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How Vitamins are Made


This material for the first time helps clear the air regarding the confusion created about different vitamins forms. Consumers often ask questions such as how are vitamins made, where do they come from, or which form is best. Not many nutritionists, doctors, dietitians, or store clerks know all this information. This is an industry first.

1. Synthetic Isolates

  • These vitamin forms are created in a laboratory. The starting material is often coal tar distillates or petroleum distillates such as for many of the B vitamins. Vitamin C comes from corn sugar.  Solvents or other chemicals with the help of enzymes or enzyme acting chemicals act on this material to create chemical pathways that eventually lead to the desired vitamin structure. Plus fermentation processes might also be involved. Yes, even synthetic vitamins use this natural process.
  • Some vitamins chemically formed contain different sturctures from the vitamins nature creates in food. Others are exactually the same, and a few just arrange the same elements slightly different. Plus, Nature always builds molecules forming to the right while some synthetic vitamins made in the lab can have both left and right forming molecules. This is a major factor as to how they behave and function in the body. Imagine a key that still fits into a lock, but doesn't turn it. The left forming vitamins probably do not perform vitamin functions, and they evan might interfere with the natural right forming vitamin molecules. This is especially the case for synthetic vitamin E. Each vitamin almost has to be evalulated separately. The blanket statement that "synthetic vitamins are the same as natural" is simply not factual. 

2. Naturally extracted natural source isolates

  • Here the vitamins are extracted out of natural sources without chemcials. Herbs can be soaked in water and alcohol over time to extract active ingredients, or a mechanical process might separate the active nutrient. The finished product usually still contains some of the natural materials.  

3. Chemically treated natural source isolated extracts

  • Vitamin E is extracted mainly from soy oil. But the extract includes only about 20% vitamin E as d'alpha tocopherol with the other 80% being the beta, delta, and gamma tocopherols. Gamma is by far the majority.  Scientists use an enzyme process to convert most of the gamma and delta into the d'alpha form. The body can also do this conversion when it needs more d'alpha tocopherol, but uses a slightly different process.
  • Some vitamins and nutrients do not readily separate from their source and need a chemical process to assist separation. Often both natural and chemical methods are available and it is not known which method was used for a product unless that information is supplied on the label. Supercritical extraction uses natural carbon dioxide under pressure and a certain temperature to extract the fat soluble active elements out of plants and herbs, or water and alcohol are used at different percentages to extract the desired nutrients, and lastly for materials that do not readily give up their elements, a chemical method uses solvents like Hexane. The Supercritical method is marketed as the cleanest, but since it mainly gets out fat soluble elements, a water (usually including alcohol) extraction process must also be used.

4. Whole Natural food concentrated vitamins

  • These vitamins are made by nature in plants, animals, or fish. The food material is only concentrated by freeze drying to a powder. Plants are often juiced first to eliminate the fibers. Usually the dosages are very low, except for fish oils and vitamins D and E. Vitamin C extracted from Camu fruit is an example and vitamin E from soy oil. Another source is from animal or fish tissues or organs, such as Cod liver oil. These are true food formed vitamins.

5. Synthetic fortified yeast vitamins

  • Live yeast cells are fed some synthetic and some natural isolated vitamins added into the liquid medium that supplies the food yeast cells need to grow. The yeast cells take in these vitamins and they may attach to protein elements, similar to what happens in other living organisms, such as humans. The yeast cells are then enzymatically treated to dissolve the cell walls and the material is dried and encapsulated. Examples of brands that use this method: New Chaptertm, MegaFoodtm, and Garden of LIfetm. See Foodform vitamins
  • This form is often erroneously called "food-formed" or "whole food source vitamins" which implies the vitamins are made by the yeast cells. But this is misleading now that you know some synthetic vitamins are added during production. While growing yeast cells do make a few vitamins naturally, the dosages are very low and most nutritional yeast on the market today has been fortified with added synthetic vitamins. Without proper labeling on these food form vitamin products, a true analysis cannot determine which vitamins are synthetically produced and which are natural extracted isolates.

6. Whole Food vitamins

  • Vitamins made by nature in growing plants or animals and consumed by eating the whole food.   

