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The Dangers of Synthetic Vitamins

by Tiffany in Healthy Eating

dangers of synthetic vitamins for kids

Nutritional supplement companies have done a brisk business over the years because of the general concern that modern food processing and lifestyle preferences may be having a detrimental impact on our nutritional intake. We may readily consume foods that have almost no nutritional value (think Pop Tarts and soda). Our soil is also depleted continuously by bad farming practices and thus the “healthy” food grown on many farms is lacking.

The message consumers are receiving from supplement companies is that there’s no need to worry if you or your children not eating enough fruit, fiber and protein as supplements can help to make up for vitamin deficiencies. But not all supplements are created equal. For some reason it never “clicked” in my mind that MOST of these vitamins and supplements, even the ones for children, are synthetic. The vitamin C is not real Vitamin C from a source like oranges. Instead it is created in a lab from heaven knows what. Researchers are now finding that most vitamins do zip or worse because they’re synthetic.

Synthetic vitamins offer you much less than you think are receiving. Some studies have shown that certain synthetic vitamins give only 50% or less of the biological activity as compared to whole vitamins (vitamins that come directly from vegetables). Why do companies choose to use synthetic vitamins if they are not as effective as whole vitamins? Because synthetic vitamins cost far less to manufacture. The vitamin business is a racket and not one designed to bring you any measure of health.

One synthetic vitamin causing much controversy is synthetic vitamin C. Some argue that this form of vitamin C can contribute to the thickening of the arterial walls of the heart by as much as 2.5 times. This is potentially very harmful. In another study, 22,000 pregnant women were given synthetic Vitamin A. The study was halted because birth defects increased 400% according to the New England Journal of Medicine, 1995.

In stores, ascorbic acid is often sold as vitamin C but it is actually only a chemically derived fraction of the whole food vitamin. In food, vitamin C is a complete complex made up of ascorbic acid plus rutin, bioflavonoids, K factor and J factors along with other substances.

The body is able to absorb and use this vitamin only when all parts of the complex is present. So when the chemically derived “fraction” of vitamin C is taken the body must first supply the other parts of the whole food complex. If the pill is taken on its own it will then be necessary for the body to complete the complex by taking the missing elements from its own tissues. It stresses our bodies to have to do all this extra work. Vitamins should come with all they need for absorption or we are stressing our bodies out just by taking them. It is no wonder we age so fast. This whole process of robbing stores within the body to complete the complex can cause even greater deficiencies in the body.

danger of synthetic vitaminsWhole food vitamins do not cause deficiencies in areas of the body but instead supply the individual cells with the nutrients they need for vitality.

How can you tell a synthetic vitamin from a whole food vitamin? Look at the label. Instead of seeing a long list of chemicals you should find the names of foods listed as the vitamin source. A vitamin or mineral is synthetic if only its chemical and/or popular name appears, with no plant source. For instance if a label reads like this: Calcium Carbonate, Calcium Phosphate, Magnesium Oxide, Zinc Oxide… then you know it is synthetic. These vitamins and supplements also commonly have added sugars, preservatives, and dyes. If it is a natural, whole food vitamin it will list the foods, herbs, or spices used like strawberries, carrot, alfalfa, etc.

So if you are ready to stop wasting money on synthetic vitamins that will provide minimal nutrition and maybe even a harmful side effect or two there are a couple whole foods supplements I like for children.

They are easy to digest, gluten free, vegetarian, and contain no artificial colors or flavors. Some of the food “sources” include strawberries, cherries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries…all organic of course. My kids give them a big thumbs up.

Nutri Stars Multivitamin and Multimineral Children’s Chewable from Rainbow Light. Besides all the regular vitamins and minerals you would expect to find in a chewable vitamin it has some bonuses like veggie concentrates from carrots, spinach, green beans, broccoli, and beets. It also has organic spirulina and wheat sprouts. It is 100% natural with no artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, sweeteners, or other additives that are often found in other vitamin products. And here is the most important thing….kids like them.

Garden of Life Vitamin C –  This is real Vitamin C!! I have been up and down the isles of health food stores looking for real vitamin C and not one that says it is derived from ascorbic acid. This one is my favorite and usually the only one they have among dozens of fake ones.

