The Hidden Truth About Nutritional Supplements

8 min read

get your essentials
Take the guesswork out of your daily nutrition with the All-in-One Essentials Shake.
shop now

We live in a time when nutritional pills, powders, shakes, and gummies have taken the world by storm, but the truth about supplements could surprise many. Most of them contain ingredients that we would never accept in our foods. Artificial vs. natural flavors, artificial colors, additives, and preservatives all can be found in many supplements. However, considering the fast-paced, fast-food life that many of us live, it is no surprise that people have begun to depend on these products to get their nutrients. 

Much of the Western world has gone from being a society of people who hunted and grew their own food to one of instant gratification. A quick trip through the drive-thru or the tap of an app brings us dinner-in-a-bag. Knowing that this isn’t healthy, we often try to offset the lack of nutrition with these nutritional supplements. This leads many to ask, “Are these nutritional supplements beneficial, or are they doing more harm than good?”

What's Really In Dietary Supplements?

When wondering whether these products are helpful or dangerous, the truth about supplements is somewhere in the middle. While some nutritional supplements can be quite beneficial when used under the guidance of a professional, not all of them are the right choice for everyone. 

There is no “one size fits all” solution for any field of medical or health care, and choosing the right supplements for each individual is no different. 

While it is true that the modern diet lacks much of the nutrition needed to keep us healthy, eating at McDonald’s and then swallowing a handful of vitamins is not the answer and will do more harm than good. An unhealthy diet, along with unregulated supplement use, can cause damage to the kidneys, liver, and other organs, potentially taking years off of your life.

The word “natural” is often thrown around a lot when it comes to synthetic supplements. For example, one might assume that finding “natural flavors” in the ingredients list means that the deliciousness of their favorite nutritional shake, gummy, or energy drink comes from a healthy source. That is not necessarily the case. 

According to Foodscape Group, Chicago Founder Rachel Cheatham, Ph.D., “Besides the use of synthetic solvents and synthetic carrier systems, consumers also may not be thrilled to learn of the many ingredients in natural flavors that often have nothing to do with the named ingredient.” In other words, your favorite orange drink with natural flavors most likely doesn’t have an ounce of actual orange in it. 

There is a place for nutritional supplements in our lifestyles, however. Even when eating a balanced diet, most Americans fail to meet their dietary needs with food alone. Missing critical nutrients while ingesting too many calories is all too common, and almost everyone could benefit from professional guidance on which supplements are right for them.

It is also vital to understand the processing of your supplements, the ingredients in them, where those ingredients came from, and where they were manufactured. Since the FDA does not strictly regulate the processing of dietary supplements, they often contain harmful ingredients and only trace amounts of the nutrients that you need. Knowing the hidden truth about nutritional supplements can differentiate between being helped or harmed by them.

It is just as crucial for your supplements to come from clean, natural sources as it is your food. Grabbing a bottle of vitamins or supplements from the nearest department store, compared to ordering natural ones from a professionally recommended company, could be likened to grabbing a fast-food burger instead of eating a plant-based, whole foods meal. Understanding the difference between the processing of natural whole foods and synthetic vitamins is essential for those who are trying to live a healthier, cleaner lifestyle.

Real Whole Foods vs. Synthetic Vitamins

There are major differences between natural nutrients and synthetic vitamins. Natural nutrients are those which are obtained from real whole foods that have been dehydrated and concentrated. Synthetic vitamins or isolated nutrients are created in a lab by artificial means and do not come from a food source.

Most supplements on the market today are artificially made, according to HealthLine. The processing of popular powders, pills, capsules, tablets, and liquid supplements is usually done to mimic how real whole foods nutrients work in our bodies. Therefore, any supplement that lists the nutrients such as Vitamin C individually, or uses names such as ascorbic acid, is most likely synthetic. Natural, whole foods supplements will be labeled as 100% plant-based or animal-based.

Synthetic supplements are often marketed in such a way that buyers believe they are natural, healthy alternatives to getting nutrients from their diet. However, the truth is that the process by which synthetic vitamins are manufactured is in no way similar to the way that nutrients are created in nature by plants and animals, and our bodies know it.

Your body can tell the difference between chemically created nutrients and natural ones. When you eat real food or take real whole food supplements, you aren’t consuming single nutrients, but rather a broad range of minerals, vitamins, enzymes, and co-factors that were designed by nature to work together flawlessly to meet your nutritional needs. Without these additional compounds, it is unclear how well synthetic supplements are absorbed by or benefit the human body. In some cases, they can even cause harm.

Are Synthetic Supplements Safe?

According to Harvard, at least 50% of adults in the United States take one or more supplements daily. In addition, over $35 billion is spent annually on supplements annually in this country alone. 

