From the Desk of Dr. Michon Hawkins : Special Features :

Vitamins: The Real Story

Understanding the use of Whole Food Concentrates vs. Synthetic Vitamins

By Ron Carston D.V.M., M.S


The use of nutrition as an effective therapeutic tool to treat clinical conditions in practice is an immensely complex process. However, it can be simplified through the use of appropriately designed products; products that have been carefully combined to account for the complexities of nutritional therapy. The second aspect of effective use of nutrition clinically is that the clinician must have a concise recognition of the normal function of the dysfunctional organ or tissues. This second aspect is certainly the most important and clearly relies on the clinical skills of the clinician.

The following material is based on the clinical experience of the author in combination with extensive study of the literature. It is primarily directed toward simplifying the overwhelming amounts of nutritional data so that useful clinical decisions can be made. Secondly, it attempts to aid the clinician in deciphering the often contradictory statements and claims made by advocates and adversaries of applied clinical nutrition. This will be accomplished by discussing the differences between synthetic vitamins and whole vitamin complexes, aqueous CytosolTM extracts, protomorphogens, digestive products, and whole desiccated products.

It is important to first understand the meaning of applied clinical nutrition before venturing into the specifics of case management. Obviously, it is easy to get bogged down in the details of what each vitamin is supposed to do. This is something that should and can be avoided through a general understanding of the vitamin and, more importantly, an understanding of the vitamin complex. It is clear that the vitamin complex is the functional unit of nutrition. Therefore, effective nutritional therapy must be based on the application of the vitamin complex to clinical case management. Once this aspect is understood, the clinician can explore the organ and tissue impacts of each vitamin complex. With this knowledge and an understanding of the physiology of the body, effective nutritional supportive programs can be outlined and applied.

The following information briefly discusses the differences between synthetic vitamins and whole vitamin complexes. Further, it will touch on the use of aqueous CytosolTM extracts, whole desiccates, digestive products, and ProtomorphogenTM extracts. The next section briefly outlines the use of the Standard Process products in veterinary clinical practice. Comments are included on the expected response time and synergistic products when applicable. The final section outlines basic strategies for combining products together for the indicated disease conditions. This information is predominantly based on the work of Dr. Royal Lee. He was a pioneering genius in the field of applied clinical nutrition in humans. His basic premise in regard to nutrition was that the nutrients must be provided for the body in their complex form with all the associated synergistic cofactors. Dr. Lee found through his research that certain plant or animal sources contain high levels of the nutrient of .interest. He developed methods to concentrate these compounds and combine whole nutrient complexes to form a complete supplement specific for the clinical syndrome of interest. In essence, Dr. Lee's formulas are based on extensive literature research and his clinical experience. Many of these formulas have been in continuous, successful human use for over 50 years.

There are many who have tried to copy his formulas without fully understanding his basic premise of giving the body a complete grouping of nutrients directed specifically at the dysfunctional tissue. These formulas are, in simple terms, food concentrates in which the water and fiber have been removed; concentrates in which specific nutrients have been selected from food sources. For example, mushrooms are high in tyrosinase which is felt to be essential for proper function of the adrenal gland. So mushroom is a component of the adrenal support product Drenamin.

The best method of applying these clinical products is to understand their application and begin to explore the reasoning behind each combination. This will provide the clinician with a much broader range of therapeutic choices.

Whole Vitamin Complexes

This section briefly discusses the various merits of the whole vitamin complexes versus the synthetic vitamins. The first portion gives basic information about a number of important aspects of why the whole vitamin complex is superior for managing clinical disease from a nutritional perspective. Further, it outlines why and how synthetic vitamins may actually cause harm to the patient in need of nutritional support. The second section is taken from a paper written by Dr. Royal Lee in the 1950's. Dr. Lee outlines the same basic issues. His paper, The Truth About Vitamins, is included in its entirety because in it he defines, and reinforces the basic premise of the superior clinical effects of the whole vitamin complex. Forty years later, conscientious health care practitioners are still struggling to grasp the significance of this critical issue.

