Can you trust your supplements?

Hey everyone,

One of the most common questions I get is which vitamins or supplements I use and what I recommend.  I’ve been researching a lot this year.  A LOT. Especially after one of the Whole Foods supplements I thought was good was recalled, and a brand I had recommended to a few clients last year was found to have traces of heavy metals in it.  And did you see these studies showing that many tested did not actually contain what they said they did?

Whole, real food is crucial.  But few of us have a perfect diet and even when we do, the quality of our food has declined due to poor soil nutrients content, lack of crop rotation and higher amounts of processed foods consumed than ever before.  So even when you’re eating a perfect diet, you’re not getting the nutrient content in foods that we were getting 50 years ago!

9 out of 10 fall short

Research shows that less than 10% of Americans are getting the minimal amount of nutrition they need. That is crazy!

So for those of you that like this kind of info (like me!) here are the types of supplements that are on the market:

  • Synthetic : These supplements are man-made, have no enzymes, contain potential side effects, can contain artificial colors, flavors, binders, fillers, and sweeteners. They typically use the cheapest ingredients and some are coated with shellac.
  • Crystalline or Extract: These can be labeled organic or natural but only need to have 15% natural sources (by FDA regulations) to be labeled natural.  They can also be imbalanced and contain fillers or harsh binders.
  • Natural (cold-pressed): These have high quality sources of raw materials, non-chemical processing and extracting and strong enzyme activity.  These are the ones you want to be taking!

How do you know if it’s synthetic? Check the label and avoid those that use the dl-form, for example dl-alpha tocopherol for Vitamin E or thiamine for Vitamin B.  One researcher also said if it claims to contain no yeast it is synthetic as yeast is needed for Vitamin D and many B vitamins.

You want a vitamin that is designed to work together so that it is properly absorbed.

Whole food vitamins are obtained by taking a vitamin-rich plant, removing the water and the fiber in a cold vacuum process, free of chemicals, and then packaging for stability. The entire vitamin complex in this way can be captured intact, retaining its “functional and nutritional integrity.” (DeCava p.23.) Upon ingestion, the body is not required to draw on its own reserves in order to complete any missing elements from the vitamin complex.

Many synthetic vitamins lack the transporters and co-factors associated with naturally-occurring vitamins because they have been “isolated.” The Organic Consumers Association emphasizes that isolated vitamins cannot be used or recognized by the body in the same way as the natural version [1].

The natural form come in packages with other vitamins, enzymes and minerals that control the way the body recognizes, metabolizes and uses them to make what it needs. (source)


Synthetic vitamins are not only ineffective, they can be harmful.  Check out this finding:

Natural vitamin A and beta carotene are well known as immune boosters and cancer fighters, in their role as antioxidants. Synthetic vitamin A by contrast has actually brought about significant increases in cancer. The same Finnish study we saw above provided smokers with large doses of synthetic beta carotene. Lung cancer incidence increased 18%! (NEJM Apr 94 “The Alpha Tocopherol Beta Carotene Cancer Prevention Study Group”)

These findings were corroborated two years later in another study written up in Lancet. Pharmacologic doses of synthetic beta carotenes were found to block the antioxidant activity of the other 50 naturally occurring carotenoids in the diet. Anti-cancer activity was thus blocked by the synthetic. (Lancet 1996)


Want to learn more about your favorite vitamin? Here are some questions you can ask a company before buying their supplements.  A friend shared this list and I love it:
  1. Is the final product organic and free of pesticides herbicides and chemicals? How do they prove the finished product is free of these contaminants?
  2. What are the ingredients in the product and what country did they come from?
  3. Is EACH bottle (not a random test) proven to be free of pesticides, heavy metals, and lead?
  4. Where is the scientific information to back up that claim and who tests it? (It needs to be a 3rd party NOT associated with the company.)
  5. Who does the clinical studies on their products?  (It must be associations not receiving profits from the sale of the product, doctors shouldn’t own the company.)
  6. Have the results from the studies of the product been published in trusted medical journals (JAMA, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition). Clinical studies must be on the bottled juice, not clinical studies on the berries before juicing.

I know it’s a lot of information.