      More Examples are coming. Visit our sister website here for updated info. www.vitaminworkshop.com 

Analysis of Synergisms:  You will read on websites that synthetic vitamins are not "real" vitamins because they do not contain all the synergistic elements found together with vitamins in foods. While this sounds logical, it does not always stand up to a closer scrutiny. Let's use vitamin C. As man-made ascorbic acid, synthetic and isolated, these websites say this form is never found in nature and thus, not active in performing vitamin C functions such as curing scurvy without the other family members from food like bioflavonoids and rutin. What you are not told is that most mammals, unlike humans and a few other primates and birds, can make their own vitamin C right inside their bodies. The form they make is L-ascorbate, a form of ascorbic acid also found in supplements which is simply ascorbic acid combined with a mineral. Bioflavonoids and rutin are not made inside the body of these animals and they must get them from their diet if indeed they are needed to make vitamin C function.

Are you beginning to see the paradox? The vitamin C these animals make is also missing the synergistic elements sometimes found together in foods or thought to be part of vitamin C action. Yes, these other elements often help protect and increase the functions of vitamin C as ascorbic acid, but they have to be supplied by diet and catch up with vitamin C in the body. They probably just help each other out by performing similar functions without combining together to form any new compound. For vitamin C, scientific scrutiny does not support the concept that ascorbic acid does not function as vitamin C by itself.

Another factor seldom mentioned by the synergistic theory is that usually these food vitamin complexes that form in plants break apart during digestion leaving just the simple isolated vitamin or mineral by itself anyway. Enough of this nonsense, there are other issues more critical, such as how do synthetic and natural vitamins compare by participating in body processes. This can be measured and determined. There are some differences. It is these differences and not the complex forms that should be the test.


The concept that many nutrients work together and taking just one is a waste is used as a marketing tool by many companies to sell combination or natural base products. The following information should add some understanding.

Are there other elements that must be present for vitamins to work? Of course! One function of vitamins is to act as a catalyst to perform a function. To accomplish this, vitamins become part of co-enzymes combining with minerals and acids to assist the protein enzyme functions. An enzyme can function at a very high rate, sometimes performing 30,000 reactions in one second. Stop and think about this. That speed almost defies imagination. This is why vitamin requirements are often satisfied by such small amounts. The enzyme keeps repeating the action over and over again until another natural process, such as pH change or saturation stops the enzyme action at the appropriate time, usually after enough actions have accomplished the job (digestion) or created enough of the desired new material.

Is it necessary to take these other nutrients at the same time as the vitamin? Not always necessary. The body has some reserves of these nutrients available. But since the body is constantly eliminating and taking in nutrients, it is necessary to eat a variety of whole foods to prevent shortages developing which could jeopardize the formation of protein enzymes and the vitamin part of co-enzymes. Studies reveal shortages are a factor for some people. How the body allocates shortages of vitamins to determine which functions get priority is still waiting to be determined. It will most likely be survival mode functions that get priority. Since water soluble vitamin C and most of the B vitamins have short lifespans in the body, regular consumption is recommended, but not necessarily every day because there is some build up. Vitamin B1 for example would take 11 days to completely clear out of the body. About 50% of B1 absorbed one day is still in the body the next day. Fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K have some ability to go into longer term storage and are not needed every day. And vitamin B12 has been known to stay in the body for many months, even over a year.

Is there enough of these needed synergistic nutrients in the base of vitamin supplements to be a factor?  While it would be easier to determine this if the amount of any synergistic nutrient was given on the label, the general answer is that base materials are usually not in sufficient amounts to be very effective. They are added mostly as a marketing tool. Since most supplements are taken with food, the food would supply hundreds of times more than these base nutrients unless the base material was super concentrated, a feat that would surely defy science given the same amount of space available in capsules. Often the base material is not even concentrated at all. The average size capsule holds 800 milligrams. Even at 500 milligrams, few base whole food nutrients would be sufficient to add significant benefits for a 150 pound person. A half cup of food, the typical serving size, contains 112,000 milligrams. This amounts to over 200 times the size of the capsule base. The value of a base material could be a factor of how much it can be concentrated without major reductions in nutrient values. Proteins cannot be concentrated, all you can do is remove all the non protein material. 

