Contrary to the materialist assumption that, automatically, one vitamin = another vitamin because it has a similar atomic makeup, many variants of simple vitamins DO exist that the body can use well or that it can’t use at all. It’s very complex and I still have a lot to learn about these myriad variations myself, but I’ll try to distill the concept here.
For example, consider the nutrient retinol, better known as the vitamin A found mainly in animal-based foods: liver and egg yolk being two great sources. Retinol is easily transformed by the body into derivative substances which aid the body in maintaining eyesight, skin health and bone mineralization.
Beta carotene, the plant source of vitamin A that makes carrots and sweet potatoes orange, is more difficult for some individuals to convert into the same forms of vitamin A that the body could use retinol for as it requires an intestinal enzyme to break it down. Not to say that it’s not good for you to get both forms, but relying on just one single form of a vitamin is not a good idea for everyone.
To add insult to injury, certain supplemented synthetic forms of beta carotene are linked to increased risk for various forms of cancer. Even natural supplementary versions of it are prone to oxidation, rendering the nutrient useless at best, and assuming the nutrient wasn’t just a poorly-bioavailable or non-usable form in the first place.
For this reason, it’s better to get a form of it in the diet or in an untainted supplement like cod liver oil. The closer you can get your fat-soluble nutrients to the original source, the better.
What other nutrients should I look out for?
Vitamin D – Vitamin D is not a single vitamin, but rather a hormone-like molecule similar to testosterone and cortisol. When the body produces Vitamin D from cholesterol via sunlight exposure (ultraviolet B radiation), it transforms it into cholecalciferol, better known as Vitamin D3.
Supplemental forms of this vital nutrient have not been known to cause any health issues at reasonable doses (<10,000 IU) in individuals who have normal blood levels of Vitamin D, and may actually be good for you to supplement. So, take your damn vitamin D3. Or get the same cod liver supplement I mentioned above, it contains a lot of Vitamin D.
Vitamin D2, another form of vitamin D, is regarded as less effective than D3, or not effective at all in supplement form. Any sensational articles which claim that “vitamin D” doesn’t benefit the health, the immune system, or prevent flu symptoms fail to explain which form of vitamin D they examined.
For all we know, they could have used Vitamin D2: just as effective as placebo, but with greater potential for harm. The reason for proliferation of these claims that Vitamin D is useless or ineffective may be to steer people back into the merciless arms of the medical-industrial complex, but that’s neither here nor there.
Vitamin E – An essential nutrient consisting of 8 known forms that are found in mainly plant foods such as sunflower seeds. This vitamin is easily oxidized, and in supplemental forms (that weren’t alpha tocopherol) has been linked to increased incidence of prostate cancer.
This was one of those nutrients that was slandered in one of those sensational articles claiming the supplemental form of this vitamin helped to cause cancer rather than prevent it without specifying which form was linked to the cancer, and not informing readers that the experiment wasn’t designed to look for prostate cancer in the first place.
Vitamin K – Two main forms of Vitamin K exist, lovingly named K1 and K2. I have explained how this nutrient is intimately linked to your bone health and your testosterone before.
Depending on the health of your intestines and the bacteria that live inside of them, those little buggies can easily turn the plant form (K1) into the more usable K2, which is found ready-made in fermented soy, sauerkraut and kefir, beef liver, grass-fed butter and milk. This is best for the people who have poor gut health or otherwise can’t turn K1 into K2. Plant sources would be all of your leafy greens (kale, collard, mustard, etc.) and asparagus.
A good supplement for Vitamin K2 is fermented cod liver oil. I hope I don’t sound like a commercial for cod fishermen but that stuff just covers so many bases that it’s hard not to mention it where it’s relevant.
B Vitamins – There are so many of these it’s worthy of a post all its own. Some of these you can only get reliably from animal sources, others are produced by intestinal bacteria and those found in fermented foods. So make sure you’re getting your liver and sauerkraut.
The synthetic B vitamins tend to be poor at bioavailability, and when you take them your body just creates neon yellow pee. Good to supplement if you need to, but don’t consider it your only source.
(Also, I am still hard at work on the upcoming guide. Stay tuned.)