Nature’s Plus – Animal Parade – Ingredients such as broccoli, spinach, mango fruit, carrot, West Indian cherry, glabra fruit, papaya fruit, and spirulina. No artificial colors and preservatives, yeast, wheat, corn, soy and milk. These are also chewable tablets, not gummies.

Kid’s One Daily Multi – 100% whole food multi-vitamin made with a variety of fresh raw foods including organic brown rice, cabbage, broccoli, cranberries, carrots, whole oranges and nutritional yeast. Provides a balanced spectrum of 24 essential nutrients and immune-boosting antioxidants.

Garden of Life Vitamin Code Kids – All the nutrients come from food, as they should. It’s a yummy, cherry-berry chewable multivitamin specifically designed to meet the unique nutritional needs of kids, providing the essential vitamins and minerals kids need for extraordinary health and vitality. The same company also makes a DHA kids chewable with pure cod liver oil that kids will actually eat and they have raw prenatal vitamins.

Hero Nutritionals Yummi Bears – This is a good whole food vitamin inside tasty gummy bears, so of course it won’t be hard to get kids to eat these. My kids always ask for these when we go to Whole Foods. Does not contain yeast, wheat, milk, egg, soy, gluten, salt, artificial colors, artificial flavors, salicylates or preservatives. Kids can have up to three bears per day.

Another option is a powdered supplement made with fruits and veggies like this chocolate one from Amazing Grass. My family adores this brand and all their products and have used them for many years.

To your health!

The Dangers of Synthetic Vitamins

  • Thanks so much Tiffany. I am so careful about what I let my children eat but I had no idea about the vitamins. Good post. Thanks for opening my eyes.

    • Heidi

      My son is 9 and take the GNC vitamins as of now. I am looking for other options but he has multiple food allergies to include (wheat, soy, peanut and almonds). He also has an aversion to fruits and veggies so vitamins are a must for him. What are some other non gummi form ideas that you or anyone have for him? Nutristars contain wheat so they are out (my 2 yougest take them). Thanks

  • Ted

    Synthetic vitamins, yuck!
    My family and I use Shaklee and only that.
    My nephew had muscular dystrophy until he died at the age of 29 two years ago, and he was on Shaklee nearly his entire teenage and adult life.
    He had broken both his legs when he was fourteen years old due to an unfortunate wheelchair accident. He was in the hospital for a long time. For the entire time, my brother and sister-in-law gave him Shaklee vitamins. His time in the hospital was nearly cut in half, and we believe that the vitamin regiment was a major factor.

  • Thanks for a great post. I don’t do vitamins for my son because I don’t think he needs them for as well as he eats (for now). But thanks for all the info to help me make informed choices if I think its necessary in the future.

  • casual friday everyday

    Gosh, you’re a friggin’ wealth of information!!! TY for the links!

  • Bena

    Check out the links below on an independent vitamin testing. Hero is listed as one of the violators. Hopefully it isn’t an issue anymore. How can you be sure of anything anymore?! Very frustrating…

    • Terri

      Most people don’t realize that Consumer Labs is an ad and contribution site, it is not independent or unbiased to their non contributors or those who don’t pay their advertising costs. Their press releases are to generate traffic and hopefully new accounts. don’t let the name fool you, they are not government or science related, they are for profit. It sad that great companies with excellent products get horrible reviews if you don’t pay them off.

  • I was so happy to see the topic of your blog today! Great information. Whole food nutrition is the only way to go. Another great way to get it is through Juice Plus. They are a company that spends the majority of their funding for research instead of advertising. They have many doctors supporting their findings. There is a long list of universities who are doing research on Juice Plus and the effects it has on
    the body. The studies are not just on fruits and vegetables but actually on Juice Plus. They even have a program going on right now where kids between the ages of 6-15 can get it for free for 3 years if a parent or other adult is taking it!
    If anyone wants more information on it I can get a copy of a cd or dvd and mail it to them for free. Just shoot me an email at
    You can also see more info on this Juice Plus web site.
    Thanks for the great info Tiffany!!!

  • Brooke

    Thanks for posting this information. So many people don’t get why vitamins are $50 a bottle at a health-food store, when you can get the same vitamins at a drug store for half the price. It’s because the ones at the drug store are synthetic. My MIL is always talking about how I need to give my daughter vitamins or fortified food, but doesn’t understand these are not absorbed by body.

