Do you Know What’s in Your Vitamin Supplements?

This is what you should know before you buy.

By Donnie Yance

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” – Jon Muir

When someone buys a bottle of supplements, they assume they’re getting an extracted, concentrated version of whatever vitamin or mineral they would find in food.

They’re happy to have the supplement to support their health. They aren’t thinking about the dangers of supplements with active ingredients that are mass-produced synthetically in a lab. Mass producing ingredients in a lab means the ingredients were manufactured using industrial chemicals. 

Currently, over half the people in the United States take synthetic nutrients like multivitamins every day.[1]

I am not one of them. I’m interested in health and wellness and vitamins are considered “healthy, “but you may be surprised to know I don’t take any multivitamins. Instead, I take a special mix of super greens, vegetables, and fruits that I developed myself. I mix this in my morning smoothie. Why? Read on.

Usage of Dietary Supplements among U.S. Adults in 2020, by age group

Graph showing the usage of dietary supplements among U.S. Adults in 2020 by age.


Why don’t I take the local pharmacy’s multivitamin? Because when I researched and considered the purported dangers of supplements, I discovered that most generic brands of vitamin and mineral supplements are synthetic or chemically manufactured isolates that may come with potential risks.

My Early Years in the Health Field

In 1976 I worked after school at a small independent health food store, Health Mart, down the road from where I lived. Raw foods, the Pritikin Diet, macrobiotics, and fat-free diets were popular back then. 

With no real evidence to justify the trend, margarine replaced butter, and eggs were thought to be the cause of cardiovascular disease.

Ten years later, my best friend Alex and I opened our store called “Food for Thought.”

Our little store grew rapidly. While running the store, I decided to study to become a nutritionist and herbalist. Eventually, I opened my first clinic. 

I became friends with owners of all the herb companies back then. We were a small and close-knit family.

Supplement suppliers had a lot of integrity back then before supplements became such a big business.

Selling Out to Big Pharma

Most of the small companies making high-quality supplements sold their businesses to conglomerates and moved on.

Garden of Life, is perceived to be an organic, high-quality brand is now owned by Nestlé, a company that used to dress employees up like nurses and go door to door in economically disadvantaged countries where they convinced moms that their infant formula was better than breast milk (a practice which led to the deaths of at least 66,000 infants).

“Today, the misconception lives on, and baby formula remains a booming market. Despite global outrage now lasting half a century, as well as tons of new research into the harm caused by Nestlé baby formula and other Nestlé products, infant formula remains an $11.5-billion market — and growing.”[3]

When I asked my mother why she didn’t nurse me as a baby she told me that the doctors said we now have infant formulas, and there is no real need, so why bother?

Human milk is the best source of nutrition including critical bioactive components to support the growth and development of infants. It is, in most circumstances, the best source of nutrition and serves as nature’s barrier against food insecurity and illness for infants.[4]

Who Owns Whom?

Nestlé Health Science, a division of Nestlé, also bought popular, well-known brands such as Pure Encapsulations and Douglas Foods, along with a host of other supplement companies, including (in addition to Garden of Life), Vital Proteins, Nuun, Wobenzym, Persona Nutrition, Genestra, Orthica, Minami, AOV, Klean Athlete and Bountiful. Bountiful itself owns Solgar, Osteo Bi-Flex, Puritan’s Pride, Ester-C, and Sundown, which are now all under Nestle’s control.

One of the most popular vitamins on the market today is Centrum. Pfizer, the world’s largest pharmaceutical company makes Centrum.

Otsuka, a pharmaceutical company, owns MegaFood and Innate Therapeutics.

Schwabe, another pharmaceutical company, owns Integrative Therapeutics, Nature’s Way, and Enzymatic Therapy.

Unilever owns Onnit, OLLY, Equilibra and Liquid I.V., and SmartyPants Vitamins.

Wall Street is also getting in on the action, with private equity groups purchasing brands like Nutraceutical and Metagenics.[5]

Procter & Gamble now owns New Chapter, based in Vermont.[6]

A list of the 14 Mega-corporations that own your supplements

The sad truth is that pharmaceutical and chemical companies make “95% of the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that you can buy at ‘health food’ stores and close to 100 percent of those sold in other stores”.[7]  

Why Take Supplements?

