Bioidentical

the new nutrition spin word

(This article has been extracted in full from Dr Rob's Health Innovations Newsletter.)

In nutrition, 'bioidentical' is emerging as a spin word to make synthetic ingredients sound better.

The prefix 'bio', means 'from life' (implying naturalness) and the word 'identical' means 'the same as' or 'indistinguishable from'.

The industry meaning of the word 'bioidentical' is, however, much more ambiguous. I have heard it increasingly used in the nutrition industry to describe synthetic nutrients that are supposedly 'identical' to their naturally-derived counterparts.

One example is beta-carotene. True beta-carotene is a natural phytochemical that occurs widely in the plant kingdom. It provides some great health benefits. It is a powerful fat-soluble antioxidant and also a precursor to vitamin A, which is required itamin A, which is required to prevent night blindness and other vision problems. Carrot juice, carrots, sweet potatoes and fresh green vegetables are probably the best dietary sources of natural beta carotene. The problem is that foods rich in vitamin A are scarce in the developing world leading to debilitating blindness in many of the poorest regions of the world. In the industrialized world, many people don’t consume enough beta-carotene rich foods on a daily basis. This puts them at risk for poor night vision (an early sign of serious vitamin A deficiency) and other health issues.

One answer in recent history has been to supplement foods with synthetic vitamin A (retinyl palmitate or retinyl acetate). Then, during the 1980’s synthetic beta-carotene began showing up in foods and supplements. It is a multifunctional ingredient because it is both a vitamin A precursor and a food coloring agent. High potency synthetic beta-carotene supplements became very popular during the 1990s. Many people (including me) began including a 25,000 IU synthetic beta-carotene soft gel capsule to their daily supplement routine.

We assumed it was safe and healthy to do so since beta-carotene is non-toxic and converted to vitamin A only as the body needs it. Also, at this point in time I bought in to the whole 'bioidentical' story and considered synthetic vitamins as suitable alternatives.

Modern research has changed my opinion. I do not believe that high potency supplements, substantially in excess of established daily values, are good choices for most people. I also believe that synthetic vitamins are not good alternatives for naturally sourced vitamins.

They are not the same.

When given the choice between a synthetic and a natural vitamin supplement, I will always choose a natural supplement. Always! Surprisingly, almost 100% of the people I ask would also prefer a natural vitamin supplement over a synthetic vitamin supplement.

So here’s the real question ...why is over 90% of the beta-carotene sold today, both for dietary supplements and fortifying processed foods, synthetically made from petroleum derivatives and fossil fuels. If people have a clear preference for natural versus synthetic, why does synthetic still dominate the marketplace 9 to 1?

I believe it’s because people just don’t know the difference yet. They are not aware that their vitamin supplements and fortified foods are loaded-up with synthetic vitamins rather than natural vitamins. It’s the exact same situation that occurred very recently when people became aware that many ground beef products that they assumed were 100% pure meat contained 'boneless lean beef trimmings' treated with ammonia also known as 'pink slime'. It wasn’t new! It had been going on for years! But when customers became aware of this fact they demanded immediate change and got it.

'Bioidentical' is a sham. Demand real food!

ROBERT A. SINNOTT, MNS, PH.D.

After reading this article about 'bioidentical' ingredients , you might like to read more about the difference between 'natural' and 'synthetic' ingredients.