Health Benefits of Natural Dietary Supplements

Health & FitnessNutrition & Supplement

  • Author Magen Hazel
  • Published December 23, 2009
  • Word count 784

There are so many benefits to dietary supplements it is difficult to know just where to begin. There’s also an almost overwhelming variety of dietary supplements, ranging from prescription, to over-the-counter, natural, synthetic and vitamin-store purchased. So how do you know which supplements are right for you? Let’s start by determining the differences between these products, and why we think natural supplements are best.

Natural Dietary Supplements vs. Prescription Supplements

Depending on the reason you are taking dietary supplements in the first place, you may be looking at prescription drugs. Some of the most popular supplements prescribed are prenatal vitamins for women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant. These are still considered supplements to the diet, even though they are prescribed by a doctor. The truth is, you can find a very good prenatal vitamin at your local health food store, rather than going through the trouble of filling a prescription. Often times these prenatal vitamins will be vegetarian or vegan and from a natural source, whereas you will not necessarily know the source if you simply get a prescription filled. By visiting your local health food store or browsing the Internet for natural prenatal vitamins, you can compare ingredients and manufacturing information instead of reading a label that simply reads, "take once daily with food."

Natural Dietary Supplements vs. Synthetic Dietary Supplements

Outside of the scope of prenatal vitamins, there are many other reasons for taking natural supplements. Besides prescription supplements that are manufactured by large drug companies, the other option is synthetic supplements made by smaller companies. These supplements, which are usually vitamins or minerals, are often marketed as ‘alternative’ remedies and are sold at health food stores.

Natural vitamins and minerals are obtained from plant and animal sources, or other natural sources in the earth. The compounds used are derived from these natural sources, and manufactured using a process that keeps them true to their natural state, even once they are in supplement form. Therefore, when you take the supplements orally, you are getting the same natural ingredients you would get if you actually ate the live plant, animal or other source.

Synthetic vitamins and minerals are man-made, through chemical processing. Sometimes, these vitamins can be standardized and made to react in the body just like their natural counterparts, but not always. Basically, the company that makes synthetic vitamins has to ensure that the molecules are the same as they would be if they took the supplement from its natural source. In other words, the important question is whether the synthetic supplement acts the same way in the body as the natural supplement.

Two of the most popular vitamins that are synthetically made are Vitamin C and Vitamin E. Vitamin C is almost exactly the same when it is made synthetically as when it is derived from natural sources, such as oranges or broccoli. Therefore, whether you take a natural form or a synthetic form of vitamin C, you are getting the full benefits of the vitamin — just as you would if you ate the plant (or orange, etc).

With Vitamin E, however, the synthesis process is different. There are different forms of Vitamin E, which you may have noticed when you last shopped at your vitamin store. Some of the labels read, "- d" and some read "-dl," depending on which tocopherol is used. Our bodies can only use the "-d" variety, so we can’t derive any benefit from the "-dl" form. The "-dl" form of vitamin E is made synthetically by companies attempting to make a form of vitamin E that is beneficial for human consumption. While it is certainly not going to harm you, this form of vitamin E only offers about half the potency of the "-d" type, or the natural form. You will end up taking twice as much vitamin E in synthetic supplement form to get the same health benefit you would get with half the natural supplement.

While Vitamin E is probably the easiest and most common example, there are plenty of others out there. It’s important to note that some synthetic forms may be better because they don’t run the risk of plant contamination or any sort of decay. But generally, the natural supplement is going to be your best bet. Not only do you know that it comes from nature, but it will be used by the body more efficiently. This means you can reap the benefits of number of different healthy plant and animal sources just by taking your supplements.

Whether you’re trying to boost your immunity, focus on a specific health issue or just improve your overall wellbeing, natural supplements can help.

Megan Hazel is a freelance writer who writes about health and wellbeing, often discussing specific items such as weight loss bars.

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