Get FREE access to my newsletter, exclusive coupon codes, and links to Mommypotamus recommended products for your health and home!

What The Vitamin Industry Does Not Want You To Know

Affiliate Disclosure | in Everything Else | by | with 132 Comments

My naturopath suggested I get my kids on a vitamin supplement…what do you use for your kids, or do you have a recommendation? Thanks!

~ Kirsten

Thanks for the question, Kirsten! Believe it or not, I actually don’t give my kids vitamins. Seems contrary to the “organic mama way,” doesn’t it? But actually, it isn’t! Here’s why:

Reason #1: Multi-Vitamins Are Not The Insurance Policy We Think They Are

Do you pick up your child’s dinner plate – sigh over the untouched veggies – and then think “oh well, at least he/she takes vitamins!”? Well then, I have good news and bad news. First – and you are going to LOVE me for this – it’s okay if your child doesn’t eat tons of veggies.

[B]ecause children have a relative paucity [small amount] of the enzyme that converts B-carotene into vitamin A, children younger than five years generally do not do well with vegetables. I tell all my parents not to worry about their children not liking vegetables, as this is normal in this stage of life. In fact, because they are slow in this enzymatic conversion, perhaps it is best left to the cow to do this conversion and for the child to eat butter and cream [which is full of vitamins and minerals]. This is actually probably more as nature intended it anyway.

Dr. Thomas Cowan, Feeding Our Children

In other words, we should be focused on getting our kids to eat BUTTER with a side of broccoli instead of the other way around!* Not only will this increase vitamin/mineral absorption from the veggies they actually do eat, it will provide the kind of fat soluble vitamins that help develop beautiful straight teeth, strong bodies and good dispositions.

The bad news is those vitamins may give your kids nothing more than very expensive pee. According to Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, “many supplements on the market have a very low absorption rate, some only 9%, so the [child’s] body would actually get way below what it says on the bottle.” (Gut & Psychology Syndrome p. 295)

An absorption rate of only 9%? How is that possible? It’s easy, actually. Just take whatever amazing rainforest-extracted antioxidant miracle you want, coat each particle in a gummy hydrogenated oil and then . . . eat it. Yep, for the convenience of their operations that is essentially what vitamin makers are asking us to do.

Stearates found in supplements are hydrogenated fats such as magnesium stearate, stearic acid and calcium stearate. They are made by hydrogenating cottonseed or palm oil and are used throughout the supplements industry as lubricants; they are added to the raw materials so that machinery will run at maximum speeds.

Stearates coat every particle of the nutrients, so the particles will flow rapidly. This ensures that production schedules will meet profit targets. These substances decrease the absorption of nutrients; in a published study, the percent dissolution for capsules after 20 minutes in solution went from 90% without stearates to 25% with stearates. Individuals with impaired digestion [or children with immature digestive capacity!] may have particular difficulty absorbing nutrients coated with stearates.

According to Udo Erasmus, in his book Fats and Oils, cottonseed oil has the highest content of pesticide residues of all commercial oils. In the hydrogenation process, the oil is subjected to high heat and pressure in the presence of a metal catalyst for several hours. According to Erasmus the resultant stearates contain altered molecules derived from fatty acids. The metal catalyst may also contaminate the stearates produced.

Magnesium Stearate in Supplements

Hydrogenated oils and potential metal contamination? Blech!

Reason #2: Our Bodies Don’t Know What To Do With Them

About 98% of vitamins sold in the United States are made with synthetic materials, which are basically useless.¹

But wait!” you say. “I’m not buying my vitamins at the local drug store. No way, missy! I buy mine from the health food store and it says ‘natural’ right on the label. They’re legit.

Maybe. I hope so. But the odds are not in your favor. Here’s why:

[M]ost fruit and vegetable concentrates used in dietary supplements are dried with very high heat, destroying various nutrients. They don’t supply much nutrient [value] but are used in the supplement to make it appear natural, while all the nutrients listed on the label come from synthetic or other unnatural additions. These so-called “whole food” supplements containing fruit or vegetable concentrates have to be “spiked” with synthetic vitamins and other unnatural nutrients in order to list any appreciable amounts of nutrients.

Serious Dangers of Synthetic Vitamins

So, ummm, how are companies getting away with this? Turns out it’s all just clever wording.