One of the most important aspects to understand is the difference between synthetic vitamins and whole vitamin complexes. It is clear from numerous studies that there is a clinical difference in efficacy between vitamins that are manufactured in the laboratory and those manufactured in a living organism. Often these studies graphically demonstrate the toxic effects of synthetic vitamins. This is often a direct toxicity that results in clinical disease. In other studies, the results are those of a vitamin deficiency; interestingly, a deficiency of the very vitamin being supplied in a synthetic form. Hypervitaminosis results in clinical signs that are similar to those of a deficiency. This is an apparent contradiction that will be clarified as this issue is explored. Frequently, it is stated in the literature that vitamins appear in the urine a short time following administration. These are synthetic vitamins and the body is actively ridding itself of these foreign substances. Further, it has been shown that the body selectively absorbs whole vitamin complexes in preference to the synthetic forms.

A fully functioning vitamin is an extremely complex organic compound that is essential for maintenance of life and health. The vitamin complex contains not only the identified, organic vitamin nutrient, it also consists of enzymes, coenzymes, trace element activators {minerals), and antioxidants in a protein matrix. Clearly, for a vitamin to be clinically useful it must be in its complex, organized, organic state. Numerous studies have demonstrated that a vitamin supplement that is a single chemical or even several chemicals cannot fulfill the biochemical and functional needs of the body.

In essence, vitamin efficacy must be defined by its functional effects within the body. Single chemicals {synthetic vitamins) by virtue of their simplicity, while relatively simple to manufacture, cannot replace the functional complexity of an intact organic vitamin complex. Thus, we must distinguish the synthetic single vitamin from the whole vitamin with its bioactive matrix and recognize the extreme difference in their relative composition. Numerous studies from the 1940's through the 1990's clearly demonstrate the necessity of utilizing whole vitamin complexes derived from food sources. The following are quotes from some of those articles:

It (stomatitis} does not respond to treatment with vitamin B~ riboflavin or nicotinic acid, singly or in combination. Restoration of the mouth to normal was accomplished only after intensive therapy with the vitamin B complex. The factor or factors responsible are present in the vitamin B complex and may be any of the less well-known fractions which have not as yet been isolated or synthesized and consequently have not been applied in human nutrition studies. Rosenblum, L., and Jolliffe, N., JAMA, 117:2245, December 27,1941.

The addition of yeast. ..to the diet regularly prevented this liver damage. Rich and Hamilton observed the development of cirrhosis of the liver similar to Laennec type in all fourteen rabbits which were kept on diet supplemented by various vitamins but lacking yeast. These investigators determined that the injury was due to lack of some factor contained in yeast other than vitamin B 1, B2, B6; or nicotinic acid. Hawkins, W, Annual Review Physiol., 3:259-282, 1941.

In dogs fed on a low protein diet supplemented with thiamin hydrochloride, nicotinic acid, riboflavin, pyridoxine hydrochloride and either pantothenic acid or purified liver extract a deficiency state developed characterized by loss of appetite, substantial loss of weight, moderate to severe anemia and peptic and cutaneous ulcers. The condition was not prevented by an increase of protein diet. It was not cured or prevented by the addition of cystine, choline, paraminobenzoic acid, inositol or an eluate of clay absorbate of liver extract. Fouts, P., JAMA, Soc. Proc., 118,12:1002, March 21,1942.

The results suggest that people with low intake of flavonoids (food source) have higher risks of coronary disease. Knekt P; Jarvinen R; ReunonenA; MaatJ, BMJ 1996 Feb 24; 312(7029): 478-81

A Finnish trial demonstrated no benefit of beta-carotene among middle-aged male smokers, with those assigned to this supplement in fact experiencing an increased risk of lung cancer. Buring JE; Honnekens CH; J Cell Biochem Suppl1995; 22:226-30.

There was no evidence of beneficial effects for alpha tocopherol or beta carotene supplements in male smokers with angina pectoris, indicating no basis for therapeutic or preventative use of these agents in such patients. Rapola JM; Virtano J; Ripatti S; et al, Heart 1998 May; 79(5): 454- 8.