Start by reading your labels! And I’m happy to help or share the ones I recommend to clients. Feel free to contact me about the vitamins you’re currently using and I can help you determine if they’re safe and effective!


33 thoughts on “Can you trust your supplements?

  1. I know I probably need supplements, because I demand so much from my body but I don’t take any on a regular basis. When I training hard (like for a marathon 🙂 I will use EnduroPacks but, the rest of the year it’s just whole foods for me! Are you cringing?
    Allie recently posted..Jersey Shore – All the Dirty DetailsMy Profile

  2. Great post. I take a supplement once per day just because I know that it’s next to impossible to get the right minerals you need every single day. I’ve always wondered about what exactly to look for so this information was really helpful! Thank you!
    Hollie recently posted..CruisingMy Profile

  3. It really is crazy that supplements aren’t regulated more. I’m hesitant to take anything just because of that – am I really doing any good by adding junk? And then I always think, is it worth it? I try to get everything I need out of whole food. I don’t want to shell out mega $$ for supplements just to have expensive pee!
    Angela @ Happy Fit Mama recently posted..High Five FridayMy Profile

    • Expensive pee.. haha! So true. 🙂 I think when they are good, you will feel the difference in your body. I really like the probiotic and feel that difference, and I take a multi + Omega 3s + Vitamin D to cover my bases.
      Laura recently posted..Can you trust your supplements?My Profile

  4. I started looking at the Vitalizer by Shaklee but they seem to be filled with a lot of soy. I’m thinking about trying out RainbowLight Organics.

  5. My Crohn’s has made me very nutrient deficient so my doctor told me specifically what to purchase. Now I am more curious and will be taking a closer look! I honestly hate taking any supplements but am seeing an improvement in my blood panels each month so there is that. A necessary evil.
    Gianna @ Run, Lift, Repeat recently posted..Need for Speed!My Profile

  6. What if I said I take no supplements? Unless I am diagnosed as low on something via bloodwork, I don’t add any in and trust my diet to provide. I should be taking iron b/c I am perpetually low (genetic condition) but I don’t do it, even. Great info here for people who do, however!
    misszippy recently posted..Shoe review: Newton AhaMy Profile

    • You are a more careful eater than most! I like to add a probiotic for gut health (or anytime after antibiotics, build the good back up!) and Vitamin D in the winter. Omega 3s can be hard to get too but overall, I’m sure you should get most from diet.
      For the iron, do you cook on cast iron? That can help!
      Laura recently posted..Can you trust your supplements?My Profile

  7. I had a company reach out to me about doing a review on their protein powder. I dug a little deeper and found their product had been recalled. It is hard to trust supplements these days and you definitely have to do your research. When it comes to supplements I am all about 100% real ingredients as much as possible. Great post! 🙂

  8. the only supplements i take are a probiotic and a magnesium glycinate. the magnesium is pure encapsulations brand but i can’t figure out what you mean about the dl from looking at the else could i tell if it’s synthetic? thanks!

  9. Laura this is a great post. One of the first things I did when I stopped running 18 months ago to focus on getting healthy again was to research how nutrition played a role in why I stayed either sick or injured. This is when I learned not all supplements are created equal and the industry is not regulated. In fact if we follow the guidelines you and I could make them in our kitchen and sell them online easily.
    I ditched my expensive supplements after discovering that they rated poorly in independent 3rd party testing. I opted to try USANA Health Sciences because the voluntarily hold themselves to the same day good manufacturing practices as pharmaceuticals and test all raw materials for purity, potency and efficacy. I was really surprised but I very quickly could feel a difference in my energy level and was able to return to running a couple of days a week six weeks later, much sooner than expected. I’m sure making changes in my diet played a role in this as well.
    I now recommend them to all my clients.
    I appreciate the thoroughness of your post and encourage your readers to do their research. There are some really good high quality supplements on the market and there is a lot than make expensive pee!
    Beverly Smith recently posted..Being Totally Transparent: I’m Not Perfect!My Profile

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  11. ugh, don’t even get my started on synthetic vitamins. what a rip off. but so glad you posted about it, awareness that is. let’s stick with real food and natural supplements (if we can!)

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