Nutritional levels of fruits and vegetables have declined by 5 to 40 percent, or more, in minerals, vitamins, and protein, compared to historical data.[8],[9]

This is due to a variety of man-made problems, including overuse and destruction of topsoil, and the use of chemical fertilizers and herbicides like glyphosate. So, because our food has become nutrient-deficient, people are depending on and taking more supplements to optimize their health.

What You Should Know About Most Supplements 

While nutritional supplements can resolve nutrient insufficiencies and provide health benefits, they aren’t meant to replace a wholesome diet.

Some come with negative side effects and other risks, according to research done by scientists at Louisiana State University.[10]

Take synthetic vitamin E for example, also known as all rac-alpha-tocopherol. This vitamin E is not identical to naturally occurring vitamin E. 

While vitamin E from natural food occurs as a single molecule, all rac-alpha-tocopherol is a mixture of 8 different molecules made through industrial petrochemical processes.

Much learning does not teach understanding.” ― Heraclitus

So, What Are the Dangers of Supplements?

#1. They’re Not Natural and Don’t Provide the Full-Spectrum Matrix of Nutrition Found in Foods

Naturally occurring vitamins and minerals come into our body as a matrix, bound with numerous secondary compounds that are just as important to our health and are synergistic with the vitamins and minerals. 

They then interact with and bathe our gut microbiome and are often transformed into metabolites that are then absorbed into our system, and act in a harmonious way to optimize health and healing.

Vitamin and mineral isolates do not work in relationship with our innate healing Life Force.

Synthetic vitamins that are potentially toxic include:

In my opinion, taking synthetic supplements is similar to using pharmaceutical medicine, which has its place (such as to treat acute disease), but should not be a primary means of supporting vibrant health.

“They do not have a synergism due to being industrial-made and thus cannot find their way out of the body and thus get lodged in the tissues of the body causing disease or enhancing present diseases,” explains two Serbian scientists.

“Multi complexes are manufactured by pharmaceutical and food companies, and are not organic, which is the state all digestible foods must be in for the body to break them down in order to absorb their nutrients.”[11]

#2. Synthetic Vitamin E May Increase Prostate Cancer Risk

Studies have suggested that consumption of all rac-alpha-tocopherol may be associated with increased prostate cancer risk.

A study that subjected about 35,000 men to daily supplements of selenium, all rac-alpha-tocopherol, both selenium and all rac-alpha-tocopherol, or placebo, found that those who only took all rac-alpha-tocopherol had an increased 17% risk of prostate cancer.

#3. Synthetic Beta-carotene May Increase Lung Cancer Patients’ Risk of Death

Synthetic beta-carotene is also different from naturally occurring cis-beta-carotene.

Supplementation has been documented to have an association with increased mortality in lung cancer patients.

#4. They Contain Unnatural Additives

Nutrients made from whole foods are often packaged with other assisting and inhibiting nutrients.

But most synthetic vitamin and mineral supplements on the market are isolates.

A vitamin C supplement will only contain ascorbic acid, and a magnesium supplement has a magnesium compound such as magnesium oxide as the bioactive ingredient, with fillers and flavorings making up the rest of the pill.

#5. They’re Out of Context (Isolated Vitamins or Minerals May Not Function Well)

When you eat wholesome, healthy food, your body enjoys a host of delicious vitamins and minerals working together to provide nourishment.

Vitamins and minerals do not function alone. In fact, most “cannot even function unless trace minerals are available for the synthesis or function of various carrier proteins and enzymes,” according to molecular nutritionist Eric Potratz, quoted in a recent news article.

Studies have shown that synthetic vitamins are not as beneficial as natural vitamins. They do not behave the same biologically since they lack accompanied dietary nutrients like phytonutrients.

“What most people do not realize is that these [synthetic] vitamins and minerals are not true and complete vitamins and minerals as would be supplied by good organically-grown whole foods,” wrote the Serbian researchers.

