Natural vs. Synthetic Vitamins: Why Does It Matter?

by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN

Vitamins are vital for every human being and animal to stay alive, healthy, and fit. Nutrients are essential in our daily diet, but only a healthy diet may not always cover all the requirements of nutrients. Hence, most often, people look to fill in nutritional gaps through the help of vitamin supplements to meet their overall nutrient requirements, which can be natural or synthetic vitamins.

You may find there are many questions in your head, such as are natural vitamins better than synthetic vitamins? Are synthetic vitamins not as good for you and come at a lower price point because they aren’t as beneficial as natural vitamins? To answer your questions and to help you decide which one is better for you, we need to somewhat go down the rabbit hole.

In this article, we will dive deeper into how natural supplements differ from synthetic vitamins and which option is the best for you, according to your health, fitness, and physique goals.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to treat or diagnose any condition. It is recommended that you speak with your doctor before introducing any new supplements into your daily regimen.

What are Synthetic Vitamins?

Synthetic vitamin supplements are produced in the lab with the help of chemical compounds and are actually more common in the market than you would assume. In fact, around 95% of the vitamins you’d find on the market today are synthetic vitamins. They are made to mimic the natural way our body absorbs nutrients from food. But our body does not easily recognize synthetic vitamins, so it becomes difficult to absorb and utilize them efficiently.

Scientists create these synthetic vitamins with the help of molecular structures of natural vitamins. Although there is only one vitamin that stands out as an exception, and that is vitamin E. If you plan on taking vitamin E, we suggest you use a natural supplement for this particular nutrient.

What are Natural Vitamins?

Before we dive more into the differences between natural and synthetic vitamins, let’s understand the importance and meaning of natural vitamins. Natural supplements are produced after extracting vitamins and minerals directly from plants. The primary difference between natural and synthetic vitamins is in their production process.

Rather than being entirely created in a lab, natural vitamins are created using natural raw ingredients. If you are taking a standalone vitamin supplement, that powder form will typically be encapsulated and sold in a bottle. In the case of something like a multivitamin, the manufacturer will create a blend using the various natural vitamins and minerals to create one product that is made up of several raw ingredients.

The benefit of using natural vitamin supplements is that they can help you stay in sync with nature and utilize real ingredients from plants without consuming the actual plant source to take in the vitamins.

All of this may sound great, but there is one downside to the natural side of the market. While all-natural foods should be something people prefer, over time, soil resource depletion and land poisoning with pesticides have butchered the value of natural food items (such as our fruits and vegetables that we would consume for their nutritional value). So, even when you are eating natural plants and vegetables, you are not truly getting the most from those food items.

Therefore, people often prefer taking natural vitamins, which offer the same nutrients present in natural food, and many times in higher dosages.

How are Natural and Synthetic Vitamins Different?

Synthetic nutrients are mostly poorly absorbed and less effective than natural ones. They can also trigger some health risks and can have side effects if taken over a long period.

It is a common misconception that synthetic vitamins are the same as natural ones. There are many key differences between the two, and it can be stated as a fact that natural vitamins have far superior health benefits than synthetic vitamins.

Over half of US adults take one or more dietary supplements to promote optimal health and prevent nutrient deficiencies. Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, synthetic vitamins are widely available and cheap to produce, making the price point more appealing for those on a budget or who don’t understand the difference between natural and synthetic vitamins.

Almost all drug stores and supermarkets have synthetic vitamins and almost zero natural ones. Are they slowly making their way into these stores? Sure, but there is an overwhelming disparity between the two still.

Synthetic vitamins are always available, and it can be tempting to go for the cheaper option. But you may only get some of the health benefits you were looking for in the first place from the supplement. It may also increase the risk of long-term health issues due to the intake of supplements with synthetic ingredients.

3 Benefits of Natural Supplements

To help you better understand why you should go the route of natural vitamins over synthetic ones, we have listed three benefits below. Sure, natural vitamins may be more expensive, but they are a much higher quality product with more benefits in the long run.

1.      Better synergy

Natural supplements are full of essential nutrients, minerals, vitamins, and bioactive compounds. They all work together with better synergy, which means they interact with one another to support and improve biological processes in our bodies.

2.      Improved absorption and bioavailability

According to studies, our body absorbs vitamins better in their natural form. One of the main advantages of natural supplements over synthetic ones is that they have a concentrated amount of bioavailable ingredients, which our body can easily absorb and utilize. These bioavailable nutrients mostly come from whole foods and natural sources, which makes them more compatible with the body’s metabolic processes.

3.      Lower risk of side effects

It is a no-brainer that natural supplements will have a lower to almost zero risk of side effects compared to synthetic vitamins and supplements. Risks associated with natural vitamins are mostly lower as you get a direct nutritional value due to using the actual raw ingredient.