Of course, we are all advised to inform our doctors when we take these synthetic nutrients. But unfortunately, these supplements are not regulated and tested like pharmaceuticals are. Therefore, it is almost impossible for any doctor to stay up to date on every supplement created.

When you read an ad or watch a video that promotes the latest supplement, it is easy to get pulled in. They make many promises; weight loss, stress relief, energy, relief of brain fog, and sadly, many even promise pain relief to desperate chronic pain sufferers. 

The truth is that most supplements are not truly tested to see if they work as a prevention for or treatment of the conditions which they claim to help. Worse yet, there is no government regulation to ensure that the ingredients on the label are what’s actually in the bottle. These facts make it almost impossible to know if a synthetic supplement is safe or effective at all, and even ingredients which seem benign can be harmful to some people.

For example, many synthetic nutrients contain corn and soy maltodextrin. This ingredient is popular in enhancement supplements because it works just like sugar - triggering the pleasure centers of the brain so easily that even rinsing the mouth with it brought verifiable results in athletes. But unfortunately, research shows that this additive alters gut bacteria and can lead to IBS. 

Corn and soy maltodextrins can also significantly affect blood sugar levels, which can be dangerous for people with diabetes. It has an even higher glycemic index than table sugar. Someone who ingests too much maltodextrin can be at risk for more elevated cholesterol, weight gain, and even type 2 diabetes, yet it is generally recognized as safe by the FDA.

Avoiding maltodextrin in packaged foods and supplements is nearly impossible. Most of the time you won't even see it on a label because it's not required if it is under a certain threshold.

At LyfeFuel, we never use soy or corn-maltodextrin and never add maltodextrin to our products. It is only used in the rare case when a specific superfood powder already contains it AND delivers significantly more functional benefits than the tiny amount of maltodextrin it contains.

Unfortunately, this is the one downside of turning plants into powders with the intention of mixing them as a beverage...they need something to help with the solubility and prevent them from clumping.

Labels Can Be Misleading

Many consumers are misled to believe that they can ensure that their dietary supplements are safe simply by reading the label. Since we often link supplements with medications and pharmaceuticals, we assume that the contents list on the label is accurate and that the ingredients will work as insinuated. In many cases, this is simply not true.

Because there are too few FDA regulations on the ingredients in dietary supplements, most of them do not contain what their label suggests, or they contain such trace amounts that it is simply not beneficial to take them. As a result, you could be getting far less or far more of an ingredient than you realize, which can be dangerous.

Even if a synthetic supplement label correctly lists the ingredients and their amounts, they rarely mention the chance of dangerous interactions with other drugs or supplements you may be taking. For example, turmeric and chondroitin can thin your blood, which can cause bleeding in those prone to this issue. If someone were already taking a prescribed blood thinner, such as heparin or warfarin, or even taking an aspirin a day, the interaction could cause a deadly bleed.

Another problem with synthetic supplements is that they can contain contaminants meant to enhance the way the supplement works. Many weight loss supplements are removed from the market because of this issue, but sadly, it rarely happens before someone has suffered physical damage from them.

Without strict regulations, no one even takes notice of the potential danger of a supplement until several consumers have already been harmed by it. While one might hope that this is not a common issue, research shows that it is not as rare as you might think. Between 1997 and 2016, at least 776 dietary supplements were found to have dangerous contaminants in them, according to the Harvard article sourced above.

What’s a Good Source for Whole Food Nutrition?

With all of this information, you may be asking yourself what the best source for whole food supplements would be. LyfeFuel’s All-In-One Essentials Shake is an excellent source of healthy, plant-based nutrients that contribute to a healthier and better life.

The Essentials Shake contains 25 real whole foods, 18 grams of plant-based protein, 27 vitamins and minerals including B12, D3, and K2, and all for 110 calories and 33 grams of carbs per serving! This product helps improve hair, nails, skin, digestion, eyes, DNA, sleep, energy, immunity, stress, bones, and thyroid health.

Depending on your individual needs, you can choose from several blends of this shake. As mentioned, there is no “one size fits all” solution to a healthy diet, and LyfeFuel covers many dietary needs. The list includes a Metabolic and Weight Control Blend, Balance and Vitality Greens Blend, Super Berry Blend, Essential Micronutrients, Longevity Blend, Digestive Blend, and Detoxification Blend. There is something in it for everyone.

Disclaimer: The LYFE Fuel blog is for informational purposes only. The information does not serve as a replacement for professional medical advice or treatment. We kindly ask you not to ignore professional medical advice because of any information you’ve read on If you have any concerns about your health, please consult a physician or appropriate health care expert.