...the effects of vitamin E and beta-carotene supplementation on reducing the incidence of lung cancers in male smokers, ages 50-69 years. Supplementation did not result in a significant reduction in lung cancer, and a higher incidence of lung cancer was observed in the group receiving beta-carotene. Blumberg J; Block G; Nutr Rev 1994 Jul; 52(7): 242-5.

The results suggest that carotenoids, vitamin E, and vitamin C may be protective against lung cancer among nonsmokers. Food sources rich in these micronutrients may also have other constituents with independent protective effects against lung cancel: Knekt P; Jarvinen R Seppanen R; et al, Am J Epidemiol1991; 134(5): 471-9.

A current look at this issue reinforces what should have been apparent from the earlier studies. It is commonly known that synthetic Vitamin A can be toxic if not properly used. What is less understood is that the whole vitamin A complex does not have toxicity even when taken in excess. Recent studies in pregnant women supplemented with synthetic Vitamin A had significantly increased risk of birth defects in their infants. Other studies utilizing high levels of synthetic Vitamins C and E have demonstrated the potential for deleterious effects on the DNA. These are all alarming findings that indicate vitamins are not safe and their use should be tightly controlled. They are not benign substances when they are in a synthetic form; they are chemicals and should be considered drugs. Again, it is essential to recognize the difference between synthetic vitamins and the whole vitamin complexes. The whole vitamin complex does not create these toxicity problems even when improperly used to excess. Physiologically, the body was designed to process vitamins as part of the ingested food. Food vitamins are vitamin complexes with all their naturally occurring synergists.

Another aspect of the impact of synthetic vitamins is the measured rise in blood histamine levels following ingestion. An increase in blood histamine is interpreted as an indication of an allergic reaction. Synthetic vitamins not only are relatively poorly absorbed, they are actively excreted via the kidney, and can create an allergic response. Consider for the moment the metabolic demands and impact from these activities related to the ingestion of synthetic vitamins.

Thus far we have briefly discussed the lack of synergists in synthetic vitamins, the toxicities, and the apparent allergic response. Now the issue of the polarity of the vitamin must be addressed. This issue relates to the rotation of the organic molecule. In its natural form the vitamin has a right or left handed rotation. The body's receptors are configured to bind with this specific rotational configuration so that the proper rotation is capable of properly interacting with the appropriate biochemical processes. Vitamins synthesized in a laboratory contain both a right and left handed rotation. The proper rotational configuration can bind to the appropriate receptor sites while the opposite rotation can not. Therefore only the proper rotation is therapeutically useful as a vitamin. Further, it has been discussed relative to the pharmaceutical industry that drugs are a mixture of both right and left rotations. Only one rotation is clinically useful while the opposite rotation is associated with the negative side effects of the drugs. Since synthetic vitamins must be considered drugs we must therefore assume that at least some of the toxic effects of synthetic vitamins are related to this same phenomenon.

A further detrimental factor associated with the use of synthetic vitamins is the tendency to create vitamin deficiency states. It is interesting to note that in the situations in which synthetic vitamin toxicities are present, the clinical signs are similar to those of a deficiency of that specific vitamin. This is felt to occur because the body must configure the synthetic vitamin into a biochemically useful form. In order to do this the body must take portions of the vitamin complex from storage and combine these portions with the synthetic vitamin, causing rapid depletion of the stored vitamin components, resulting in a vitamin deficiency.

One final note on the negative effects of synthetic vitamins concerns their drug-Iike effects. Acting as a drug, synthetic vitamins force a reaction to occur. One example of this is the use of synthetic Vitamin E. This synthetic vitamin causes blood oxygen to be forced into the tissues. In certain situations this can be beneficial; however, there is relative depletion of the oxygen in the blood in 72 hours. Relative depletion of the blood oxygen creates its own problems while also reducing the clinical effects of the synthetic Vitamin E. Studies done on ascorbic acid, defined as Vitamin C, have never shown it to be clinically useful in treating the deficiency disease, scurvy. However, the whole vitamin complex has repeatedly shown the ability to effectively treat scurvy. Ascorbic acid, by itself, has limited therapeutic application as a pharmaceutical substance.

