Natural and plant-based sources of vitamins and minerals for use in finished products, along with substantial research in the field, is on the up-and-up.
From a general perspective, the National Institute on Aging (NIH) has a section on its website in which it describes the various functions of the 13 essential vitamins—helping the body get energy from food, helping the blood to clot properly, maintaining the health of one’s nerves and helping one resist infections. Minerals operate in tandem with vitamins in terms of serving the body.
Branded product manufacturers are finding innovative ways to feature these nutrients, and in the midst of a positive market, they are flourishing.
Naturex (France), through a partnership with Cura Global Health Inc. (Iowa), developed Ultimine Iron, which is a whole food iron that is obtained from koji (Aspergilus oryzae) using a patented fungal fermentation process.
“Naturex’s and Cura Global Heath’s Ultimine whole food koji fermented minerals offer important advantages when compared to other sources of minerals,” explained Santiago Vega, marketing director, nutrition & health, North America, Naturex. “Three clinical studies have been conducted in this material, showing high bioavailability and slow release, compared to ferrous sulfate, the gold standard iron. The first study showed, using a stable isotope, that Ultimine iron has the same absorption into red blood cells as ferrous sulfate, the gold standard. Additional studies have shown that Ultimine is released slowly into the blood. This result is of particular importance, as gradual iron release into the blood helps maintain normal iron saturation levels, reducing the formation of free reactive iron, a.k.a. non- transferrin bound iron (NTBI), and susceptibility to oxidative stress and infections. Therefore, Ultimine is gentle on the system. Traditional sources of iron create surges of iron in the blood, which may have negative consequences for the liver, heart, pancreas and other organs. Finally, thanks to its slow release properties, the ingredient is gentle on the GI [gastrointestinal] tract and does not cause nausea, diarrhea or constipation, which are common side effects of the intake of other sources of iron. There are additional clinical studies ongoing to further validate Ultimine’s valuable benefits.”
And New Jersey-based Natreon—who was in the news recently for being granted a U.S. patent on this particular product—offers Crominex 3+, a combination of trivalent chromium chloride combined with amla and shilajit extracts that can improve lipid profile and endothelial function, among other cardiovascular health benefits.
Tim Hammond, vice president of sales & marketing with Washington-based Bergstrom Nutrition, the manufacturer of OptiMSM, a branded form of methylsulfonylmethane, noted that while the product is not considered a mineral, and “although it is a proven source of bioavailable sulfur and although sulfur is the third most abundant mineral [in the human body], there is no RDA [recommended daily allowance].”
However, that is not to say that it does not have its benefits.
“ … Cysteine and methionine are the body’s principle dietary sources of the compound sulfur, but they may not be present in the diet in adequate amounts; further, the amino acids might be better put to use as participants in other biological processes than as sources of sulfur,” Hammond added. That being the case, OptiMSM—which is 34 percent sulfur by weight—can step in for cysteine and methionine as a sulfur source.
“A recent study1 investigated MSM absorption in the small intestine and accumulation of the associated sulfur in selected tissues over eight days of supplementation in juvenile male mice. The study confirmed oral ingestion of OptiMSM provides the body with a rapidly absorbed, readily available, constant supply of sulfur. We also found that sulfur relieves the bio-burden of amino acids cysteine and methionine, thereby ensuring sufficient quantity available for critical metabolic processes.”
Although they may experience their waves of struggle, the markets for both vitamins and minerals continue to be strong overall.
“Vitamins and minerals continue to be the largest category within supplements retail sales, with an estimated 37 percent share of the market, according to Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ),” Vega noted. “However, their share has come down in recent years mostly due to the fast growth of sports nutrition. Sales growth of the vitamins and minerals category has slowed from their peaks in the mid-2000s, but there are some bright spots. Sales of B vitamins, particularly B3 and B12, and D and K vitamins are growing at more attractive rates driven by continuously emerging science supporting their benefits for a variety of conditions.