Thus you can see that taking supplements with food would supply hundreds of times more synergistic nutrients than could fit in the base of a capsule or tablet. Listing the nutrients contained in base materials may sound like a valuable addition, but the actual quantities would be too tiny to be of much value to the body, unless the serving size is for many capsules.

While there may be a few exceptions, the above facts still give the natural base product an edge. There may be potential harm from non-food chemical base build-up. And one has to also be aware of allergies to either the food or chemical ingredients, plus factor in the price difference. Then there is the possibility of natural base heavy metal contamination, especially of lead and cadmium. Yes, here the all synthetic does have an advantage.

There may be a slight advantage if fresh foods are not available at the time or under extreme conditions, such as mountain climbing. 

Do these food base or whole fruit and vegetable products really deliver the equivant of many servings of whole foods? The small space in capsules or tablets is not sufficient to supply effective amounts of whole foods. So, the companies juice the fruits and vegetables, which eliminates all the fibers and some of the minerals might be carried out with the fibers as well as some vitamins which oxidize from air exposure. The juice is then usually freeze dried into a powder.  Thus, when marketing says their product supples the value of 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, they are NOT talking about the fibers, or the water content, or all the plant phytonutrients, or even all the vitamins and minerals. Totally mis-leading and incorrect marketing statement. Mainly they are talking about the ORAC value of 5 servings. This is a measure of a food's antioxidant capacity. They might be right here and this could be of some value to someone not eating any vegetables and fruits.

Fruit and vegetable fibers slow the release of sugars to prevent rapid blood sugar swings. They also feed the beneficial probiotic bacteria in the intestines.  Without knowing the amount of vitamins and minerals that survive the processing of the whole fruits and vegetables, capsules and powders cannot be analyzed or compared to the original amounts in the whole foods.

Food bases are even smaller amounts and hardly ever add significant or effective benefits to the products. Their presence is mostly a marketing story. They are healthier than some chemical alternatives and this could be there chief value.

There is the example of starch blockers that simply were ground up raw whole white beans. About one bean per capsule. They were promoted as preventing or blocking the body from absorbing all the calories out of foods. Beans have an ingredient that does hinder starch digestion. This is why they can produce intestinal gas. The carbohydrates ferment when they are not completely digested. Really, a few beans. Hardly an effective amount. (An extract of the active ingredient in beans is available now with slightly better results.) Another example is Rosehips which are often added as a base to synthetic vitamin C. The amount of rosehips, maybe 300 mg, might supply a few milligrams of natural C. Many people are under the impression that all the C is naturally from the rosehips.

What other functions do vitamins perform? Vitamins also act as antioxidants. Think of them as firemen traveling throughout the body putting out "free radical" fires when they develop. Free radicals are naturally formed during necessary cell metabolism. Some of these radicals are used by the body to perform vital functions before they are eliminated by antioxidants. This is a potential adverse effect from mega-antioxidants.

Do vitamins need synergistic nutrients to act as antioxidants? During digestion and absorption, vitamins are usually separated from any combined nutrients in foods or supplements and then may combine once inside with carrier nutrients, sometimes a body wise carrier protein, like Ascobric Acid forming mineral ascorbates. These carrier nutrients act as chaperones to escort vitamins to their ultimate function area. It is not necessary to take all these carriet nutrients with vitamins since the body has usually has a constant supply. Body tissues are in a state of constant teardown and rebuild which releases nutrients such as proteins into the bloodstream where some are re-used.

Could deficiencies of carrier nutrients be a factor?  It is not easy to know if this occurs. Of course with megadosages it might be possible to overload the supply of carrier proteins. But, it is more likely that the digestive process inside the intestinal tract is where megadosages of vitamins overwhelm the system and absorption is prevented. The excess vitamins are largely eliminated by the colon. Absorption studies reveal this fact. 

What happens to vitamins after they put out the "free radical" fires?   After vitamins give up part of their sturcture to neutralize the radicals back into non-destructive forms, they are eliminated from the body. There is one nutrient, Alpha Lipoic Acid, that has the ability to add back the missing structure for used up vitamins C and E and return them back into action to neutralize more radicals.