Whole vitamin complexes contain the entire vitamin complex which includes all factors required for proper utilization. Typically, they are ingested in the form of a provitamin that must be converted by the body into its final bioactive configuration. This situation exists because the bioactive form is relatively unstable. The provitamin form is more stable and can remain viable in foods for longer periods of time.

Another aspect of whole vitamins are their inherent complexity. Each whole vitamin complex is composed of a protein matrix with associated vitamin factors, antioxidant factors, essential enzymes, and minerals. Dr. Lee described whole vitamins as existing and functioning as, "biological wheels within wheels." This was his way of attempting to simplify the essential and complex interrelationship that exists between the precisely combined whole vitamin constituents. These precisely combined whole vitamin complexes are only found in food.

Because these whole vitamin complexes are derived from food, it is extremely difficult to get an overdose, unlike the case with synthetic vitamins. Further, there is an apparent difference in potency. The whole vitamin complex is more clinically effective at what appears to be lower doses.

Whole vitamin complexes are absorbed in preference to synthetic vitamins in what appears to be an active process. For example, natural Vitamin E is absorbed at five times the rate of the synthetic form. Further, it appears that the natural form has twice as much bioavailability as the synthetic form. In the preceding example we are speaking specifically about the d-alpha-tocopherol vs the dl-alpha-tocopherol. The alpha-tocopherol is defined as Vitamin E. This totally ignores the fact that Vitamin E complex is composed of seven tocopherols along with Vitamin F1, Vitamin Fl, Vitamin El, Vitamin E3, xanthine, selenium, and lipositols. Obviously, there is a tremendous difference in complexity between the synthetic Vitamin E form and the whole vitamin complex which should be a clue that Vitamin E is much more than simply alpha-tocopherol.

As you begin to use nutrition as a functional component of therapy, it must be clearly understood that there is a significant difference between the synthetic vitamin forms and the whole vitamin complex. This enormous difference is present not only in the vitamin's chemical structure, but also in its therapeutic effectiveness. Additionally, each tissue has a preferential need for specific nutrients. When disease is present it is typically due to malnutrition in a specific tissue site. By understanding the relative needs of the various body tissues and being able to identify their relative deficiency states, successful application of therapeutic nutrition can occur. Use of whole vitamin complexes avoids many of the physiological stresses created by synthetic vitamins.

The following paper, entitled "The Truth About Vitamins", by Dr. Royal Lee gives additional insight into this critical issue of the whole vitamin complex and reinforces the foregoing discussion while simultaneously placing this issue in its historical perspective.

The definition of a natural vitamin may need some clarification. A vitamin which exists in food is a natural vitamin. A vitamin made synthetically is not natural. However, if you extract a natural vitamin from food, from a practical and chemical standpoint there would be no difference between natural and synthetic. Here is what we mean! We consider natural B-l is at its nutritional best when you get it in food or concentrate as part of the WHOLE and not removed and isolated. Example: to get 1 mg. of B-l in a tablet, one can use 1 mg of synthetic thiamin. To give you natural B-l , we have to give you much more than 1 mg of yeast. To give you 1 mg natural B-l , we use at least 300 mg of yeast ( or liver ). What makes NATURAL B-l different is the presence of the nutritive elements in the other 299 mg of yeast or liver not present in a formula containing 1 mg of thiamin alone.

"ORGANIC" VITAMINS. This term was invented by those who wanted to get around the true meaning of NATURAL by using synthetic vitamins and deceptively calling them "organic ". The chemist calls everything organic which is derived from coal or which in other words has carbon in its molecular structure.