For example, when ascorbic acid, a common synthetic vitamin C, is ingested, the liver has to convert it into dehydroascorbic acid. 

A study also found that synthetic vitamin C is absorbed better when taken with bioflavonoids rather than consumed isolated.

A picture of a car engine and Organic vitamin c making an analogy between a functioning car engine and organic vitamin C

Vitamin C in nature is part of a complex, or matrix, that serves a purpose when part of the whole.[12]

Don’t be Fooled by the Word Chelate as it Applies to Minerals

Chelate (pronounced “KEY-late”) comes from the Greek word “chele,” which means “claw.” Chelation refers to the claw-like way in which a mineral is bound to an organic molecule, such as an amino acid, forming a protective shell around the mineral.

Minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, will stay chelated, but really only a small percentage are chelated, while the bulk of the calcium is cheap, poorly absorbed carbonate, and magnesium is primarily oxide, as well as iron as ferrous (iron) sulfate.  They are poorly absorbed, hard to digest, and may actually be problematic.  For example, calcium carbonate can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, since much of what makes up plaque in the arteries is actually calcified calcium.[13] In the case of magnesium supplements, the common ingredient magnesium oxide has an absorption rate of only 4 percent,[14] while compounds such as magnesium citrate and magnesium glycinate would give a higher bioavailability.

Amino Acids

When making mineral supplements, amino acids (the building blocks of protein) can be used as natural chelators. The amino acid, glycine, is the smallest amino acid, which makes it an ideal chelating agent. Because it is small, it is easily absorbed through the intestinal wall. It also forms stable bonds with minerals and doesn’t release them prematurely. An example of a mineral chelated with glycine is magnesium bisglycinate. I use a form that is chelated with glycine and lysine, which creates magnesium lysinate.  The lysinate form provides some different benefits from the glycinate form, such as immune and cardio health.

Most minerals used in supplements today are inorganic forms, such as oxides, carbonates, and sulfates. These non-chelated minerals are considered “inorganic” because they’re not attached to a carbon-containing molecule.[15]

What is the Food Matrix Effect and Why it Matters

Picture of a food molecule

The food matrix can be described as a complex assembly of various physical and chemical interactions that take place between the compounds present in food. It may further be viewed as a physical domain that contains and/or interacts with specific constituents of a food (e.g., a nutrient) providing functionalities and behaviors which are different from those exhibited by the components in isolation or a free state.[16]

Within the food matrix are multi-compounds that act on multi-targets, many pharmacodynamic substances, complex action mechanisms, and various physiological activities. [17]

So, Are “Natural” Vitamins Better?

Natural and whole-food vitamins are often perceived to be “healthier” than synthetic supplements because they are marketed and promoted as “made from genuine food” when in reality, they are isolates that have been mixed with some whole food and are therefore not naturally occurring.

A vitamin with the label “natural” could very well be made from fully synthetic vitamins due to the lack of regulations by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Whole-food supplements are made through extractions of genuine food. Freeze-drying is a popular manufacturing method for whole-food supplement producers, allowing retention of most of the nutrients without chemical processing, while simultaneously giving the supplements a long shelf life.

Yet even among these products, most are only partially whole foods, with added synthetics to ensure that the nutritional levels match the labels.

Most of the big-name supplement companies use isolated synthetic vitamins and minerals and add them to whole foods because they can easily reach the potency of vitamins and minerals and because they are cheap. So, the term “whole-food supplement” is also misleading.

Did you know that legally a vitamin can be marketed as natural or whole food based on as long as a mere 10% of its ingredients are from natural, plant-derived ingredients? The other 90% can be, and most times are, synthetically made in a laboratory, according to one analysis.[18]

A Better Way Forward: Naturized Supplements

We are living in a world where there is a serious problem of malnutrition: obesity with concomitant micronutrient deficiency.[19]  So, the truth is, we need a better solution!

I make products with Naturized nutrients. These are food-grown nutrients that are part of a truly whole food matrix. Naturized nutrients are significantly better than standard vitamins and minerals because they are physiologically and biologically similar to natural food and therefore yield better results than conventional supplements. These forms of nutrients are similar to how they would be found in plants in nature.

