Ask Dr. J. a question
How do companies who make vitamins
supplements get the ingredients to put into the pills? Do
they take small pieces from a vegetable & put it into
pill form? If they are chemically made or man-made, how do
they know what makes up a vitamin and put it into a pill?
vitamins and other dietary supplements (minerals, essential
fatty acids, amino acids, flavonoids, and botanicals) are
made by a few raw materials manufacturers by a variety of
processes, including extraction from foods, synthesis from
other chemicals (including some from petrochemicals), fermentation
from food sources, and breeding or engineering bacteria and
yeasts to produce particular molecules.
For example, vitamin C is commercially made
by fermentation of corn sugar, converting glucose into ascorbate.
Flavonoids (plant pigments) are almost always extracted from
foods. Vitamin E can be synthesized or naturally extracted
from food (usually soybeans), and in this case, the molecules
are somewhat different from each other, and the natural is
a more effective product.
Some B vitamins are synthesized, but it is impossible
to get higher therapeutic doses from food extraction alone,
and in this case the molecules are identical to the natural
B vitamins. Some companies claim to simply tablet or encapsulate
vitamins only as dehydrated foods, but the levels of vitamins
in these products are not the therapeutic levels you see in
most vitamin supplements -- for example, it is not possible
to put 500 mg of vitamin C in a pill just as dehydrated oranges
-- the concentration is too low in the food. The levels in
these pills (dehydrated greens, for example), while better
than nothing, are the levels people should get by eating a
healthy diet. They are simply too low to be therapeutic.
As much as possible, I recommend that people
get many nutrients from their diet. However, Americans (and
now many other people around the world following the bad example
in the U.S.), do not eat such a healthy diet. In addition,
if they are sick or have certain genetic makeup they often
need and benefit from supplements that are manufactured or
derived from natural sources, but that are in doses much higher
than in food alone.
Also, environmental toxin exposure creates certain
hazards that can be overcome to some extent with dietary supplements,
and botanical products can be helpful instead of drugs or
to help lower the dose of drug needed for a disease. For example,
diabetics need much higher doses of chromium than normal dietary
levels (1000 mcg daily as opposed to 100 to 200 mcg). Heart
patients benefit from higher doses of vitamins C and E, and
coenzyme Q10. These require supplements for treatment, regardless
of how they are manufactured. Saw palmetto helps prostate
symptoms (standardized extract from the berries is most effective).
The companies know what makes up a vitamin,
mineral, or herb to put in the pills by chemical testing,
and the suppliers do testing before shipping to pill manufacturers.
Responsible supplement companies do extensive testing after
they receive the raw materials from the supplier.
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