Where Do Your Supplements Come From?

There are always those things we don’t know we don’t know. When it comes to nutritional supplements, knowing some of those things are extremely useful for effectiveness as well as for a higher economic value. Thanks to Nor Simmons at new hope360.com.

My experience in the world of natural health has always been from the consumer side—learning about new supplements, treatments, and remedies for what ails me. But as the new associate editor at Functional Ingredients I’m finally getting to see the other side of the natural products industry. Thanks to Rudi Moerck, PhD, CEO of Valensa International, I now understand what I always suspected—extraction method matters when it comes to sourcing the ingredients that go into those supplements I buy.

There’s chemical extraction, which uses chemical solvents (usually hexane, a petroleum distillate) to separate botanical ingredients. In theory most if not all of the chemical solvent is removed in a distillation process, but trace amounts may still get through.

This is why Valensa and a growing number of ingredient suppliers have switched to the more expensive (but better for us and for the environment) method of supercritical carbon extraction. This method relies on pressure to separate ingredients. It provides an oxygen-free environment so delicate compounds are less likely to degrade, making it more efficient. Best part? Not only are there no chemical residues, but according to Valensa’s website, “high pressure supercritical CO2 delivers higher levels of some very desirable compounds.” They use saw palmetto as an example. Supercritical extraction produces “three times the beta carotene, ten times the amount of lutein and 30 times the zeaxanthin.”

But wait, folks, there’s more!

Expeller pressing, often used to extract oils—although some conventional suppliers use chemical extraction for oils—cuts out the chemicals and provides pure, healthy oils for food or supplements. It works pretty much like it sounds. Seeds or nuts are put in a press and squished until oil seeps out, leaving the fiber material behind. The process creates some heat because of the pressure and friction involved, which can alter flavors. So then there’s cold pressing, which is pretty much the same, but in a temperature-controlled environment to preserve delicate oils like EFAs and Rachel Ray’s EVOO.

I’ve always been one of those label readers, dawdling in the grocery aisle to make sure I can pronounce all the ingredients in my peanut butter before I toss it in the basket. But even though I can pronounce saw palmetto or flax seed oil, it’s nice to finally know where those ingredients come from and that at least some of the companies extracting them have my health and the health of our planet in mind when they do it.

Pharma Bias Still Present In Supplement Research

Functional foods and dietary supplements, both alone and in combination with pharmaceutical drugs, can “reduce health risk factors and risk of disease,” according to researchers at Utrecht University Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, The Netherlands, in a paper published last week in The European Journal of Pharmacology.

The researchers pointed out opportunities with functional foods and supplements as add-ons to drug therapy—among them the benefit of phytosterols with statin drugs for cardiovascular conditions, calcium with hormone replacement therapy for minimization of osteoporosis, or omega-3s DHA and EPA with anti-hypertensive drugs to reduce blood pressure.

“Persons who consistently use the food products may be able to lower the dose of medicine needed to control risk factors,” the researchers wrote. “Since side effects of drugs are often correlated to higher doses, lowering the dose of the drug may consequently lead to less drug-associated side effects.”

After the mad cow disease epidemic in the late 1990s, Europe’s food safety took precedence over access to dietary ingredients, and especially health claims surrounding functional foods and beverages.

With this as a backdrop certainly in Europe’s regulatory scheme, and also in academia, the European researchers spent much of the paper pointing out potential adverse interactions that dietary supplements can have on the action of pharmaceutical drugs. Yet they completely overlooked the much larger issue of pharmaceutical drugs depleting nutrients in the body.

It should be noted that this is hardly a European conceit. Researchers around the world, like Western allopathic physicians, tend to see health solutions as being solved by pharmaceuticals, with no mind paid to the health effect that could possibly exist with the foods and nutrients people consume.

The primary example includes statin drugs, which deplete the body of coenzyme Q-10, so that patients enjoy lower cholesterol levels but die more quickly of a heart attack. Other notable examples include antibiotics and probiotics, or contraceptives on B vitamins and minerals.

Functional Ingredients asked the research team about why drug-induced nutrient depletions were absent from their paper.  Thanks to Todd Runestad for this article.

“You suggest correctly that functional foods or dietary supplements may be capable of reducing drug-associated side effects by restoring depleted compounds. An example is the musculoskeletal complaints associated with statin therapy, which might be related to a statin-induced coenzyme Q10 deficiency,” said researcher Simone Eussen.

“Although there are ample studies that showed that statins reduce plasma Q10, there are only two studies with contrasting results that investigated the influence of supplementing Q10 on muscle pains. We concluded that data is insufficient to recommend Q10 to patients on statin therapy. This will probably also be the case for the other examples you mention.”

