How to Identify Synthetic Vitamins

By Cheryl Myers –

You can make wiser choices when purchasing vitamins by learning to identify synthetic dietary supplements from natural vitamin products. Manufacturers of dietary supplements sometimes use synthetic materials for increasing the vitamin’s potency and stability.

According to the Organic Consumers Association, some of these materials come from coal tar derivatives, the same toxins that cause throat cancer in tobacco smokers.

Before shopping for vitamin supplements, know what to look for in a vitamin product that may cause harm to your health.

Step 1

Search for words listed in the ingredients that begin with “dl.” When a word contains “dl” in the prefix, it is an indication that the vitamin is synthetic. As an example, “dl-alpha tocopherol acetate” and “dl-alpha tocopherol” are synthetic forms of vitamin E.

Step 2

Find words that end with “ate” or “ide” in the list of ingredients. These words indicate that the manufacturer used synthetic materials for increasing the vitamin’s potency and stability. Some words to look for include nitrate, acetate, sodium ascorbate, sodium benzoate, chloride, hydrochloride, silicon dioxide and titanium dioxide.

Step 3

Find the synthetic form of the vitamin listed under the ingredient list. Natural vitamins come from natural food sources. If you see the vitamin listed as the vitamin itself, such as “vitamin D,” then it is sure to be the synthetic version, according to Dr. Ben Kim, a Canadian chiropractor and radio show host. Look for food sources such as “citrus” instead of “vitamin C” or “parsley” instead of “vitamin K.”

Step 4

Identify the words “natural” on the vitamin bottle. If the bottle says, “100 percent natural” the vitamin supplement does not contain synthetics. On the other hand, a label that says, “natural,” might have at least some synthetic components. According to Earl Mindell’s “New Vitamin Bible,” only 10 percent of the product must come from natural food sources in order for a company to claim “natural” on the product’s label. If the product label does not say “100 percent animal-based” or “100 percent plant-based,” the supplement is synthetic.

Step 5

Look for the vitamin potency listed on the product’s label. According to the Organic Consumers Association, if the vitamin supplement has a high or otherwise unnatural potency, the product is synthetic. For example, a product that provides 1,000 percent of vitamin C is unusually high. This is ten times the amount you need daily, and an amount that even a healthy diet — consisting of natural, whole-food sources — cannot provide.


About the Author

Cheryl Myers’ first publication was in a local paper in 1989. Some of her works have appeared in “Guideposts,” “Body + Soul” and “Hearing Health Magazine.” Myers has an Associate of Science in nursing from Catonsville Community College.


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  • Rebecca

    This is all well and good, however, we should also be thankful of the choice. Anyone out there happily munching on regular glucosamine to keep their joints (especially knees and hips) healthy? Are you aware of it’s ‘natural’ cheap source? As a vegetarian and glucosamine-muncher I’m VERY pleased to have the option of glucosamine hydrochloride (the synthetic version) over glucosamine sulphate!! Glucosamine is still glucosamine whether made naturally or in a lab. It’s the salt forms {the HCl, SO4(2-)} that distinguishes them – and in small amount this is insignificant.

  • Natisha

    The other way to check is to put your vitamins in the oven at 175dg C for 15minutes if they are synthetic they will ooze a black tar!

  • James

    Also worth knowing that the RDAs are usually way too low … in particular vitamin C. So 1000% isn’t a high amount. The RDA set for Vitamin C is the required amount in order to not get scurvy which is very different from optimal health. For more information check out Dr Saul’s website for lots of “science-backed” vitamin research… have a great day 🙂

  • Debbie Kirby

    I would like the natural alturnative for Lipitor, pain pills, sleeping pills, arthritis both osteo & rhumatroid (sp) thyroid, and stress/anxiety pills.
    Thank you!

  • Simone

    Hi Debbie
    You can try magnesium as a replacement for sleeping pills and stress/anxiety pills (I take magnesium citrate & B6).
    Thyroid (I’ve been reading up about it) you can take Moringa (capsules or the powder mixed into a juice) or whatever you need to support your adrenal glands: good sleep, proper diet, exercise.