Nowadays, in the vitamin field at least, organic and natural are being used interchangeably. Some formulas contain only a base of natural ingredients, such as alfalfa. This is an attempt to mislead the buyer to believe that all the vitamins in it are natural. Many of those who jumped on the "organic" bandwagon are deceivers. One particular unashamedly advertised vitamins in a magazine as "natural-organic " yet practically every single vitamin on the label, if examined closely, was synthetic, boldly exaggerating the "natural II BASE. There may be no law against this, for if the chemist s definition of "organic II if followed, it means anything which has carbon in its molecular structure -- which includes practically all the synthetic vitamins. This is a wide loophole!

Those who understand nutrition know how to read labels and to beware of those who deliberately misrepresent what we consider "organic ". They know the virtues of necessary and reasonable potencies as against unnecessarily exaggerated out-of balance potencies.

The modern tendency is to get away from synthetic vitamins and replace them by natural sources of vitamins. Natural vitamin complexes, as present in organic foods, differ from synthetic vitamins in the following respect. In the case of natural vitamins, we find them in organic combination with each othe1:; as well as with minerals which are equally necessary for their physiological action, including trace minerals which are of great importance due to their catalytic action in association with vitamins. Then there are the enzymes and coenzymes, on whose presence the proper utilization and effect of vitamins also depends. All of these associated factors are not present in synthetic and crystalline vitamin preparations, whose effectiveness is thereby reduced, as compared with a natural source of vitamins, which are usually provided in an organic complex containing these other vital factors.

Crystalline synthetic vitamins, which are isolated factors, cannot be separated from the natural vitamin complex without destroying its biological relation and value. We must therefore conclude that isolated vitamin factors cannot produce the desired physiological action that results from the presence of natural vitamin complexes, consisting of a proper combination of known and unknown factors, catalysts, enzymes, etc. , constituting a working team which no chemist, by a process of synthesis or union of isolated factors, can reproduce or imitate.

The natural vitamin complex carries trace mineral activators, without which the vitamin-enzymes fail as organic catalysts.

When the so-called "high potency " synthetic crystalline vitamins are taken into the system, they must be put into proper combination before they can properly Junction. Meanwhile, most of the synthetic crystalline components being water soluble are lost through the kidneys, as is well known, and fail to be of any value.

Just as the chemist cannot create life, neither can he create a complex vitamin — the life element in foods and nutrition. This is a mystery the chemist has never solved and probably never will, and the synthetic vitamins he creates on the basis of chemical formulae bear as much resemblance to the real thing as a robot does to a living man, lacking an elusive quality that chemistry cannot supply.

A few years ago some salt water fish were brought to a London aquarium, but there was only a small amount of sea water there which was insufficient for the needs of the fish. One of the curators said that he could make sea water, as its formula was well-known. So he got out the book, assembled the ingredients and made a batch of sea water: But when they placed a fish in the water it soon died. Three or four times the curator made sea water, being more careful each time, but the fish that went into the tank, died in every case. There was one smart curator there, who had a brainstorm. Let us take this last batch of artificially- made sea water and put it into the tiniest bit of real sea water. When they did that, the fish could live in it. Evidently in real sea water there is a gleam of some substance which is too tiny to measure and which, therefore, is not in the published formula for sea water, but which is needed by fish in order to live.

Let us take the case of vitamins. It has been discovered that Vitamin C consists of six parts carbon, eight parts hydrogen and six of oxygen. Now Vitamin C can be extracted from foods such as citrus or tomatoes, but it can be made cheaper from coal tar products and probably 99 percent of the Vitamin C sold in drug stores today is of the synthetic variety. But are the two products the same? Let me give you the answer by citing an experiment which was reported in the Russian medical journal called Vitamin Research News, No.1, 40, (1946). Mice were fed a deficient diet which is known to produce scurvy, and when it was apparent that they were all suffering from this disease they were divided into two groups and treated with Vitamin C which is known to cure scurvy. But one group was given the vitamin produced synthetically while the other group had the benefit of vitamin C obtained from a plant. The group that was fed on the natural vitamin C was completely cured within a short time. Those that were treated with the synthetic product were not.