Almost all of the vitamin C in supplements is made in a laboratory, despite labeling that implies otherwise. For example, the label might say, “ascorbic acid from sago palm.” Dextrose, a form of sugar that contains no vitamin C at all, is extracted from sago palm and used as the base molecular material for a complex laboratory process that synthesizes vitamin C. Or the label might say “vitamin C derived from the finest natural sources.” True, but the vitamin C was synthesized. It might also say “with rose hips and acerola,” which are then used as the base material for the tablet or capsule. But a tablet of rose hips or acerola can contain only about forty milligrams of truly natural vitamin C; the rest is synthesized.

Labels often proclaim “natural” B vitamins, derived from yeast. But companies manufacturing yeast add laboratory-synthesized B vitamins to the food fed to the yeast during its growth, and then fortify the yeast further with additional B vitamins once it has grown. This allows the production of yeast of any B-vitamin potency desired, which is then used to formulate vitamin pills labeled “B vitamins derived from yeast.” I generally recommend taking B vitamins as part of the multi vitamin-mineral-antioxidant that I use. For therapeutic doses of specific B vitamins, I recommend Thorne Research products.

Ron Schmid, ND ~ Dietary Supplements: What The Industry Does Not Want You To Know

For tips on how to spot real B vitamins in supplements, check out this article from Dr. Philip Maffetone (Quick tip: If it says folic acid it’s most likely not true b9!).

So hardworking families are being duped into buying knockoffs. That’s selfish and wrong but not actually harmful, right?

Wrong. According to Dr. Campbell McBride, the body “has been designed to use natural forms of these nutrients and often does not recognize the synthetic forms and does not know what to do with them. There is a growing suspicion that a lot of cases of kidney stones, for example, are caused by supplementing synthetic forms of vitamin C, which would represent most vitamin C supplements available in the shops.” (Gut & Psychology Syndrome p. 296).

Dr. Maffetone agrees, saying that “A new study on vitamin C (Am J Clin Nutr; Jan 2008) showed adults taking the synthetic version had serious side effects. Doses of 1,000 mg of vitamin C a day impaired their energy systems (significantly hampering their endurance capacity), specifically by weakening the mitochondria of the cell (which burns fat and sugar). It also had significant adverse effects on the antioxidant system (a key immune regulator). Those who take vitamin C often take this amount or more, and it’s almost always synthetic. Children may be even more vulnerable.”

Reason #3: Too Much Can Actually Cause Deficiencies!!!

Ironic, but true. Say you’ve got a multi made with whole foods instead of the synthetic junk and it has a decent absorption rate. Problem solved, right? Not exactly.

Unless your child has been tested extensively for nutritional deficiencies (one or two broad tests do not represent a true picture), you’re effectively supplementing in the dark. Throwing random doses of things into the mix is not a good idea, because if you give your child too much of something they don’t need their body will use precious stores of other vitamins/minerals to metabolise and get rid of it.

“To complicate the whole matter even further,” says Dr. Campbell-McBride, “many nutrients compete for absorption sites in the gut. So, if we supplement too much calcium, for example, it may impair absorption of other nutrients: magnesium, zinc, copper, iron, some amino acids and others, creating deficiencies in those nutrients.” (p. 296)

Our foods contain a natural wisdom – they are complete packages with everything we need to “unpack” their nutrients – we should use them whenever possible. But what about soil degradation and industrial farming practices? Don’t we NEED to supplement?

In most cases, yes. That’s why I specifically target my children’s nutritional needs with REAL, whole food-based supplements.

What are these supplements I speak of? Eek! I am totally out of time. Seriously, I didn’t plan to make this a two-parter! But oh, in the next couple days you will get the goods, pinky swear and everything! (Updated: You can read part 2 here and part 3 here)

Are “natural” supplements everything you thought they were? Are you going to change anything after reading this post? Leave a comment and let me know what you think!

Next in this series: Essential Supplements For Children (And Their Parents)


*Note: If your child reacts to milk, try ghee! It’s butter with the milk solids removed and it’s super easy to make at home :) And avoid conventional dairy when possible because it contains very little of the fat-soluble vitamins I mentioned. Grassfed is best, even if it is pasteurized.


Questions about baby nutrition? Check out my new e-book, Nourished Baby!