“Minerals have generally trailed the growth of overall supplements, according to NBJ, and this is expected to continue for the broad category,” he continued. “Magnesium sales, which saw a growth spike a few years ago, are slowing down, but remain healthy. Sales of calcium, the biggest mineral in share, have been flat for several years. But increased innovation and new science validating the benefits of many minerals, is helping create growth opportunities. Selenium and zinc are seeing double-digit growth rates, based on NBJ estimates.”
And as one might believe, research in the field has served to be helpful.
Clean and natural vitamin and mineral supplements have become a priority with consumers.
“ … One of the most important trends in nutrition is the movement from artificial sources of vitamins and minerals to whole food, natural sources,” Vega explained. “In one survey, respondents were asked to rate the importance of several health attributes in their purchase decisions. Almost half (43 percent) said that foods with natural ingredients were very important.2 In the past, one of the main challenges to accomplish this was that the micronutrient content of some of these natural alternatives was low. Additionally, it was not clear whether the bioavailability of these natural, plant-based sources of vitamins was comparable to that of the established, artificial forms in the market.”
Vega also elaborated on the importance of clean label to customers, stating that “whole-food supplements seem to be particularly appealing to consumers thanks to their ability to offer clean label and natural solutions to dietary supplements users. The premise with whole-food supplements is that since the nutrient is delivered in its food-state form—with its host of other co-factors—it is naturally more bioavailable than synthetic sources; this overcomes questions about potentially low doses of nutrients present. … Naturex is particularly interested in fermentation as a way to deliver better nutrition. Fermentation is a completely natural process, so it delivers on consumers’ expectations of ‘clean labeling,’ and their desire to avoid synthetic additives and preservatives. Consumers perceive fermentation and fermented foods to be beneficial for health, particularly for the digestive system. Launches of fermented products have grown by more than 130 percent since 2012.3,4 Fermentation has been used for centuries to produce common foods and beverages and it seems to have appeal for younger consumers, who are seeking out new taste and texture experiences, and are keen to delve into international cuisines.”
Mineral Logic, a Michigan-based producer and wholesaler of plant origin, fulvic acid, pointed out that over time, more individuals have become conscience of the importance of plant-based minerals for their plethora of benefits.
“There is more awareness and education today that plant-based, plant-derived minerals are by far the most useful to the human body,” stated Mark K. Williams, PhD, biochemist with the company. The same with vitamins derived from natural sources that contain the plant’s constituents such as bioflavonoids in a vitamin C source. Isolated vitamins are not as complete as those found in plant sources. While high doses of a vitamin that is created synthetically may be needed for therapeutic reasons, plant sources are preferable on a daily basis. Plants have many micronutrients that work along with vitamins and minerals, like trace elements known as polyphenols. Polyphenols are a large group of plant compounds that contain antioxidants, flavonoids and organic acids such as the well-known resveratrol and quercetin. Flavonoids, also known as fulvic acids, are the main group of polyphenols. Phenolic compounds have a complex spectrum of more than 5,000 compounds naturally occurring in plants that work to protect the plant from stress, sun damage, drought and blight. These micronutrients can also help our bodies utilize the vitamins and minerals we ingest, and provide us with protection against free radical damage, dehydration and aging.
“ … One of the best additions to any vitamin and mineral formula is adding a bit of fulvic acid into the mix,” he continued. “Fulvic acids take a common formula to the next level of potency and efficacy. They provide essential support for the big minerals and vitamins to help us fend off free radical damage from the sun, environmental and chemical damage, and removing heavy metals; they help us repair cellular damage and prevent DNA mutation. We lead stressful lives, both physically and emotionally, and these tiny warriors keep us winning the battle!” NIE
1 Wong T et al., “Small intestinal absorption of methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) and accumulation of the sulfur moiety in selected tissues of mice.” Nutrients, vol. 10, no. 1 (2018): 19.
2 Nielsen ‘We are what we eat’ survey (2015).
3 www.foodnavigator.com/Article/2018/05/04/ There-is-a-mega-trend-around-fermentation-The-rising-star-of-fermented-foods.
For More Information:
Bergstrom Nutrition, www.optimsm.com
Mineral Logic, LLC, www.minerallogic.com
Natreon, Inc., www.natreoninc.com