  • Thanks for the info! This makes me so angry at the place I got my vitamins. I really trusted the source and they betrayed my trust! While the vitamin I’m taking now does have Spirulina & Chlorella it looks like there are a lot of synthetic vitamins in it. Grr. Unfortunately I bought enough of these for the next 9 months or so. I’ll definitely look into your recommendations. Thanks!

  • Yay for Raw, fresh, organic whole foods :)

  • Patricia

    Tiffany, I enjoy your blog, but I found this post somewhat lacking in scientific support (controlled scientific studies – NOT those funded by companies selling “natural” supplements at astronomical prices; it can be really hard to dig up reliable information, given the lack of regulation in the supplement industry). I would commend readers to check out the June 2008 issue of the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s “Nutrition Action” newsletter. I myself use Rainbow Light vitamins currently, but I’m not entirely confident in that decision, given the research I have done so far (and what I learned as a food science major in college). My point is just that its a very complicated issue, and paying $30+ for a bottle of “natural” or “organic” supplements does not mean one is getting safe, adequate supplementation. Incidentally, “Nutrition Action” May 2008 has a very handy guide to food additives and what is known about their safety.


  • Cindi Overfield

    I only purchase vitamins for my family from the health food store and non of them are synthetic. When we went “natural” the vitamins were the first thing we changed. I don’t give my kids vitamins every day. I try and make sure they eat well and only give supplements when they are sick or their diets are not up to par.

    Great Article!

  • Patricia,

    The issue is not organics or the “natural” label that can mean nothing. The issue is synthetic (man made in a lab) versus whole foods. I don’t need any studies to tell me which is the better option. The issue does not stress me in the least as I am sure my kids are getting adequate nutrition without supplements. This article is for parents feeding their kids Flintstones vitamins and thinking they are encouraging health and nutrition.

  • Shena

    I am pregnant and looking for a good prenatal vitamin. Any ideas?

    • Val

      I took JuicePlus+ when pregnant and nursing – whole foods and organic.  http:/

  • Laura Miller

    There is much confusion about “synthetic” versus “natural” vitamins. The better question is: Is the resulting molecular structure the same as the corresponding structure found in nature? When the synthetic molecule is identical to the form derived from natural sources, both forms will be indistinguishable from each other in all aspects, even their function and effects in the human body. For instance, the d- form of vitamin E derived from vegetable oils is different from the dl- form (the synthetic form) which does not confer any known health benefit and is normally excreted by the body. Go for the better known products from reliable manufacturers, such as Multivescence.

  • Carrie

    My gosh! I take vitamins every day and it never occurred to me to check to see if they are synthetic (almost funny since I read the labels on everything)! Ugh! I thought I was doing my body a favor!

  • Rebecca

    This is why I only use Shaklee vitamins. They are only third party tested – mostly from hospitals and universities and ALL research information is published – good or bad. They have NEVER had a recall and have been around for more than 50 years. No heavy metals whatsoever in their stuff! ALL their supplements come only from real food and are absorbed in your body within 30 minutes. My friend went to have a mammogram recently and you aren’t suppossed to take calcium beforehand. Not thinking, she did, and the radiologist was shocked to find out that one hour later, all had been absorbed. They said that never happens! I give them to my 17 month old and he has only been sick once with a very mild runny nose. They are great and have kept our family so well!

    • Mel

      I have taken Shaklee vitamins for years and I think they are the best. However, I called my Shaklee distributor to get more of the POWDER INFANT AND TODDLER VITAMINS for my grandson and I was told she couldn’t get them because they had been recalled! She didn’t know why but said said it was certain lot numbers I guess. This site came up while searching. I haven’t come up with any recall info yet on my search.  I guess I will call them because I am concerned I been giving my grandson something that could make him sick…

  • Dr. Carlos Gonzalez

    I have been using Standard Process vitamins, mineral, digestive enzymes and more from this comapny for about fifteen years now. They organically grow all the whole foods (not genetcially engineered) used to make their products. They are NOT MLM so their prices do not reflect those of most all MLM companies. They also have an herb line of products and a Veterinary Line for pets! Awesome company with awesome products at awesome prices. Unfortunately only available through Naturopaths, Chiropractors etc.

  • Kristi

    Every online store I’ve found that carries EveryKid Children’s Multi-Vitamin says it’s now discontinued. What happened? We live in Italy and can’t go to the local WholeFoods or other organic market to pick things like this up. Can anyone explain why online retailers are no longer carrying EveryKid Children’s Multi-Vitamins?

