How to tell if your dietary supplements are natural or not? Does so-called “nature” mean original food type? In fact, this is a concept that is easy to get confused. At present, according to the regulations of the Taiwan Food and Drug Administration, nutritional supplements can no longer be directly marked as "natural". After all, many raw materials are derived from food, but in order to extract or maintain stability, other ingredients have to be added in the making process. As a result, it is currently prohibited in Taiwan to announce being “natural” directly.

You might wonder if the supplements claim to come from food types really easier to absorb? In fact, this statement is tricky. To determine whether the nutrients are absorbed well, and whether they are consistent with the natural food pattern, the form of the ingredient must be checked. For example, rumor has it that the vitamin B complex contains quinoa or yeast fermentation has better absorption rate due to the natural food origin. As the matter of the fact, this view is both right and wrong.

Correct Understanding : The absorption rate is better when the ingredients derived from nature.

Explanation : For example, Methylcabalamin is the natural form of vitamin B12 found in food, whereas Cyanocobalamin is the synthetic form of vitamin B12. According to researches and studies, the loss of synthetic form after consumption is 3 times faster than the natural form. Normally, the price of the natural active form of Methylcobalamin is more than 100 times higher than the synthetic Cyanocobalamin.

Folate is another vitamin component that can be distinguished immediately. When only Folic Acid is written on the label, that is a synthetic form. Currently, the scientific name of the active Folate type approved by the Ministry of Health and Welfare in Taiwan is (6s)-5-methyltetrahydrofolic Acid Glucosamine Salt [(6s)-5-Methyltetrahydrofolic Acid]. In a study conducted by the University of Bonn in Germany in 2009, it was also confirmed that compared with traditional synthetic Folic Acid, active Folate is 98% more absorbable than traditional Folic Acid after 8 hours of consumption. (r prinz-langenohl, s brämswig, o. 2009)

Vitamin E is also a good example we could look into. On the supplement facts label, you could not tell if the ingredient is natural and synthetic by Chinese description; however, English scientific names would give you the fact. The scientific name of the natural form of vitamin E is “d-alpha-tocopherol”, which is easily absorbed by the human body and is a biologically active form. On the contrary, the synthetic form is called “dl-alpha-tocopherol”. Next time, when you want to purchase vitamin E supplements, remember to check on the label to know is it “d-“ form or “dl-“ form.

Misconception : Coming from yeast means it’s certainly a natural form?

Explanation : Made from yeast or quinoa refers to the source used to cultivate and produce vitamin Bs during fermentation. However, most of the common vitamin B12 in this kind is the synthetic form, which is cyanocobalamin. As a result, coming from yeast doesn’t not equal to be the natural form, nor represent high absorption rate. If on the label of the supplement you purchased only marked vitamin B12 in Chinese, it is likely that it is mainly in the form of artificial synthesis. Otherwise, you have to have the vendor provided the CoA from the raw material suppliers, then you would be able to tell the form of the vitamin B12.

Key Point : Natural-sourced yeast fermentation ≠ active form. The active form is the guarantee of the highest absorption rate.

Natural origin or artificial synthesis has always been a topic of hype. However, the actual form existence in food or human body can only be determined by the English scientific names of the ingredients. This is a must-learn topic for consumers if you want to shop smart; otherwise, you could be fooled by some unscrupulous manufacturers. The active form can really achieve the best results after consumption. If a product cannot achieve the expected benefits after consumption, no matter how cheap it is, it is actually a waste of money. Next time, before you buy any dietary supplements, take your time and read the label clearly. Be a wiser shopper for your own health.