What about Probiotics? – these are another supplement that many people are taking on a daily basis.  The questions you need to ask are; is the source a petrie dish or food based? Is the source genetically modified or has it a patent? My choice here is always a probiotic made on food – read the ingredients and choose a  probiotic that is fermented food based rather than just the micro-organisms.
10. Should you ask your Doctor or Pharmacist for advise about supplements?  Most doctors and pharmacists do not have this information unless they are a compounding chemist and then I would consider asking some questions but in the end it is important to be informed and to know exactly what you are buying so that you cannot be coaxed in to believing propoganda.   Print up the table of synthetic forms of vitamins and peruse the supplement shelves, you will be very disappointed.

In summary
95% of the supplement market is made from synthetic vitamin and minerals, these do not function as whole foods and may deplete your body of other nutrients. A great example is vitamin C, a majority of vitamin C is ascorbic acid and ascorbate this is not actually Vitamin C, it represents the outer ring that serves as a shell for the entire Vitamin C complex, the complex includes rutin, bioflavonoids, factor K, factor J, factor P, tyrosinase, ascorbinogen.  When you take synthetic ascorbic acid your body needs to gather all the other components within your cells to make it work. If they are not available the ascorbic acid is eliminated through the urine.
All vitamins require other enzymes, co-factors, co-enzymes, minerals and other macro nutrients for the full benefit, for example Vitamin K, P and Vitamin D have 4, 5 to 12 respectively active components, while vitamin E works closely with the mineral selenium and copper is required by vitamin C.  These are things we know, but there are many things we don’t know.  The intelligence of real natural evolutionary food combined with the innate intelligence of the body knows all!
Just as medicine has it’s place in emergency health situations so do synthetic vitamins and minerals so I am not totally against these products.  What I am against is the indiscriminate use of medicines and synthetic supplements when food would be a far cheaper and healthier option.
There is a nutritional supplement for every complaint  from poor vision to low libido, but in the end if you are eating real natural foods and taking supplements made from natural food, plant and animal sources  for general health and wellbeing, this should do what nature intended to do and create a healthy vitalistic energetic body.
What Do I Recommend
I recommend any food or food based supplements.  Changing Habits has only food based supplements and they are produced by people I know and trust.  My green powder is all food, my probiotics is fermented food, my colloidal minerals are extracted from a gentlemen in Australia that has worked in the colloidal market for 15 years, he was so disgusted by it that he decided to extract his own.  My inca inchi oil is just that a cold pressed extracted oil. My Inca Inchi Protein is just a nut without the oil.  Everyone of my supplements are concentrated foods that I use as food, not as a supplement.
With my food supplements I make my salad dressings, salads, smoothies, mayonnaise’s, they are used as foods, I don’t pop them with a glass of water.  I will never provide you with a food supplement that has a capsule, gel cap or bound in any way.  I’m always on the look out for functional foods that are high in nutrients.  This year we have a bountiful amount of food coming and we are very excited that we can help you achieve optimum health.

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1 Comment

  1. Sandie Hils

    Thanks Cyndi
    Awesome article (:
    Loved all this information have passed this on to my daughter who will be starting her nutrition science degree – Adelaide in a few weeks and will find this very interesting and helpful
    As a former nurse and now an aromatherapist was always concerned the vitamin/ Supplement market was overwhelming and a perceived shortcut to nutrition. I see this in my clients often …..Can now happily refer them to this site / article
    Cheers sandie H ( :


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