Autoimmune Thyroid Disease

An Unfortunate and Lengthy Adventure in Misdiagnosis

How vitamins are made

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Making vitamins from natural sources is very expensive. Manufacturers prefer using microbes or chemical reactions. The main manufacturers of vitamins are large pharmaceutical companies. Smaller companies then buy the raw materials and mix them together into pills and add their own brand packaging.

Beta carotene is manufactured by Hoffmann-LaRoche and made by heating acetylene gas to very high temperatures, from which benzene is made. Beta carotene is a hydrocarbon chain connecting two benzene rings. More expensive natural forms tend to be made from Dunaliella salina algae or carrot/vegetable concentrates.

Presumably synthetic retinol products can be made in the same way. Retinol is also made by reacting calcium carbonate with water, which is then esterified with palmitic acid (usually from palm oil). It can also be extracted from fish or other liver oils prior to purification (the purification process destroys most of the vitamin content of fish oils), but this is expensive.

Unless they state otherwise, most B vitamins are made from coal tar derivatives or petroleum. Sometimes they are also made from yeast, but will usually retain a yeasty smell or flavour and have a warning on the package. They may also be extracted from livers or made with the aide of microorganisms.

Some of the more astonishing claims on the internet state things like “Niacin is made by boiling sulfur in the presence of asbestos”, and “most B12 (cyanocobalamin) is made from sewage waste to which is added cyanide”. B12, which is synthesized by bacteria, certainly could be made in this way. I cannot speak for the claims about asbestos, though it does have a fairly simple chemical structure. That doesn’t necessarily mean it is made this way though.

Most vitamin C is made by adding sulfuric acid to corn syrup or another glucose source. Major manufacturers are Hoffmann-LaRoche, Takeda (bought by BASF), Rhône-Poulenc, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM). This group were prosecuted a couple of years ago for forming a cartel to control the price of vitamin C, after Dr. Matthias Rath showed that in combination with L-lysine, it could reverse heart disease.

Vitamin D is described as being made from “irradiated oil” or “sheep’s lanolin”. Sunlight, after all, produces vitamin D by irradiating cholesterol under the skin. Like vitamin A, it can be extracted from fish oils prior to purification, but this is expensive.

Vitamin E is largely manufactured by Eastman Kodak and Henkle and is made from turpentine, acetone and acetylin, or more petrochemicals. Natural sources are extracted from wheat germ, sunflower, safflower, or soy oils.

I cannot confirm the chemical sources listed here. The internet is full of cranks!

A lot is written on the internet about the toxicity of synthetic vitamins due to their unpleasant origins. However, these products are purified to a food or pharmaceutical grade to prevent contamination. That is not to suggest they are contaminant free, but that the likelihood of contamination is very low.

A second reason for problems with synthetic vitamins are the notions of chirality and racemisation. In nature, chemicals usually exist in only one form. However, when you synthesise molecules, they can be formed in ‘mirror images’, called the ‘L’ form and the ‘D’ form. ‘L’ forms of vitamins and amino acids are the forms usually found in nature. Mirror images of vitamins and drugs can have antagonistic effects, weaker effects, or opposite effects on the body than natural forms.

Vitamins can also contain analogs – that is chemical lookalikes that act like skeleton keys by reacting in the same chemical pathways as natural vitamins – for example, vitamin D2 and vitamin K3 are both synthetic analogs of forms found in nature. Sometimes these analogs disturb natural chemical processes. Warfarin, for example, is an analog of vitamin K. It blocks the clotting action of vitamin K and causes bleeding. Analogs are found in nature too. Vitamin A has many analogs. Certain algae, like spirulina, contain analogs for vitamin B12 that actually increase the need for real B12 – supplementing with spirulina can put vegetarians and vegans at risk of B12 deficiency.

Some forms of vitamins cannot be used by some people. For example, a small percentage of the population have a genetic polymorphism in their DHFR (dihydrofolate reductase) enzyme that means they have problems converting artificial folic acid into usable folate.

The only two major vitamin trials that have failed in the last twenty years were the synthetic beta carotene trial that aggravated lung diseases and lung cancer in smokers, and the synthetic vitamin E study increased risk of death in the elderly. Was this because the vitamins given contained racemers, or were there other reasons?

Most people who base their diet on junk foods and fortified products (cereals, breads, pasta, nutritional snack foods) may not actually achieve their RDA of natural forms of vitamins. If you are well, you can get all the vitamins you need from a natural diet as long as you are extremely careful. Most people would undoubtedly be shocked to discover how low in real vitamins they really are, if they sat down and added them up. Synthetic vitamins are not adequate substitutes for the complexes found in nature.

Of course, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics are far more toxic to the body than synthetic vitamins. There is no such thing as a safe pharmaceutical. Vitamin megadoses should always be considered a safer alternative to pharmaceuticals. However, they should be used with caution. Unless an actual clinical vitamin deficiency exists, vitamins are no more a ‘cure’ for illness than drugs are. They are simply a gentler way of manipulating the body to suppress certain symptoms or stimulate biochemical changes or healing.

If your problem goes on for longer than three to six months without sustained improvement from vitamin megadosing, it is likely that you are taking the wrong approach. Consider chemical toxicities, pathogens, and food and environmental allergies and sensitivities. I had to learn the hard way that sometimes it is not what your body is missing, it is what it has too much of.


Written by alienrobotgirl

7 April, 2006 at 4:33 pm

Posted in Vitamins

One Response

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  1. Hi; cool blog!‘L’ forms of vitamins and amino acids are the forms found in nature. This is true only for amino acids. D-tocopherol is the natural form of Vitamin E, for instance.Was this because the vitamins given contained racemers, or were there other reasons?Re; the failure of the vitamin E trials. I think that the presence of racemic Vitamin E was one cause. Also, keep in mind that there are essentially 8 kinds of vitamin E. 4 tocopherols and 4 tocotrienols. The study you refer to used DL alpha tocopherol exclusively.Administration of large amounts of racemic vitamin E or even purified D-alpha tocopherol depletes the body of the other forms of vitamin E that it actually uses.


    7 November, 2007 at 8:39 pm

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