Naturized supplements are grown in a medium with either Saccharomyces boulardii (SB) (a strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae (brewer’s yeast or baker’s yeast)) or Lactobacillus bulgaricus. When yeast, or Lactobacillus bulgaricus, is fed the important isolated nutrient during its growth stage, the isolated nutrient is metabolized and becomes organically bound in its natural food complex, without the remains of toxic isolated chemical components.

SB contains various immune-enhancing compounds such as β-glucan, nucleic acids, mannan oligosaccharides and chitin. Many studies of the processes involved in the uptake of trace elements by the SB have increased considerably in recent years. This yeast has become a model microorganism for studying metal transporters and their accumulation in the cells.[20],[21] 

SB contains protein, trace minerals, and vitamins including B-group, and many intrinsic secondary nutrients such as beta glucans.[22] As a eukaryote, SB has a similar internal cell structure as plants and animals.[23]

Recent Research

Recent research has discovered that SB provides an excellent matrix for producing a whole-food vitamin D supplement, which is significantly superior to vitamin D isolates.[24]

Lactobacillus bulgaricus food-grown iron provides high nutritive values and bioavailability, as well as high-quality protein, which contains essential and non-essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.[25],[26]

Yeast-grown vitamins and minerals are an excellent source of complex carbohydrates (beta-1,3-glucans and mannan), dietary fiber, SOD (superoxide dismutase), and glutathione (an antioxidant found in yeast that plays a major role in cellular defense mechanisms).[27]

So, these complex food matrixes contain many important secondary compounds. It is the interactions of these micro and nano nutrients, which both enhances the health and biodiversity of the gut microbiome and, within the relationship of that microbiome, new compounds are created that further provide synergistic health benefits.[28],[29]

Yeast-bound Selenium Safer than USP Isolate

A study on selenium found that selenium as sodium selenite (the USP form) has a 2.94 higher lethal dose than yeast-bound selenium. Yeast-bound selenium is more effective and has better nutrient digestibility/assimilation,[30] compared with the synthetic form of selenium, sodium selenite. Also, yeast-bound selenium improves immune function and alleviates oxidative stress according to serum biochemical indices (e.g., urea IL, immune globulins, GSH-Px, SOD)[31]  This is because sodium selenite, as with all other isolated nutrients, is not found in nature’s food complexes.They are simply isolated chemicals. If you analyze yeast, which has a natural affinity towards selenium, you will never find the isolated nutrient sodium selenite.

Nourish The Roots So the Tree Will Grow

Holistic health is comprehensive. Its philosophical premise is, if you nourish the roots of the tree, then the tree will grow healthy and strong.

“Our bodies have many bioregulating systems, including the cardiovascular, digestive, neurological, respiratory, endocrine, and so on,” explain the authors of the 2018 book, Bioregulatory Medicine: An Integrative Holistic Approach to Self-Healing.

“Bioregulatory medicine is a comprehensive and holistic approach to health that advocates the use of natural healing methods to support and restore the body’s intrinsic self-regulating and self-healing mechanisms, as opposed to simply treating symptoms with integrative therapies.”[32]

Wholistic natural healing medicine is gentle. It posits that nature is the great healer. It’s directed at health optimization through a conceptual foundational basis of self-regulation and building nonspecific robustness (strengthening what I call the Vital or Life Force). 

It is bioregulatory network medicine at the molecular, cellular, and organ-system level.

The beauty of nature inspires the heart, to pursue the nature of beauty.” Lawrence Stoller

“If we water a root, it will grow and branches will sprout; these are the laws of nature. The experienced physician, therefore, will always consider the source.”   Li Zhongzi, (Yizong Bidu), 1637

About the Author:

Donald R. Yance is the founder of the Mederi Center. A Clinical Master Herbalist and Certified Nutritionist, Donnie is renowned for his extraordinary knowledge and deep understanding of the healing properties of plants and nutrition, as well as of epigenetics, laboratory medicine, oncologic pathology, and molecular oncology. He is a professional member of the American Herbalists Guild, National Association of Nutrition Professionals, Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine, and the Society for Integrative Oncology.


