08/10/2015 2:44 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:50 PM AEST

What Your Supplements Are Made From Can Have A Big Impact On Your Health

SKunevski via Getty Images
Healthy dietary supplement powders (Superfood)

We have never been so overfed yet undernourished. While this seems like a paradox, studies have revealed the majority of Australians aren’t meeting their nutritional needs through diet alone, despite food consumption being higher than ever.

This is largely due to bad food choices and nutrient-depleted produce from industrial farming, but even worse is that people are turning to synthetic supplements to try and counteract this.

With evidence supporting a rise in lifestyle disease, the need for natural supplementation -- which your body can recognise -- has never been more topical.

"It’s a common misconception among consumers that all supplements are natural, but the truth is many of the vitamin-based supplements on the market are made in a laboratory from synthetic ingredients rather than from real, whole foods,” Dwayne Martens, CEO of The Amazonia Group told The Huffington Post Australia.

“As humans we’re built to get our nutrients from food, not a science lab. It’s the way nature intended and no synthetic imitations can compete with this."

While safety is one issue, efficacy is another -- with a Harvard study of 22,000 physicians reporting no health benefits from synthetic vitamins. So are they really working? This evidence says no.

Chiefly in the form of powders -- such as protein drinks, powdered greens, antioxidants and pre and probiotics, supplements in theory should help deliver highly concentrated nutritional benefits that your body recognises and easily absorbs.

“Natural supplements are concentrated from real food, including vegetables, superfoods, fruits, sea plants, herbs and grasses. These contain very high levels of essential vitamins, trace minerals, enzymes and antioxidants that your body recognises and absorbs, much easier than synthetic imitations," said Martens.

“Poor nutrition and food intake is a leading cause of a big issue in our society -- lifestyle disease. Natural supplements can help give people the nutrients they need to get more energy, promote gut health, boost their immune system and generally live a longer, healthier life. I truly believe natural supplements are the way forward,” said Martens.

Discerning if our supplements are natural or synthetic can be tricky, but Martens has some advice. “If it doesn't specifically say 'non-synthetic source' it's likely the supplements you're taking are synthetic. Synthetic nutrients are the standard."

“I can’t stress this enough -- read the nutritional labels on all your supplements and try to find their source of origin. One of the issues is that people don’t know the chemical processes involved in creating synthetic supplements, which have been shown to include anything from petroleum extracts, coal tar derivatives and industrial chemicals.

"We’re talking about ingredients like ammonia and formaldehyde - things you would never consider eating - so why would you take them in your supplements? The key is education and knowing exactly what you are putting into your body so you can make the right, informed choices," said Martens.