Photo credit: The first photo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 License

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

132 Responses to What The Vitamin Industry Does Not Want You To Know

  1. 5 Natural Remedies For Depression « The Mommypotamus says:

    […] it be easier to just close the nutritional gap with supplements? Yes, it would! Unfortunately, most “whole food” based supplements are not what they seem, so as much as possible I recommend sticking with actual food. Besides, we’re talking about […]

  2. Helping your body heal naturally (part 1) « familynaturally says:

    […] I actually think they may hinder your natural processes.  To read further check out this article “What The Vitamin Industry Does Not Want You to Know,” by Mommypotamus.  FCLO is the only thing we take on a daily […]

  3. Healing Food Allergies & Chronic Illnesses |Real Food Supplements| says:

    […] ugly of synthetic multivitamins. I prefer to focus on what we should be doing, so hop on over and find out about why they are a bad idea. Acerola: high in Vitamin […]

  4. Photo Bombing And Other Things I Loved In October « The Mommypotamus The Mommypotamus says:

    […] Discovering a natural source for Vitamin C (Because if you didn’t know vitamin manufacturers have a dirty little secret) […]

  5. Tiffany says:

    My kids take their “multi vitamin” fermented cod liver oil! The only supplement they take. Of course their diet is full of raw milk, raw butter and lots of organic fruits, veggies and grass fed meats.

  6. mindy says:

    heather! thank you AGAIN for such a well thought out article! i “knew” some of this, but, probably like many, did not know the depth of it. your magnesium excess during your pregnancy with katie explains my problem right now. i was told i have low tissue calcium. it makes more sense now. no more mag. supplement and MORE bone soup! thanks a million!

  7. De ce sa nu le dam copiilor multivitamine « Gânduri pentru Ana says:

    […] SURSA […]

  8. 10 Natural Remedies For A Urinary Tract Infection « The Mommypotamus The Mommypotamus says:

    […] these synthetic versions can actually weaken the mitochondria and possibly cause kidney stones. (source) Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to tell what’s what just by reading […]

  9. CAUTION: Flu Shots May Double Your Chance Of Getting Sick « The Mommypotamus The Mommypotamus says:

    […] According to this article, supplementing Vitamin D is actually MORE effective at preventing the flu than the vaccine. You can find more tips for preventing colds and flu’s naturally here and here. I recommend using the acerola powder mentioned in the second article over a traditional Vitamin C, supplement, which is likely to be synthetic. […]

  10. Meg says:

    Great Post! Thanks for all your knowledge…. I have a few questions

    1. About kids not doing well with vegetables, what do you think about juicing? Could giving your kids a glass of (cucumber, carrot, beet, etc) juice be bad for them?

    2. I have looked into Juice Plus quite extensively and I have not found any downsides to the capsules (I am not a fan of their gummies). There is lots of research that shows it gets absorbed by the bloodstream and helps many bodily functions. Also, there does not seem to be any of the detrimental “fillers”, there are no pesticide residues, and they are just juiced fruits and veggies (no synthetics). So if you ever get to look into them, I would love to hear your input!

    Thanks again!

  11. MommyPaine says:

    Heather, did you ever get a chance to look into Melaleuca’s Vitality line of products? They are all patented with Oligo technology for better absorption, higher solubility, antioxidant protection from free radicals and claim to be ‘closer to nature’. I’d love to hear what you think…you can message me privately if you wish.

    Read morescience at:

  12. Amber says:

    Have you looked into Juice Plus+ before? It is 17-25 Fruits, Vegetables, Berries, and Grains in capsule or chewable form. It is whole food based nutrition. In fact, it is the only whole food supplement with a Nutrition Label because it is literally just concentrated food. It is the most thoroughly clinically researched whole food based product in the world. There are over 31 published clinical studies that prove it is what it says it is and it does what it says it does.

  13. Mirian says:

    Thorne products has Mg stearates.

  14. Gummy Vitamins | Healthy or Harmful? | Women Reaching Women says:

    […] What The Vitamin Industry Does Not Want You To Know: – The bad news is those vitamins may give your kids nothing more than very expensive pee. According to Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, “many supplements on the market have a very low absorption rate, some only 9%, so the [child's] body would actually get way below what it says on the bottle.” (Gut & Psychology Syndrome p. 295) […]

  15. Dorothy says:

    We’ve been using Juice Plus, is that ok?

  16. Why I Don't Give My Kids a Multivitamin says:

    […] to this great post by Mommypotamus, as little as 9% of nutrients listed on vitamin labels may be absorbed. This is in part because the […]

  17. The 3 Supplements I Take Every Day (and those I avoid like the plague) | Things My Belly Likes says:

    […] I’m not sweating my decision as, according to Mommypotamus (who’s written an excellent post debunking multis), the nutrients in these pills […]

  18. Hana says:

    Jesus! Who can you trust nowadays? I know. Most of the ingredients you get out of supplement or vitamin capsules are synthetic and may just be worthless. For me, I guess it’s back to basics with fresh veggies and fruits for the kids!