Can you take too many vitamins and overwhelm the antioxidant pool?  Yes, it appears this might be happening but is again difficult to pinpoint. Very few studies on this topic, but it is one theory put forth to clarify some of the still unexplained observed study results. Selenium being looked at in the SELECT prostate cancer study exhibited a slight increase in diabetes rates. A theory was put forth that if the test subjects's body levels were already at a higher amount, selenium at the tested levels might be interfering with a positive "radical" function that turns on insulin glucose uptake by cells. Animal studies seem to support this theory. Time will tell.

One other study also reveals this possiblity. A study of seniors with winter colds discovered that those taking antioxidant vitamins had longer lasting colds. It is known that white blood immune cells produce a "free radical" to help destroy the cold causing virus. It is possible the supplemented antioxidants destroyed the friendly "radical" before it could kill the virus.

The following report is from the EFSA, the European Food Safety Authority, similar to the FDA in the USA, on the safety of Food Form vitamin K enriched yeast as a food supplement. The conclusion they reached from the materials presented by the company making the vitamin K enriched yeast product is that not enough information was presented to make a safety judgement.  This report tells the tale in the companies own words. Very interesting.


Scientific Statement of the Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources

added to Food

(Question No EFSA-Q-2005-208)

Adopted on 4 June 2009



F. Aguilar, U.R. Charrondiere, B. Dusemund, P. Galtier, J. Gilbert, D.M. Gott, S. Grilli, R.

Guertler, G.E.N. Kass, J. Koenig, C. Lambré, J-C. Larsen, J-C. Leblanc, A. Mortensen, D.

Parent-Massin, I. Pratt, I.M.C.M. Rietjens, I. Stankovic, P. Tobback, T. Verguieva, R.A.



inability to assess the safety of vitamin K-enriched yeast added for nutritional purposes as a source of vitamin K in food

supplements and the bioavailability of vitamin K from this source based on the supporting dossier following a request from

the European Commission.

For citation purposes: Scientific Statement of the Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food on theThe EFSA Journal (2009) 1122, 1-6.

Inability to assess the safety of vitamin K-enriched yeast

as a source of vitamin K in food supplements

The EFSA Journal

(2009) 1122, 2-6



The European Community legislation lists nutritional substances that may be used for

nutritional purposes in certain categories of foods as sources of certain nutrients.

The Commission has received a request for the evaluation of vitamin K-enriched yeast added

for nutritional purposes to food supplements. The relevant Community legislative measure is:

approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to food supplements

Directive 2002/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the2.



In accordance with Article 29 (1) (a) of Regulation (EC) No 178/2002, the European

Commission asks the European Food Safety Authority to provide a scientific opinion, based

on its consideration of the safety and bioavailability of vitamin K-enriched yeast added to

food supplements.


OJ L 183, 12.7.2002, p.51.

Inability to assess the safety of vitamin K-enriched yeast

as a source of vitamin K in food supplements

The EFSA Journal

(2009) 1122, 3-6



1. Introduction

Following a request from the European Commission to the European Food Safety Authority

(EFSA), the Scientific Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food (ANS)

was asked to provide a scientific opinion on the safety of vitamin K-enriched yeast added for

nutritional purposes as a source of vitamin K in food supplements and on the bioavailability

of vitamin K from this source.

2. Summary of the information provided in the supporting dossier on vitamin Kenriched


Vitamin K-enriched yeast is derived from cultures of specified strains of


temperature and pressure for defined periods of time. This is followed by increasing the

temperature to kill the yeast. The cell wall is ruptured enzymatically to release the contents

which are then spray dried.

The petitioner has provided some general information on the manufacturing process, but no

details on the procedures used to produce vitamin K-enriched yeast are provided.

According to the petitioner, vitamin K in vitamin K-enriched yeast is naturally integrated by

the growing yeast into its own structure and occurs therefore, in the way vitamin K would be

present in any food material.

The petitioner states that during fermentation in the presence of vitamin K, a specific strain of

Saccharomycesgrown in the presence of phytonadione. Fermentation takes place at a specified

Saccharomyces cerevisiae

biological distribution of which are similar to those from other sources of vitamin K in the


The petitioner states that “the integration will be chemically multi-formatted by the organism

and therefore, its chemical name, formula, chemical family and CAS Registry Number is


Comparative Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectra of the starter yeast, vitamin K,

vitamin K-enriched yeast, and a simple mixture of yeast and vitamin K have been provided.