Let us take another case which is described in the British publication, "Nature ': of January 1, 1952. The authors, St. Rusznyak and A. Szent-Gyorgi, studied a disease involving fragility of the walls of the blood vessels. They treated one group of laboratory animals with peppers, a natural food known to contain large amounts of Vitamin C. The second group received synthetic vitamin C. The disease was cured only in the first group of animals. There must be an unknown factor in peppers.

A third example is the description of a significant experiment mentioned in the book called 'rood and Nutrition ': written by E. W H. Cruickshank, M.D., originally published in England (in this country by Williams and Wilkins published in 1951). Three groups of chicks were fed on the same diet. The first group received no Vitamin D at all. The second group was given synthetic Vitamin D preparation made from cod liver oil.

The chickens receiving no vitamins gained 259 grams of weight, the synthetic D group gained 346 grams, but those that had the benefits of the natural Vitamin D gained 399 grams. But here is the most important part of the experiment. In the no vitamin chicks, 60 percent died. In the synthetic group, 50 percent died. However, in the natural Vitamin D group there was not one death!

The poisonous nature of the synthetic Vitamin D sold as viosterol is well established. (The Journal of the American Medical Association, Val. 130, pages 1208-1215.)

Recognizing that natural food vitamins contain values of some kind which are not present in artificial vitamins produced in the laboratory, the question arises as to what natural vitamins contain that the synthetic ones lack, certain essential trace minerals, as well as enzymes and co-enzymes that act as organic catalysts, without which they cannot produce their full vital effects. These essential associated factors are not found with synthetic vitamins, which for this reason cannot replace the natural ones. In the process of reducing to a simple crystalline form by means of heat or chemical solvents these delicate enzymes are destroyed and the value of the synergistic action that exists between them and their accompanying vitamins no longer exists.

Few people realize that there is a sharp difference between 'crystalline" vitamins and 'synthetic" vitamins. "Crystalline" vitamins are made by the treatment of some natural source material with the following chemical solvents:

  • Ether — made from alcohol and sulphuric acid.
  • Benzine — a petroleum derivative.
  • Toluene — a coal tar derivative.
  • Trichloethyline — a petroleum derivative treated with chlorine gas ( a poisonous gas added to drinking water).
  • Methylalcohol — a synthetic wood alcohol ( which is known to be poisonous).

The resultant product is then treated with some precipitant such as iron chloride, barium chloride, lead salts, aluminum salts, etc. It is then filtered distilled by heat and later recovered in crystalline form. Can such a product conceivably bring health? Can such vitamins equal the natural vitamins of organic food? Can such a single, isolated vitamin produce the same action as the VITAMIN COMPLEX provided by Nature in the green vegetation, which has been the accustomed source of vitamins for all living organisms on earth since time immemorial.

Crystalline vitamins have been produced by means of artificial heat, which is necessarily destructive to life, whereas natural vitamins are vitalized by the sunlight by whose aid they are formed in the chlorophyll of the green leaves of plants. Crystalline vitamins, also, are subjected to treatment by chemical solvents, which are also caustic and harmful, destroying the delicate enzymes of the source material from which they are derived and thus depriving the resulting crystalline vitamins of their synergistic action, so important for proper vitamin utilization.

There is a danger of excess of isolated vitamin factors. When too much of any particular vitamin is taken, it tends to upset the balance of vitamin metabolism and leads to compensatory deficiency of other vitamins. This has been clearly demonstrated in the case of the various members of the vitamin B complex. Thus, an excess of certain vitamin B factors, such as thiamin, has been found to produce compensatory deficiency of other factors, as pyridoxine. This shows why it is much better to use entire vitamin B complex, as provided by natural organic sources of this vitamin. Just as no chemist can synthetically create the vitamin B complex because it contains both known and unknown vitamin B and other associated factors of which its proper action depends, so it is impossible for any physician to specify the exact tolerance of any individual to special isolated vitamins and to differentiate between the quantity that constitutes a harmful excess and what does not.

—Royal Lee, DDS


Article written by Ron Carston D.V.M., M.S


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