  19. Nourishing Herbal Tea | Cultivate Nourishing says:

    […] ingredients.  For more on why synthetic vitamins are not a good thing you can read here and here. You can, however, get the majority of the vitamins you need in quantities that work together […]

  20. Kristina says:

    I am curious what your thoughts are on the company Shaklee. They are supposed to be top notch with natural sourcing for their vitamins and supplements.

  21. What is Group B Strep? Symptoms and Natural RemediesMommypotamus | says:

    […] these synthetic versions can actually weaken the mitochondria and possibly cause kidney stones. (source) Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to tell what’s what just by reading […]

  22. sanju says:


    I am curious what your thoughts are on Honest MultiVitamins for kids?

    • Kate says:

      We’ve tried them, but we like to use whole food vitamins (not synthetic) and we switch between Hakuna Matata vitamins and Standard Process.

    • Mellissa says:

      The vitamins are all synthetic with a proprietary blend of whole foods based powders mixed in. It is better than most synthetic vitamin brands as far as additives and fillers, but it is still synthetic.

  23. Mellissa says:

    I am so glad to read this! My daughter is 15 months old and is slow to gain weight and hates vegetables. I learned of synthetic vitamins being bad for her and we don’t use them. We give her raw cow cultured butter from a local farm share, and raw goat milk, fermented cabbage juice (disguised in foods) she loves fruit galore. She loves eggs and fruit pretty much all she wants right now. So we give her plenty of raw butter with those eggs! I am happy to read this and learn we are on the right track. Many thanks and best of luck to all your picky eaters!

  24. Anna says:

    What do you think about Druckerlabs company the vitamins called Intramax. Do you have any idea if it’s safe to take during pregnancy??

  25. Dorothy says:

    Hi, my son is 3 years old and has been getting sick constantly since beginning daycare 6 months ago. I know it will take him a while before his immune system gets used to it, but why is he always sick? For the 3rd time he has gotten an ear infection and has fluid build up in his ears. He took Flintstones Gummies which he will not anymore. He is great with food and eats lots of fruits and veggies. But i feel like he needs to be taking something to boost his immune system.

    • Angie says:

      Hi, not sure if this will help but most of the laundry detergents and softers contain furmeldahide to make them last longer which is known to cause ear infections. Our skin is our largest organ and just absorbs these cemicals. Maybe try organic cleaners and lotions. Best wishes :)

  26. Linda says:

    My husband is not a veggie eater but recently had some bloodwork indicating he needs to eat healthier. He has started buying all kind of veggies in bulk and dehydrating them, then powdering them and putting them into capsules, for vitamin d he dehydrates portabello mushrooms. He has also alterd his diet and uses some of the powdered veggies in his egg whites soups, stews and eats no red meat but mainly fish, chicken and beans. He’s lost 26 pounds and has more energy. I have also been taking many of the homemade supplements he makes. We are in our mid sixties and feel better than we have in years.

  27. Veronica Wright says:

    Love your info! Is there a way to “Pin” you? Keep up the great work!

  28. Pam says:

    Like someone above, I am wondering on Juice Plus…which is stated as a whole food product. Thoughts?

  29. todd says:

    Hi,what you do is great but next time please use nutritional doctors rather than medical doctors. Using a medical doctor for an article like this is like using a dentist for heart surgery.

  30. Vicky says:

    I thought you brought up some good points, however, you didn’t talk about ORGANIC whole food vitamins. I give my children organic supplements, along with D3 drops because we live here in the Northwest and don’t get the sun we need. I believe that we need organic supplements (as close to nature as possible) because of the fast pace we now live in. Look at the huge rise in obesity and diabetes in children and adults. They become addicted to junk food! And the food that we do get these days, unless organic, has very little nutrition to offer and many times is detrimental to our health! The food is pumped with harmones and sprayed with pesticides. So unless you can constantly eat fresh organic foods everyday, I say invest in at least some good organic supplements!

  31. Araminta says:

    Hi Heather!

    I absolutely love your blog by the way- thanks for taking the time to do what you do. This article on vitamin supplements has been really helpful, but I am wondering how you ensure you are getting enough vitamins while pregnant? My husband and I have just begun TTC and I’d like to make sure I am getting good amounts of nutrients. Already following a WAPF diet, using magnesium oil, and taking chlorella/spirulina/turmeric. Thank you!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

« »