  • thanks so much for posting this!

  • JCPhoto

    I take rainbow light petite prenatal and LOVE them. my son was taking some organic vitamins, but he had to take 3 different products and it was getting outrageously expensive every month, so i figured i’d see if rainbow light had anything for kiddos. found the multi-stars. they are wonderful and he loves them too. :]

  • greenmum

    I am confused!! I have the Hero Gummies for my kid and they have no where on them listing the fruits or vegetables?? They have the vitamins listed like Vit C= Asborbic Acid, Vit A=As VIT A Palmitate…. I thought above int eh article it said these are not good, they are synthetic?? 

    Maybe I read the article wrong?

    from perplexed mom

    • greenmum, if the vitamins were sourced from foods then the names of the food (ie apple, cherries, etc.) will be on the ingredient list at the bottom of the bottle. If there are no food names then chances are the vitamins were made in a laboratory and are synthetic.

      • greenmum

        On the Hero Gummie Vitamins that you listed above says they are good… but the ones I have no fruits or veggies, the only place I can find them is a few mentioned in the flavouring?? IS that supposed to count?

  • Val

    Whole foods is the way to go, I wouldn’t do it any other way. However, I go a step further and get the best and most researched whole food supplements out on the market. After EXTENSIVE research for a few years and lots trial and error, I finally found the only one I trust. Even my 1 year old takes it. I believe in it so much, in fact, that I became a distributor. And the best part is that kids 4 years through college can take it for free with each adult that takes it. Ask me how. http:/

  • Brian

    Hi, I randomly came across your blog when trying to find raw, whole-food vitamins for my kids. Your analysis is spot-on (i.e. dangers and uselessness of synthetic vitamins). However, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that most of your recommended vitamin choices at the end of the article are loaded with lab produced, synthetic vitamins (i.e. ascorbic acid [vitamin C], cyanocobalamin [vitamin B]). So while I 100% agree with your analysis and conclusions, I must warn readers that most of the vitamin choices/recommendations are, in fact, poor and dangerous choices. I have yet to find a kids vitamin that is truly whole-food and raw (heated to less than 115 degrees). The key with the “raw” aspect is that no matter how “natural” the vitamin sources in any give product are, if they are heated to high temperatures during the manufacturing process (which most are) most of the nutrients and synergistic complexes in the sources foods/raw materials are destroyed, rendering the end product almost as useless as synthetic alternative (although not as dangerous). Just my 2 cents for all those out there participating in the ongoing and frustrating search for appropriate food and supplement choices for our families. Best, Brian.

    • Ally

      In addition to truly whole food, I have yet to find one that has all bases covered: Non-GMO, no artificial colors, preservatives, soy, etc. It is extremely frustrating.

      • True. Kind Organics line is verified GMO free: No children’s vitamins though. Same with New Chapter:

      • Katie

        We like Hakuna Matata vitamins – they’re whole food, non-GMO w/o artificial junk in them! I prefer to get nutrition through real, whole foods, but we do supplement through vitamins sometimes.

    • Susie Ericson

      Brian, I am just now reading your post….I had the same concerns that you mentioned. I am trying to align with people who really “get” this whole synthetic thing. Is there a way to communicate other than posting here?

  • vitamec world

    The article which you have posted is great. Your site provided for me much information.Thanks for sharing this information.

  • Betsy Godoy-Rosado

    So does anyone know of a good baby version of non synthetic baby vitamin drops? Maybe some that are not too expensive…?

  • Bree Van Deecamp

    Thanks for sharing this important information on vitamins and its bad effcects.The Business Research Company’s Vitamins and
    Supplements Global Report contains market size of Vitamins and Supplements, by
    geography, market segments and competitors.
    The Global Vitamins and Minerals report covers market segments such as
    Supplements, Multivitamins, Tonics and Bottled nutritive drinks, Calcium,
    Vitamin B, Vitamin C, Minerals and Probiotics.

  • TippieToez

    This blog is old, but I wanted to point out that in 2012, their baby vitamins were recalled for too much iodine.

  • Dia Brodner

    a bunch of the vitamins posted above still site ascorbic acid as their form of vitamin c…even with all the whole food ingredients listed…