It could be argued that neve in history has so much money been spent on the advertising and purchasing of any merchandise, with so little knowledge of the product itself, on the part of either the seller or the buyer, as has been spent on vitamin and mineral supplements. Billions are being spent annually, and most purchasers, wholesalers, retailers, or direct-to-the consumer salespeople do not know the difference between a synthetic, a crystalline, and a truly natural vitamin, or the difference between a chelated organic and an inorganic mineral.
In short the difference is between something that's living and something that's dead. THATS A HUGH DIFFERENCE!!!
Vitamins in their natural state always exist as a living complexes with specific synergistic co-factors, enzymes, phytonutrients, and organic mineral-activators, and never as isolated single factors.
WHOLE FOOD VITAMINS this means vitamins as they are found in food, untampered with any way that would change their molecular structure, their biological or biochemical combination, or their reactions. On the vitamin labels as the " NATURAL" has no specific definition other than that the substances exists somewhere on the planet.
To identify synthetics on the label, look to see if a source is given. If it is not, assume the product is synthetic. With whole food natural supplements never come in high dosages. It is only possible to create high-dosage "vitamins" if you isolate one fraction of the vitamin complex as in crystalline, or synthesize one fraction as in synthetics. Look at the Vitamin C and Vitamin E diagrams. In naturally-occurring Vitamin C Complex the ascorbic acid potion comprises only 5% of the whole complex.
We as consumers, have been thoroughly fooled and mislead about vitamins. We have been hoodwinked into believing that large quantities of dead chemicals are more nutritionally potent than smaller amounts of high-quality living compounds.
CRYSTALLINE: This means that a natural food has been treated with various with various chemicals, solvents, heat and distillations to reduce it down to one specific " pure" crystalline vitamin. In this process all the synergists, which are termed 'impurities,' are destroyed. There is no longer anything natural in the action of crystalline "vitamins," they should be name drugs not vitamins.
SYNTHETIC: This means that a chemist attempted to reconstruct the exact structure of the crystalline molecule by chemically combining molecules from other sources. Theses sources are not living foods, but dead chemicals. For example, Vitamin B1 is made from a coal tar derivative, and d-alpha tocopherol (so-called Vitamin E) is a byproduct of materials used by the Eastman Kodak company to make film. However, it is not legally necessary to give the sources from which the synthetic "vitamin" is derived. Synthetic "vitamins" should more accurately be called drugs'.