The benefit of food supplements, concentrates of nutrients, plants or other substances, no longer needs to be proven today. They are increasingly consumed in France for their health benefits: vitality, immunity, stress, sleep, beauty, etc.
Eager to adopt a more sustainable mode of consumption that respects the planet, the French are turning more towards natural products. So, the problem today is to know if the composition of the supplements has an impact on the effectiveness of the formulas. Made from natural or synthetic active ingredients, are food supplements equally effective?
Through this article, we would like to help you understand the differences between a natural and synthetic active ingredient so that you can best choose your products.
Active ingredients & formulas
What is an active ingredient?
To better understand the differences that exist between a natural food supplement and a chemical food supplement, it is important to start by defining the notion of “active ingredient”. Whether of natural or synthetic origin, supplements are very rich in active ingredients. These are the active substances which have therapeutic properties and therefore an interest for human health, and which thus confer all their benefits to the products. This is why the concentration of active ingredients is very important to justify the quality and effectiveness of the product. You can find this information on product labels or packaging in terms of nutritional information. They inform you about the dosage of each active ingredient and the percentage of recommended nutritional intakes (or reference intakes) that it represents. Most supplements are dosed in milligrams or micrograms.
What are the main ingredients present in food supplements?
Food supplements are products that help improve the nutritional intake of the population, whether to fill a deficit or deficiency, to alleviate everyday discomforts or to maintain good health. Marketed in the form of doses such as capsules, tablets, gummies, they are composed of numerous ingredients each having their role in the texture, conservation and especially the action of the product. At the heart of their formula we find active ingredients selected according to the desired action from:
- Vitamins & minerals: vitamin D, zinc, magnesium, vitamin B12, calcium, etc. Due to the overexploitation of soil, the processing of food products or even our lifestyles, deficits and deficiencies in vitamins and minerals appear .
- Plants & algae: valerian, hibiscus, echinacea, spirulina, etc. The use of plants for health purposes in France comes from a long French tradition. It is a return to the sources and to traditional medicines.
- Fruits & vegetables: artichoke, Goji berry, blueberry, black radish, etc. Rich in active substances, vitamins and antioxidants, certain fruits and vegetables are very interesting to use in synergy with other ingredients.
- Ferments & yeasts: probiotics, brewer's yeast, etc. These good bacteria are able to promote the development of microorganisms in our microbiota and thus promote better health.
- Other substances for nutritional or physiological purposes: enzymes, amino acids, essential fatty acids, caffeine, propolis, royal jelly, etc.
It is also possible to find excipients in food supplements. These are inactive ingredients chosen to make it easier to take a supplement, store it or make it. We can find magnesium stearate, a natural anti-caking agent, in 90% of food supplements, animal or vegetable gelatins, maltodextrin, a bulking agent coming from a natural but very refined sugar which sometimes increases our carbohydrate intake. , potassium sorbate, an artificial preservative, and acacia gum, a natural thickener coming directly from acacia sap.
Natural vs. Synthetic
The French are increasingly attentive to their health and their eating habits. They are looking for more natural and authentic products and are changing their daily practices. According to Synadiet, naturalness is the primary reason for consuming food supplements. Players in the nutraceutical market are increasingly resorting to the use of natural active ingredients and limiting the presence of chemical substances in their products. Food supplements made from synthetic active ingredients raise certain questions about the effects they can have on health.
An active ingredient is said to be natural when it comes from minerals, the plant or animal world and is based on green chemistry. The transformations must be very slight, and must simply boil down to techniques allowing the properties of the selected extract to be kept intact.
Food supplements can also derive their active ingredients from chemical processes. Chemistry is indeed very practical since it allows the synthesis of synthetic molecules similar to natural molecules. These synthetic alternatives are very controlled from a qualitative point of view. They have the advantage of being free of all traces of pesticides and of keeping very well.
However, synthetic molecules are not always the exact reproduction of their natural counterparts. Some differences, even minimal, can have an impact on their biological activity. Indeed, the structure of a molecule determines its absorption, its storage or even its degradation and therefore its therapeutic effects.
In nature, vitamins & minerals are present in the form of complexes, associated with other natural compounds in their original matrix. This is why natural food supplements are often more versatile than synthetic food supplements. In addition to having a more complete action, as they are closer to the food matrix, they are more compatible with human physiology and are therefore better assimilated by the body.
For these reasons, brands choose a natural composition, respectful of humans, animals and the environment.
What about Epycure?
As you know, at Epycure, we develop programs and formulas for plants, vitamins and minerals that are vegan, eco-responsible and above all, Made in France. The Epycure team works daily to offer you products adapted to your needs, effective and natural, in a recycled or recyclable pack that you can use with your eyes closed. The objective of Hélène, our Research & Development manager, is to develop a range of natural products, without artificial flavors or colors, to help you soothe your everyday aches and pains in a natural way. 95% is the average naturalness of our products. You are probably wondering why our formulas are not all 100% natural.
Hélène always starts by contacting our partner laboratories and proposing our project to them accompanied by a complete product brief in which she lists our requirements. Upstream, it of course selected these subcontractors based on their expertise, the desired galenics, and their sensitivity to the naturalness of the products. With equal effectiveness and concentration, we automatically use natural ingredients. But for you, as for us, effectiveness comes first, so we always give priority to the safety and effectiveness of our formulas.
This is why we observe a slight drop in the percentage of naturalness, which is most often due to vitamins and minerals. This choice regarding effectiveness is linked to the concentration of active ingredients since we want to stay on an effective product and an acceptable dosage, i.e. 2 capsules per day and not 10. Choosing a natural vitamin sometimes involves the use of a stronger one. concentration of active ingredients to achieve the same effectiveness as a synthetic vitamin. Except that the space in our 2 capsules is limited so if we choose a natural vitamin as effective as a synthetic vitamin but at a higher concentration we will no longer have the space to put all the other active ingredients selected for their benefits, the efficiency will therefore be reduced. There are no perfect solutions, but simply the search for the best compromise between natural active ingredient, synthetic active ingredient and effective formula. We are obviously on the lookout for an innovation allowing us to obtain 100% natural vitamins and minerals that are just as effective and concentrated as synthetic ones!
Beyond the naturalness of the ingredients, you should check the origin of the food supplements you buy. Indeed, be vigilant with food supplements that come from abroad because they do not follow the same regulations and the same quality controls as in France. Certain substances are also prohibited by French legislation which is quite strict. Please note that the use of medicinal plants in France comes from a long local tradition. The French ecosystem of food supplements is rich in know-how recognized throughout the world. So favoring Made in France is the best way to support French know-how and to have qualitative and safe products validated by French regulations. At Epycure, we prefer to turn to French laboratories for their know-how, but also to ensure transport of finished products without a plane. This proximity allows us to guarantee the quality and traceability of each product while being eco-friendly.