[1] Gahche J, Bailey R, Burt V, Hughes J, Yetley E, Dwyer J, Picciano MF, McDowell M, Sempos C. Dietary supplement use among U.S. adults has increased since NHANES III (1988-1994). NCHS Data Brief. 2011 Apr;(61):1-8. PMID: 21592424.


[3] 5 of Nestlé’s Worst Controversies Explained, By Lana O’Sullivan, Categories: Product Advice, April 18, 2023, 12:50 PM

[4] Vorosmarti  A, Yaktine  AL, Rasmussen  K, eds; National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Food and Nutrition Board; Committee on Scanning for New Evidence on the Nutrient Content of Human Milk.  Scanning for New Evidence on the Nutrient Content of Human Milk: A Process Model for Determining Age-Specific Nutrient Requirements. National Academies Press (US); 2020.


[6] Littenberg, Michael R.; Oldshue, Emily J.; Pifer, Brittany N. (August 30, 2020). “Delaware Public Benefit Corporations—Recent Developments”. Harvard Law School Forum for Corporate Governance. Harvard Law School. Archived from the original on May 15, 2022. Retrieved June 4, 2022.

[7] Goran Nikolic, Dragana Markovic, MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS AND MODERN DISEASES, Hrana u zdravlju i bolesti, znanstveno-stručni časopis za nutricionizam i dijetetiku (2015) 4 (1) 34-47

[8] Fan, M.-S., Zhao, F.J., Fairweather Tait, S.J., Poulton, P.R., Dunham, S.J. & McGrath, S.P. 2008 Evidence of decreasing mineral density in wheat grain over the last 160 years J. Trace Elem. Med. Biol.

[9] Davis, Donald R. Declining Fruit and Vegetable Nutrient Composition: What Is the Evidence?, Feb 2009, Page(s): 15–19, Volume/Issue: Volume 44: Issue 1, Copyright: © American Society for Horticultural Science 2009 DOI:

[10] Zhang, Marina, “The Supplements You Take May Not Be True Nutrients, and Have Potential Risks: Experts,” Epoch Times, March 23, 2023,

[11] Goran Nikolic, Dragana Markovic, MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS AND MODERN DISEASES, Hrana u zdravlju i bolesti, znanstveno-stručni časopis za nutricionizam i dijetetiku (2015) 4 (1) 34-47

[12] Goran Nikolic, Dragana Markovic, MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS AND MODERN DISEASES, Hrana u zdravlju i bolesti, znanstveno-stručni časopis za nutricionizam i dijetetiku (2015) 4 (1) 34-47

[13] Myung SK, Kim HB, Lee YJ, Choi YJ, Oh SW. Calcium Supplements and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: A Meta-Analysis of Clinical Trials. Nutrients. 2021 Jan 26;13(2):368. doi: 10.3390/nu13020368. PMID: 33530332; PMCID: PMC7910980.

[14] Firoz M, Graber M. Bioavailability of US commercial magnesium preparations. Magnes Res. 2001 Dec;14(4):257-62. PMID: 11794633


[16] Shahidi F, Pan Y. Influence of food matrix and food processing on the chemical interaction and bioaccessibility of dietary phytochemicals: A review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2022;62(23):6421-6445. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2021.1901650. Epub 2021 Mar 31. PMID: 33787422.

[17] Zhao Y, Zhong X, Yan J, Sun C, Zhao X, Wang X. Potential roles of gut microbes in biotransformation of natural products: An overview. Front Microbiol. 2022 Sep 29;13:956378. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2022.956378. PMID: 36246222; PMCID: PMC9560768.


[19] Raiten DJ, Bremer AA. An Ecological Approach for Advancing the Understanding of Nutrition and Health. JAMA Pediatr. Published online June 12, 2023. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2023.1613

[20] Stehlik-Tomas, V; Gulan Zeti, V; Stanzer, D; Grba, S and Vahi, N (2004). Zinc, copper and manganese enrichment in yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Food Technol. Biotechnol., 42: 115-120.

