In a recent study released by the World Health Organization, the number of preschool children who are deficient in vitamin A is estimated to be at 250 million. This deficiency frequently results in blindness and other severe infections.
Vitamin A is one of the micronutrients that is crucial in the health of both children and adults. Increasing intake of Vitamin A by a healthy amount can save lives and can help decrease mortality rate around the world.
Importance of Vitamins
On the website Better Health Australia, vitamins are defined as “organic compounds that our body needs in small amounts to perform a range of functions (metabolic processes).”
Vitamins are classified as complementary medicines by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration, along with medicines that contain homeophatic preparations, plant or herbal material (algal, flaxseed and chia supplements) and lipids ( supplements that contains essential fatty acids such as krill, calamari and fish oil) among others. These, like all other medications are regulated by the Australian government’s two tiered system for regulation of all medicines.
There are 13 known vitamins. These vitamins plays specific roles for our bodies. They are mostly found in the food we eat but can also be taken through supplements. Vitamins also help our body to develop; they keep metabolism, immunity and digestion at their optimum levels.
There are two types of vitamins; fat soluble and water soluble. Each vitamin plays an important role in keeping the body healthy and in keeping overall health in check. Vitamin A is known to inhibit free radicals, Vitamin C acts as an anti-oxidant, Vitamin D is necessary in the maintenance of healthy bones and teeth, and Vitamin K is involved in the blood clotting process. These are just 4 out of the 13 known vitamins.
Vitamin deficiencies may result in vulnerability against conditions such as cancer and heart disease. A lack of Vitamin C may lead to scurvy while a lack of vitamin D may cause rickets among young children.
Whole Food Organic Vitamins
Image Credit: Colin Dunn
Whole food vitamins may sound new to you but they are exactly what the name suggests: vitamin supplements made from whole foods. However, the vitamin concentrate in this type of supplement isn’t isolated and can’t be taken apart from the whole.
The whole food vitamin is a complex structure that mimics the structure of whole foods such as fruits and vegetables. It does not only contain vitamins but minerals as well. The idea for this type of supplement came from the premise that natural vitamins are not isolated rather they are a complex group of compounds.
The whole food organic vitamin can be explained as an individual isolated molecule of most vitamins as one brick of a house; the isolated vitamin is the brick while the whole food organic vitamin is the entire house.
Scientifically, this idea of whole foods may seem to be hard to understand at first. When we delve a little deeper, we can understand that this vitamin works as a complicated interaction between the nutrients and the cells within our body.
The benefits of whole food vitamins include the following:
- Better absorbed by the body. Since it is made to mimic the components of natural foods, it is better identified by the body thus absorbed more easily. As it is absorbed better it will have the chance of getting used right away.
- Safe on empty stomach. Some vitamins are not advisable to be taken on empty stomach since it may affect digestion or may cause problems along the way. Although this may also occur with the whole food vitamins, it isn’t as severe as its counterpart.
- Less additives used in manufacturing. We have to face it, although it is an organic and natural component, it still undergoes the process of pill making. It needs additives and other components to become so compact and last longer. However, there are less additives used in these kinds of vitamins.
- Everything is in it. When you check a whole food organic vitamin, you may see that there is no broken down specifics of which vitamin it contains. It should be understood that it contains everything your body needs from an organic standpoint.
Possible disadvantages include:
- No extensive research. There is no sea of evidence yet regarding its superiority. No one has yet ventured out to make a comparison based study with these vitamins.
- More costly. Whole food organic vitamins are a bit more costly than your usual vitamin, so you may have to shell out a couple more bucks before you get to know its benefits.
- Less dense. Most whole food organic supplements may require you to take 3 or more pills before you get the full serving. For some this may cause inconvenience. Although there are some which may offer otherwise, you still have too choose well.
Image Credit: Health Gauge
Synthetic vitamins are manufactured due to the idea that we cannot duplicate the way nature works even with the right chemical analysis techniques. Thus we created pills to supplement this. These vitamins are not really the same as the natural ones but they have been engineered to mimic the effect.
Synthetic vitamins may be absorbed by the body depending on many factors. The body uses cofactors within the body to absorb the vitamins. But sometimes, when the body provides no other cofactors, there can only be two scenarios; the water soluble synthetic vitamin may be excreted out of the body while the fat soluble ones will be stored as fat. The minerals and vitamins may be absorbed but in a reduced form.
Experts suggest that for the body to be able to adjust and absorb these synthetic vitamins, one may have to take them with a full meal. Synthetic vitamins are also there for people who can’t respond well to the natural, food-based, whole food vitamins.
Its benefits include:
- Much cheaper.
- A specific vitamin target.
- You only need to take a few tablets or pills a day.
- Exact dosage supplied.
Even with these benefits, many experts today can’t be swayed. They outlined several disadvantages of these supplements including:
- Isolated vitamins are incomplete.
- Raw materials of synthetic vitamins are said to increase toxic load in the body.
- Deficiency of nutrients. For an isolate or synthetic vitamin to be used by the body, it has to utilize cofactors from the reserves of the body which may lead to nutrient deficiencies.
- Synthetic pill shapes. Some synthetic vitamins have different shapes which are not absorbed easily and can’t pass through the body.
How to Tell if You’re Taking A Good Supplement
Most nutritionists in the field advocate that it isn’t just about choosing the right supplement from the two we mentioend above. Rather, it is eating the right foods while also taking the right supplements.
Nevertheless, when taking supplements, you have to remember:
- You have to choose one that is closest to its natural form. Ask your doctor about this.
- Check for company regulations and manufacturing process.
- Check companies that are already time tested and have a good name and reputation.
When checking vitamins, according to Dr. Edward Group from Global Healing Center, you have to make sure that yours doesn’t contain any of the following toxic ingredients:
- Stearic acid or Magnesium searate
- MSG or Monosodium Glutamate which is used for natural flavors
- Carnauba wax
The National Health and Medical Research Council instead recommended the Nutrient Reference Values found here. Each nutrient has been presented with a range as to the level of intake. Each vitamin and mineral mentioned in this guide includes estimated average requirement, adequate intake, estimated energy requirement and the maximum level of intake.
The verdict is that it’s still best to eat food in a healthy and balanced way. And when choosing supplements, choose them carefully with the help of an expert. When looking for information, make sure that you access government health websites offering legitimate information.
Note: This article is based on research but this is not to act as a substitute for medical and nutritional advice from your doctor.
Featured Image credit: Ed Yourdon