So while the researchers did manage to mention the benefits for human health with dietary supplements and supplement-style ingredients in foods—which hardly happens enough, anywhere in the world, especially for an institution focused on pharmaceutical sciences—it is clear there is still a lot of ground to be made up. Academia and the physician channels need to get away away from the pharma bias and open to the idea of nutrition’s fundamental role in optimizing human health.

Second Chance At Most Important Meal Of Day

Tart Cherry Juice Lowers Blood Pressure

A Second Chance At The Most Important Meal Of The Day

If the Hobbits can do it, why can’t our kids? In our rushed and harried lives, too many don’t eat breakfast. Some choose to skip a meal, many do not. Feeding our children where they are every day makes sense.

The “second chance breakfast” program is designed to promote healthy living and also increase classroom attendance. It’s also an example of designing for what works, namely nourished, alert and in attendance students.

Additional Resources

There are a well developed list of resources for parents, school board members or food service professionals.

Vitamin K Intake Helpful To Bone Health

Bone. 2011 Jun 1;48(6):1313-8. Epub 2011 Apr 5.

Dietary vitamin K intake is associated with bone quantitative ultrasound measurements but not with bone peripheral biochemical markers in elderly men and women.


Human Nutrition Unit, Facultat de Medicina i Ciències de la Salut, IISPV, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Reus, Spain. monica.bullo@urv.cat



Vitamin K may have a protective role against bone loss and osteoporotic fractures associated to aging, although data in humans are inconsistent and the mechanisms involved are still unknown. The main objective of the study was to assess the associations between vitamin K intake, bone density, bone structure quality and biochemical bone metabolism markers in elderly subjects. We also analyzed the relationship between changes in vitamin K intake and the evolution of bone quality markers after two years of follow-up.


Cross-sectional analysis was carried out on 365 elderly subjects, 200 of whom were also included in a 2-year longitudinal follow-up study. Usual dietary intakes were assessed using a semi-quantitative 137-item food frequency questionnaire (FFQ). Vitamin K intake was estimated using the USDA database. Bone biochemical markers were measured in a subset of 125 subjects. Quantitative ultrasound assessment (QUS) was performed at the calcaneus to estimate bone mineral density (BMD), speed of sound (SOS), broadband ultrasound attenuation (BUA) and the quantitative ultrasound index (QUI).


Dietary intake of vitamin K was significantly associated with higher BMD and better QUS. No significant associations were found between vitamin K intake and bone biochemical markers. Those subjects who increased their vitamin K intake showed a lower loss of BMD, a lower decrease in SOS and a nonsignificant increase in BUA.


High dietary vitamin K intake was associated with superior bone properties. Moreover, an increase in dietary vitamin K was significantly related to lower losses of bone mineral density and smaller increases in the porosity and elasticity attributed to aging, which helps to explain the previously described protective effect of vitamin K intake against osteoporotic fractures.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

[PubMed – in process]

Co-Q10 Effectively Reduces Cholesterol Levels

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that occurs naturally in all parts of the body. The body needs some cholesterol to work properly. But if there is too much cholesterol in the blood, it can stick to the walls of the arteries. This is called plaque. Plaque can the arteries or even block them. High levels of cholesterol in the blood can increase the risk of heart disease. Cholesterol levels tend to rise with age. There are usually no signs or symptoms that indicate high blood cholesterol, but it can be detected with a blood test. Chances of having high cholesterol would include if family members have it, being overweight or eating a lot of fatty foods.

Coenzyme Q10’s benefits are due to the following two attributes. First, Co-Q10 is an important fat-soluble antioxidant that is uniquely able to protect the cells’ energy producing machinery, known as mitochondria, from free radical damage. Second, coenzyme Q10 is necessary for the production of energy in all cells of the body.

A study published in the journal IUBMB Life investigated whether Co-Q10 supplementation could reduce cholesterol levels through gene expression patterns. The researchers recruited 53 healthy males with an average age of 30 and were randomly supplemented with the reduced form of Co-Q10 (ubiquinol, Q10H2) at 150 mg daily for two weeks. The results were a 4.8-fold increase in CoQ10 plasma levels after supplementation. Gene expression patterns involved in inflammation, cell death and cell differentiation was identified. A 12.7 percent reduction in LDL cholesterol levels was reported. “Q10H2 induces characteristic gene expression patterns, which are translated into reduced LDL cholesterol levels and altered parameters of [red blood cell production or] erythropoiesis in humans,” the scientists concluded.

Schmelzer C, Niklowitz P, Okun JG, et al. Ubiquinol-induced gene expression signatures are translated into altered parameters of erythropoiesis and reduced low density lipoprotein cholesterol levels in humans. IUBMB Life Jan2011;63(1):42-8.

Superfoods cover image

Play The Is It Healthy Game!

Read Nutrition News

Making Healthy Choices Easier Than You Think

You have Successfully Subscribed!