Chemophobia: The Natural vs Synthetic Debate

Chemophobia is defined as the fear of chemicals & refers to the growing tendency for the public to be suspicious and critical of any man-made chemicals in foods they consume or products they make use of.

One of the questions I’m most frequently asked about Lucid Smart Pills is whether the ingredients are natural. They’re not in case you’re wondering – they are 100% synthesized. But, the question did get me thinking

  1. Many people are unaware of what synthetic substances they readily consume (e.g. their daily vitamins!)
  2. In recent years, an idea has arisen that synthetic substances are more toxic that natural ones.

Many Vitamin Supplements Are Made in the Lab

It appears to be a little known or little recognized fact that many of the daily vitamin supplements consumed are actually the vitamin in its synthetic form. This means they are made, processed or extracted in a lab using a host of chemicals in order to improve their potency, extend their shelf-life and to make them more affordable. Most Vitamin C tablets, for example, are not made from oranges but are made in a lab.

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Do you take Coenzyme Q10? To make that naturally you would have to slaughter a whole lot of cows. Lesley Braun, Director of the Blackmore Institute confirms that Blackmores Q10 is made in Japanese labs but is bio-identical and equally as effective as the natural version. Folic Acid – the important B Vitamin that is vital to the neural development of unborn babies – is the commonly consumed but synthetic version of folate (the vitamin in its naturally occurring form, found in leafy green vegetables).

That’s not to say that synthetic is necessarily ‘better’ for you than the naturally occurring vitamins but rather that it is a commonly accepted and very commonly consumed alternative that in most cases does more good than harm. There are cases where it has been demonstrated that some people struggle to digest or absorb the synthetic form of supplement or vitamin and in those, it is best to see a doctor or dietician to determine the best form of treatment.

Natural or Synthetic Tells Us Nothing About Its Toxicity

Whether a compound or chemical is natural or man-made (synthetic) tells us little about its toxicity. In fact, there are many naturally occurring chemicals (found in plants) that are highly toxic and poisonous to humans in small amounts. Two of the most toxic chemicals to humans are botulinum (botulism) and tetanospasmin (a neurotoxin by the bacteria that causes tetanus) – both are naturally derived chemicals. Botulinum toxin is actually 1 million times more toxic than nearly all the most toxic synthetic chemicals.

Natural vs Synthetic Toxicity

Whether a chemical is natural or man-made tells us nothing about its toxicity – a better rule of thumb would be “the dose makes the poison”.  The effects of a chemical will change with different quantities of meaning that a small dose of a particular chemical might be beneficial but at a higher dose it may be toxic.

Why synthetic when there are natural alternatives?

As mentioned earlier, the major advantage of synthetic products especially when it comes to vitamins and supplements is shelf-life and affordability but there are also other factors that should be taken into consideration before dismissing synthetics altogether. In studying natural products, scientists have been able to work out why a substance or chemical has the effect it does and then isolate the active ingredient. In doing that, they can use it precisely, which will help reduce the amount we need to intake, ultimately minimising any other side effects. In many cases they can also introduce other properties to the product making it more impactful or adding other benefits.

Final Word

The purpose of this blog is not to intimate that synthetic is better. If at all possible, you should be getting your important nutrients and vitamins from a healthy, natural diet. Be wary of chemicals but be wary of all chemicals. Understand what it is you are consuming, what dose is appropriate and what the known side effects are. And consider that man-made chemicals in many cases are a scientific advancement that allow us to improve our lives, performance and overall health.

Further Reading

Natural versus Synthetic Chemicals Is a Gray Matter (Scientific American)

Vitamins and Supplements – here are the chemicals you should know about (The Australian)

Making Sense of Chemical Stories (Sense About Science)

Natural vs Man-made Chemicals – dispelling misconceptions (Compound Chemist)

I’ll end with this infographic: Who says your diet is chemical-free?

Infographic - Who Says Your Diet is Chemical-Free?

In case you couldn’t tell, we at Lucid are passionate about body betterment, neuro-enhancement, productivity & focus. To be kept up to date on any other blogs or infographics, add yourself to our community mailing list.
Amie Weller Colbert

Amie is the CXO of Lucid. With her decade of experience in successfully creating and building brands, Amie is integral to the future reach of the Lucid brand and products.