28 December 2011 ~ 0 Comments

Cod Liver Oil: Synthetic Vitamin D vs. Natural Vitamin D

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There are numerous health benefits of cod liver oil, and this supplement should be used on a regular basis for optimal health. But, many people don’t realize that there are different quality standards for cod liver oil production, and these various production methods can greatly decrease the naturally occurring nutrients within the oil. Today we are going to look at one of the most important nutrients in cod liver oil: vitamin D.

Why Vitamin D is Important

One of the reasons that many people choose to use cod liver oil is because of the high levels of vitamin D that are available. Our modern lifestyle has caused many people to be vitamin D deficient, which can lead to many health problems. Healthy levels of vitamin D can affect areas of health such as immune function, osteoporosis, rickets, arthritis, cancer, high blood pressure, and certain autoimmune diseases.

When vitamin D is present, it affects the levels of phosphorus and calcium in the body. Many people know that we need calcium to support healthy, strong bones… but it is not as widely known that the calcium cannot be effectively absorbed without vitamin D. A combination of calcium and vitamin D is one of the best ways to improve the mineral density of the bones and decrease bone fractures.

How to Get Vitamin D

There are two main types of vitamin D that are important for our health: D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol). Plants are able to synthesize vitamin D2, and humans are able to synthesize vitamin D3. If you are getting a sufficient amount of sunlight each day, your body will be able to synthesize the vitamin D3 that is necessary for optimal health.

If you don’t get enough sunlight, then it is extremely important that you are getting enough vitamin D through food sources, which include cod liver oil, fish, and eggs.

Synthetic vs. Natural Sources

As people are becoming more aware of the importance of vitamin D for overall health, it is more common for us to reach for a supplement which will provide the nutrients that we need. The problem lies in the fact that synthetic supplements are not nearly as effective as natural sources of vitamins.

When a specific vitamin (such as vitamin D) is gained from a natural food source (such as fermented cod liver oil), the food source supplements provides the vitamin D along with a host of other micronutrients. There are many known and unknown micronutrients that are available in naturally occurring sources of vitamin D, and all of those micronutrients work together for the best absorption possible.

This absorption process is important, because the vitamin consumption isn’t going to be any good unless the body is able to use the vitamins. When a vitamin source is efficiently and effectively absorbed, it is known as a source of bioavailable nutrients.

In comparison, synthetic sources of vitamins lack the supporting micro-nutrients, and the synthetic vitamins have low bioavailability. There are even reports of people experiencing vitamin toxicity when synthetic vitamins are consumed, because the body isn’t able to effectively make use of the synthetic compounds that are present in the supplement.

Many sources of supplements utilize these synthetic vitamins because it is cheaper or they are attempting to increase the potency of the supplement. Even though there are synthetic compounds within the supplement, it may not necessarily state that the vitamin are synthetic, so it is important that you look at the label to see if there are food sources in the ingredient list.

Cod Liver Oil: Synthetic or Natural?

When cod liver oil was first produced, it was before we knew how to create synthetic vitamins. The original cod liver oil production methods involved throwing cod liver into a large barrel with some sea water, and allowing the fermentation process to take place.

Fermented cod liver oil takes about a year before it is ready to be consumed, and there are numerous benefits to the fermentation process. Fermenting the cod liver preserves many nutrients that are beneficial for your health, and some of those nutrients include vitamin D, vitamin A, and essential fatty acids.

As the demand for cod liver oil increased, manufacturers began looking for faster options to produce the oil. It was discovered that the cod livers could be produced through a process that involved high levels of heat, which refined the oil quickly. This on-demand process to produce the oil is much faster than waiting a year for the fermentation process to take place, but the problem is that the high levels of heat destroy many of the health benefits of the oil.

When cod liver oil is subject to these high levels of heat, vitamins such as vitamin D and vitamin A are stripped from the oil. Because the vitamins have been removed, manufacturers add synthetic vitamins back into the oil. Most of the cod liver oil products fall within this category, and it is common for people take the supplements without realizing they are consuming synthetic vitamins instead of natural sources of vitamins.

So, if you purchase conventional cod liver oil that lists high levels of vitamins A and D, you will not be getting the benefits that can be found in fermented cod liver oil… and you could be putting yourself at risk of toxicity as a result of the high levels of synthetic vitamins.

Choosing a Brand of Cod Liver Oil

Before you purchase cod liver oil, research the brand in order to see what their production methods are. It is very important that you buy fermented cod liver oil, and verify that the vitamins are from natural food sources instead of synthetically produced vitamins. One of the best brands that is available is Green Pasture cod liver oil, their fermented oil does not contain the synthetic vitamins that are in many of the other brands out there.

Resources:

Vitamin D, MayoClinic.com

Natural vs. Synthetic Vitamins

Update on Cod Liver Oil Manufacturing, Returning to Traditional Production Techniques for the Quintessential Sacred Food, Green Pasture.org

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