Vitamin K-enriched yeast is described as an amorphous hygroscopic brownisch-coloured

powder with a slight yeast/citrus odour which is water soluble at 20 °C.

According to the petitioner, vitamin K is present at 1% of the source. The remaining 99% is

made up of enzymatically ruptured yeast cells.

The petitioner also provides microbiological specifications. Specifications for lead, mercury,

cadmium and arsenic are not provided.

Specific proposals for use levels for vitamin K-enriched yeast were not provided. The

petitioner only indicates that vitamin K-enriched yeast is to be used to provide a source of

vitamin K supplied as a nutrient in food supplements. According to the petitioner the

quantities added to the food supplements are product dependent, but because of the improved

bioavailability are generally lower than those found in other sources of vitamin K.

produces specific vitamin K compounds, the metabolic fate and the

Inability to assess the safety of vitamin K-enriched yeast

as a source of vitamin K in food supplements

The EFSA Journal

(2009) 1122, 4-6

No data were provided on the bioavailability of vitamin K from vitamin K-enriched yeast or

on the safety of the source.

3. Assessment

The Panel notes that

2008) but considers that this presumption of safety might not be applicable to the specific

conditions of culture of the yeast in the presence of a high quantity of vitamin K.

According to the petitioner, fermentation in the presence of vitamin K within eukaryotic cells

will produce vitamin K complexes not further defined, but with a metabolic fate and

biological distribution similar to those of other sources of vitamin K in the diet.

According to the petitioner, from the comparative FTIR spectra it can be deduced that vitamin

K is in ‘

provided do not demonstrate the existence of such complexes.

According to the petitioner, vitamin K from vitamin K-enriched yeast is safe. Although not

explicitly stated in the dossier the argument for the safety of vitamin K-enriched yeast appears

to be based on vitamin K being normal constituents of the diet, and the long history of use of

Saccharomyces cerevisiae has a qualified presumption of safety (EFSA,biological complex formation’ with yeast. The Panel considers that the FTIR spectra

Saccharomyces cerevisiae

there is no overload of normal metabolic pathways, fermentation within eukaryotic cells will

produce vitamin K complexes, the metabolic fate and the biological distribution of which are

similar to those from other sources of vitamin K in the diet.

The Panel notes that the petitioner has insufficiently chemically characterised the product and

therefore has not demonstrated that the vitamin K complexes have a metabolic fate and

biological distribution similar to those of other sources of vitamin K in the diet.

The Panel also notes that it was not possible to assess the bioavailability of vitamin K from

vitamin K-enriched yeast since neither data nor suitable supporting references were provided.

The Panel further notes that neither safety data nor suitable supporting references were

provided to support the assumption of safety of vitamin K-enriched yeast.

in fermented food and beverages. The assumption is that, provided



The Panel concludes that due to the lack of an appropriate dossier supporting the use of

vitamin K-enriched yeast in food supplements, the bioavailability of vitamin K from vitamin

K-enriched yeast and the safety of vitamin K-enriched yeast cannot be assessed.

Inability to assess the safety of vitamin K-enriched yeast

as a source of vitamin K in food supplements

The EFSA Journal

(2009) 1122, 5-6

Key words:

Food supplements, vitamin K, phylloquinone, yeast-transformed vitamin K, vitamin Kenriched




1. Dossier on Bio-transformed Vitamin K Proposed for Addition to Annex II of Directive

2002/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council Relating to Food

Supplements. Original submission June 2005; Additional information submitted January

2008 and November 2008. Submitted by Higher Nature Ltd UK.



EFSA (European Food Safety Authority), 2008. Opinion of the Scientific Panel on Biological

Hazards on the maintenance of the list of QPS microorganisms intentionally added to food

or feed. The EFSA Journal (2008) 923, 1-48.



The European Food Safety Authority wishes to thank the members of Working Group B on

Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food for the preparation of this opinion: D.

Boskou, U.R. Charrondiere, B. Dusemund, D. Gott, T. Hallas-Møller, C. Le Donne, K.F.A.M.

Hulshof, J. König, D. Parent-Massin, I.M.C.M. Rietjens..."



Inability to assess the safety of vitamin K-enriched yeast added for

nutritional purposes as a source of vitamin K in food supplements

and the bioavailability of vitamin K from this source,

based on the supporting dossier