[21] Palma ML1, Zamith-Miranda D, Martins FS, Bozza FA, Nimrichter L, Montero-Lomeli M, Marques ET Jr, Douradinha B. Probiotic Saccharomyces cerevisiae strains as biotherapeutic tools: is there room for improvement? Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2015 Aug;99(16):6563-70. doi: 10.1007/s00253-015-6776-x. Epub 2015 Jul 4.

[22] Jach ME, Serefko A, Ziaja M, Kieliszek M. Yeast Protein as an Easily Accessible Food Source. Metabolites. 2022 Jan 11;12(1):63. doi: 10.3390/metabo12010063. PMID: 35050185; PMCID: PMC8780597.

[23] G.G. Stewart, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, in Encyclopedia of Food Microbiology (Second Edition), 2014

[24] Kessi-Pérez EI, González A, Palacios JL, Martínez C. Yeast as a biological platform for vitamin D production: A promising alternative to help reduce vitamin D deficiency in humans. Yeast. 2022 Sep;39(9):482-492. doi: 10.1002/yea.3708. Epub 2022 Jun 2. PMID:

[25] Michael Hoppe ,Gunilla Önning, Lena Hulthén, Freeze-dried Lactobacillus plantarum 299v increases iron absorption in young females—Double isotope sequential single-blind studies in menstruating women, PLoS One. 2017 Dec 13;12(12):e0189141. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0189141. eCollection 2017.

[26] Bering S, Suchdev S, Sjøltov L, Berggren A, Tetens I, Bukhave K., A lactic acid-fermented oat gruel increases non-haem iron absorption from a phytate-rich meal in healthy women of childbearing age. Br J Nutr. 2006 Jul; 96(1):80-5.

[27] Wang X, Yang Y, Zhang H, Liu J. Safety Assessment and Comparison of Sodium Selenite and Bioselenium Obtained from Yeast in Mice. Biomed Res Int. 2017;2017:3980972. doi: 10.1155/2017/3980972. Epub 2017 Oct 30. PMID: 29214165; PMCID: PMC5682906.

[28] Aguilera JM. The food matrix: implications in processing, nutrition and health. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2019;59(22):3612-3629. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2018.1502743. Epub 2018 Sep 10. PMID: 30040431.

[29] Guan ZW, Yu EZ, Feng Q. Soluble Dietary Fiber, One of the Most Important Nutrients for the Gut Microbiota. Molecules. 2021 Nov 11;26(22):6802. doi: 10.3390/molecules26226802. PMID: 34833893; PMCID: PMC8624670.

[30] Gui JY, Rao S, Gou Y, Xu F, Cheng S. Comparative study of the effects of selenium yeast and sodium selenite on selenium content and nutrient quality in broccoli florets (Brassica oleracea L. var. italica). J Sci Food Agric. 2022 Mar 15;102(4):1707-1718. doi: 10.1002/jsfa.11511. Epub 2021 Sep 16. PMID: 34460116.

[31] Lv L, Zhang H, Liu Z, Lei L, Feng Z, Zhang D, Ren Y, Zhao S. Comparative study of yeast selenium vs. sodium selenite on growth performance, nutrient digestibility, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative activity in weaned piglets challenged by Salmonella typhimurium. Innate Immun. 2020 May;26(4):248-258. doi: 10.1177/1753425919888566. Epub 2019 Nov 25. PMID: 31766926; PMCID: PMC7251790.

[32] Dr. Dickson ThomDr. James Paul Maffitt OdellDr. Jeoffrey DrobotDr. Frank PleusJess Higgins Kelley MNT, Bioregulatory Medicine, An Innovative Holistic Approach to Self-Healing, 2018.

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One Reply to “Do you Know What’s in Your Vitamin Supplements?”

  1. Enlightening information on vitamins and dietary supplements. Unfortunately many of us , including myself, have developed a sense of brand loyalty in making our purchases of dietary supplements. Without the knowledge of changes in ownership and manufacturing processes it would be difficult to make the healthiest choice.
    Thank you for uncovering this information.

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