Updated on June 22, 2023
At a time when alternative medicine is becoming mainstream, many consumers are interested in exploring the possibilities of using nutritional supplements. Unfortunately, most consumers often don’t feel equipped to differentiate between high-quality products and inferior variations—and recent scandals involving the discovery of harmful substances in a number of nutritional supplements only make the lack of confidence worse. In part two of our series on how to choose a nutritional supplement, we explore the world of supplement ingredients, including which ones to avoid and why finding a supplement manufacturer you can trust is essential.
Lack of efficacy is typically the biggest problem that consumers face with choosing a nutritional supplement. If the ingredients are not efficacious, then the body is unable to effectively use the ingredients, which means the supplement can’t produce the desired therapeutic effect. When a consumer fails to see results, they may increase the amount they are taking, only to again see no benefits and potentially experience an increased risk of having an adverse side effect. In some cases, the consumer might conclude that the category of supplement doesn’t work for them. But that isn’t necessarily the case—they could just need a supplement with a slightly different type of ingredient.
In the body, the molecules of a supplement’s active ingredient need to be in a format that the body’s cells can process, and the molecules need to be in the vicinity of those cells before being processed. If the molecules of the supplement’s active ingredients aren’t in an acceptable format, then the supplement won’t have its intended physiological effect. In scientific terminology, such a supplement would be said to have low bioavailability. Bioavailability refers to the quantity of a substance that cells can use after the substance enters the body and makes its way into the bloodstream.
In the first part of this series, we explored the importance of bioavailability and some of the methods nutritional supplement manufacturers use to enhance bioavailability, such as specialized additives and delivery systems. Sometimes, however, ingredients alone are sufficient to evaluate whether a supplement will have adequate bioavailability. If a consumer uses a supplement with suboptimal ingredients, then it is as if they had ordered a glass of water and been given a glass filled to the brim with ice.
The ice is technically water, but it isn’t the liquid format they intended to purchase or that is most useful to them. With nutritional supplements, however, the differences are often more subtle and difficult for the consumer to identify.
Vitamin C, for example, has two primary molecular forms: levo (L-ascorbic acid) and dextro (D-ascorbic acid). The levo form is the biologically active form of vitamin C and is found in many foods and nutritional supplements, where it exhibits high bioavailability. In contrast, the dextro form of vitamin C is much less bioavailable; in fact, some researchers suggest it is not nutritionally relevant in any meaningful way due to its low bioavailability.
In addition, there is a multitude of other vitamin C variations, including mineral ascorbates, vitamin C combined with bioflavonoids, ascorbate combined with vitamin C metabolites, and ascorbyl palmitate, and there is evidence to suggest there might be significant differences in bioavailability between them. The end result: how effective a vitamin C supplement will likely be is determined by which specific form of vitamin C is being used.
Although the efficacy of active ingredients is a significantly more common concern in supplements, some ingredients might present risks to the user’s health or cause tolerability issues. Consumers need to pay attention to whether any of the product’s filler ingredients are allergens or might trigger sensitivities. This is particularly true for individuals with a gluten allergy or sensitivity, because many nutritional supplements contain wheat-derived ingredients. Less common allergens, like egg albumin, soybean oil, and mustard seed-derived ingredients, can also be problematic and even dangerous.
Most consumers don’t have the time to extensively research the various brands of nutritional supplements, verify ingredients, or double-check safety features. This means that consumers need to find a manufacturer they can trust to make the right decisions regarding ingredients and educate them about why the ingredients they use are effective and safe.
Today, some cutting-edge manufacturers carry a range of high bioavailability supplements that contain only hypoallergenic and non-toxic ingredients—even when doing so contradicts their industry’s norms. One of the most powerful examples of this reality comes from Tesseract Medical Research and their approach to curcumin supplements.
Much like vitamin C, a curcumin supplement can vary dramatically in efficacy depending on the manufacturer. While many consumers take a curcumin supplement to help maintain normal levels of inflammation in their body, curcumin suffers from naturally low bioavailability due to the amount of time it takes to be processed via the liver into a format the body can use. As the liver slowly breaks down curcumin, it leaves behind a metabolite molecule called tetrahydrocurcumin. The molecules of tetrahydrocurcumin subsequently enter the bloodstream, where they are fully bioavailable. In other words, tetrahydrocurcumin is the constituent of the curcumin that is responsible for curcumin’s therapeutic benefits.
An hour after a consumer takes a curcumin supplement, the tetrahydrocurcumin begins to be filtered from the bloodstream and incorporated into the urine or feces at a steady rate.
However, because the liver can only break down a small amount of curcumin at a time, a standard curcumin supplement doesn’t produce enough tetrahydrocurcumin in the bloodstream to have a noticeable effect. By the time the entire amount of curcumin ingested has been converted by the liver into tetrahydrocurcumin, much of the tetrahydrocurcumin that was converted earlier has been eliminated from the body. Essentially, the supplement can’t work.
Tesseract corrects for this natural disadvantage of curcumin by offering a curcumin supplement that contains only tetrahydrocurcumin. Because a tetrahydrocurcumin supplement doesn’t have to be converted by the liver before producing the intended effect, it is far more bioavailable and far more effective. Additionally, Tesseract’s products are hypoallergenic and gluten-free, ensuring that consumers can safely integrate them into their daily health and wellness regimen.
The differences between curcumin and tetrahydrocurcumin supplements underline the importance of trusting the right supplement manufacturer. Manufacturers that invest the resources necessary to create innovative, evidence-based solutions designed to produce better outcomes are more likely to give consumers the safe and efficacious results they’re looking for. The creation of a tetrahydrocurcumin supplement embodies the approach necessary to provide consumers with functional supplements built with high-quality ingredients. For consumers who are wondering how to choose the best quality supplement, the answer might ultimately lie in finding the best quality manufacturer.
Tesseract Medical Research is dedicated to exploring topics around bioavailability and modern insights on foundational medicine impacting consumers desirous of enhancing their gastrointestinal and neurological health.