|A lot of people think they are taking Natural Supplements when in fact they are not. While the industry is trying to cope with this, Natural Biology has been pioneering natural formulations that are 100% natural in the purest sense of natural since 2001. In this article we explore why some companies are changing the definition of natural to fit their profit motives and how government regulations have not helped but hurt the natural movement. |
Follow the Money
As of July 2012, the federal government is more involved in the regulations of supplements than ever. This has increased the cost of doing business but has not improved the quality of supplements. In fact, in many instances the quality is going down. Most companies have chosen to cut cost and increase their profits by adding synthetic ingredients. Synthetic ingredients are cheap and most are from China. Worst yet, they justify this by fooling themselves and you that synthetic ingredients are technically natural.
Here's an example of their argument: Oil has been in the ground thousands of years. Therefor most companies are saying oil is natural. The sad truth is most vitamin ingredients are derived from petrochemicals, oil. This is unacceptable... If you knew your vitamin C came from oil rather than an orange which one would you choose?
The Definition of a Synthetic Vitamin or Supplement - You'll Be Surprised
Before obsessing on philosophic nuances regarding “natural,” “renewable,” “environmental footprint”
and the like, we need to define a few terms for the sake of this discussion. This article addresses
organic, carbon-based materials. So “natural” in this context means materials from current plant or
“Synthetic” will refer to ingredients that have been sourced or derived from crude oil,
coal or any product made thereof, such as petroleum, ethylene, benzene, mineral oils, etc. If you are taking vitamins, chances are, this is what you are taking if it is not from only a select few companies like ourselves...
This is most of the Vitamin Industry because it is cheap - and most of this comes from China because it is even cheaper...
It is interesting to note “synthetic” is “natural” in the sense that it has sat for eons and all
petrochemicals trace their existence to plant/animal-based carbon origins. Moreover, minerals can be
natural, but in the context of the test method discussed here, which is based on carbon isotopes, we
will refer only to ingredients or products that have used fresh and/or recently “harvested”
animals/plants as their source. It makes more sense to use the following terms: “Bio-based” carbon
versus “petrochemical-based” carbon; but, if it is easier for the reader, the shorthand “natural” and
“synthetic” can be mentally visualized. Of course, the two are intrinsically linked and mutually
exclusive, as any material consisting only of bio-based carbon will not contain any carbon from
petrochemicals and vice versa.
Most Resveratrol is Synthetic or Has Petro-Chemical Residues - Ours Doesn't
Take for example Resveratrol. Most Resveratrol being advertising today is extracted from polygonum cuspidatum. They claim up to 99% trans-resveratrol which is close to the synthetic lab results. It is not 99% trans-resveratrol but only a 99% extract of polygonum cuspidatum - and the chemical residue is alarming. The latest thing in Resveratrol is Pterostilbene which is promoted as resveratrol-like substance, and it is, but it is also advertising as naturally derived from blueberries, which it is not. It is a synthetically manufactured process.
Natural Biology uses French Red Wine Grape Extract which is naturally processed and yield no less than 5% trans-reveratrol which has a very high efficacy rate - that means - your body absorbs and utilizes it. Yet 99% of the market today in the USA is polygonum cuspidatum primarily because we have the health press is in the pocket of big companies who opt for the cheaper alternatives. The difference is vibrant health and micro-nutrition versus wasting your money and possibly poisoning your body.
The Truly Natural Ingredients Get Results - Scientifically Proven Results
Wanting to make their claim high and the labels look good, supplement labels often do not tell the whole truth. Natural Biology's research has discovered time and again, using the best natural substance may not be as sexy but in the end, it works. We even think it is sexy. As Steve Bruner puts it "when you compare a natural ingredient side by side to a synthetic one, smell it, taste it, and study it - I cannot imagine taking the synthetic ingredients. No never. At Natural Biology we make supplement we want to take ourselves..."
Part of our problem with supplements is we are looking for drug-like results - and the best supplements will give you better than drug-like results but you have to stay committed to the program and allow them to naturally work. We find synthetics often work short-term, but we also wonder where are the studies showing the long-term side-effects -and we are convinced they are there, just like drugs.
You Should Demand More From Your Supplements
Here is a list of things you should expect from Natural Supplements:
- A dietary supplement should be a good value
- A dietary supplement must be efficacious
- A dietary supplement should be natural absolutely
- A dietary supplement should be supported with meta-analysis, third party-research
- A dietary supplement should be relatively freshly made
- A dietary supplement should be environmentally friendly
Natural Biology Did This 10 Years Ago, Today the Rest of the Industry is Considering this a Proposal
We've included the technical text below for those who like to go deep, but for most of us, here's the simple explanation. Natural Biology has always used USDA Organic or USP Certified ingredients in our supplements but we have even pushed that standard higher in our final products. We have never used synthetics. What separates us from the rest of people who claim to have "natural" supplements is not only are our ingredients "natural" but our processes do things to protect the natural integrity of the final supplement made. For example, we do not run supplements on high-speed manufacturing lines which require extensive flow agents and fillers. We choose to run them on much slower lines without flow agents and our fillers, if used at all, are actual natural ingredients.
New Methods We Adopted a Long Time Ago - The Technical Explanation
A new method for determining the bio-based content of food ingredients and dietary supplements is
among the latest proposed additions to the Food Chemicals Codex (FCC) compendium. All additions
to FCC come through the FCC Forum, the free-access website through which the U.S.
Pharmacopeial Convention (USP)—the organization that publishes FCC—accepts public comment
on proposed FCC standards.
The method proposed for inclusion in FCC uses carbon isotope analysis to measure bio-based
content. An understanding of carbon isotope chemistry is helpful to understand how this works.
Carbon has three naturally occurring isotopes: two stable and one radioactive. Carbon-12 (C-12;
12C) is the most abundant of the stable carbon isotopes accounting for 98.89 percent of natural
carbon, and has a nucleus containing six protons and six neutrons. Carbon-13 (C-13; 13C) is the
other stable isotope and makes up about 1.1 percent of all natural carbon. It contains six protons and
seven neutrons in its nucleus. Carbon-14 (C-14; 14C, or radiocarbon) contains seven protons and
eight neutrons in its nucleus and is a radioactive isotope of carbon. Carbon-14 naturally occurs in
trace amounts in the environment, making up as much as one part per trillion (0.0000000001 percent)
of the carbon in the atmosphere. Carbon-14 decays with a half-life of 5,730 ±40 years into nitrogen-
14 (14N). For example, a plant material that is 5,730 years old would be expected to contain half of
the amount of radiocarbon when compared to a modern plant equivalent. The dating of
archaeological, geological and hydro-geological samples containing organic matter is often carried
out with this principle using radiocarbon dating. Living plants and recently harvested plants and
animals will have radiocarbon in them in an amount defined as 100 percent. Petrochemicals, in
contrast, are the product of plants and animals that died hundreds of million years ago and contain
only an infinitesimal amount of radiocarbon (i.e., 0 percent) because it has long since decayed away
The FCC-proposed method to determine bio-based content calls for analyzing samples by first
completely combusting them to convert all carbon quantitatively to CO2, followed by the use of
accelerator mass spectrometry to determine the distribution of carbon isotopes. This analysis is
carried out on both a sample and a reference standard (a recently harvested organic material of
known age), and the ratio of carbon isotopes (either 12C:14C or 13C:14C) from both the sample and
reference standard are used to calculate bio-based content. A value of 0 percent indicates all carbon
originated from petrochemicals. A bio-based content value of 100 percent indicates that all carbon
originated from modern plants or animals.
The method proposed in FCC is suggested for the bio-based content analysis of 1,3-propanediol (a
new food ingredient), but is suitable for analysis of all carbon-based materials. It therefore is
applicable and maybe useful to all industries needing to verify a claim that an ingredient is derived
from current bio-based materials rather than crude oil. For dietary supplements such as vitamin E,
beta-carotene or folic acid, the carbon isotope analysis method could be used to verify that materials
are indeed of the origin claimed. This technique can also be used for counterfeit detection, as in
detecting the fraudulent addition of a synthetic compound to an expensive natural extract. For
example, the new method would be able to detect the addition of synthetically produced vanillin to
natural vanilla extract—something that other anti-counterfeiting methods are not specific enough to
USP intends to expand the FCC appendix on authenticity methods in the future to include additional
procedures for detecting counterfeit food and/or dietary supplement ingredients and is encouraging
industry to submit useful methods for consideration.
The carbon isotope analysis method proposed here was originally published by the American Society
for Testing and Materials (ASTM), a globally recognized standards-setting organization and leader in
the development and delivery of international voluntary consensus standards. As is typical for
materials included in FCC, industry stakeholders approached USP with the request of adding the
ASTM method to differentiate synthetic from bio-based materials. The method is set to be republished
in FCC after the public comment period ends, and its suitability is verified by USP’s Food Ingredients
Expert Committee, a group of volunteer experts who evaluate proposed standards based on current
The carbon isotope analysis method is a new resource to all parties, buyers and sellers alike, that has
been previously unavailable in FCC. The method is suitable for the verification of a claim that a
material is bio-based, which is otherwise difficult for buyers to verify or for sellers to demonstrate. The
proposed method fits the overall model of FCC to not only make quality standards for the authenticity,
quality and purity available, but also to supply all parties in the supply chain with suitable means for
verification of bio-based food ingredients and accompanying reference materials to demonstrate the
methods have been performed appropriately.