The world of supplements can be confusing-especially as new vitamins, herbs, antioxidants, and more flood the shelves of your local store. What's new, what's novel, and which ones will really light up the screen in 2012?
"In general, you'll find more liquid and effervescent formulas, especially for multivitamins, B vitamins, vitamin C, and immune-boosters," says James Gormley, natural products industry analyst and Board Member of the Natural Health Research Institute (NHRI). "You'll also see more supplements specifically designed for children, especially new forms of omega-3 fats. And look for lots of combination formulas, which are more convenient and often more economical than buying individual supplements."
Meanwhile, some old standbys have novel twists, such as advanced delivery systems, synergistic formulas, or new-and-improved ingredient sources, including more organics. The top 12 you should know about:
1PQQ. Pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ), a vitamin-like compound, is found naturally in green tea and many foods. It's been studied since the 1960s, but has gained recent popularity because of its role in improving cognitive function related to memory loss. Animal studies have also shown that PQQ improves the number and function of the mitochondria-the cell's energy producers-and can protect mitochondria from damage.
2Pterostilbene. Naturally occurring in blueberries and red grapes, pterostilbene is a powerful anti-inflammatory that may protect against breast cancer, diabetes, and high LDL cholesterol levels. In one study, pterostilbene inhibited the growth of breast cancer cells, and another study found that pterostilbene was more effective than resveratrol in inhibiting colon cancer cell growth. Pterostilbene may also reduce LDL cholesterol while increasing HDL levels, and may help protect against diabetes.
3Ubiquinol, the active form of coenzyme Q10, is essential for cardiovascular health. In one study, patients suffering from advanced congestive heart failure exhibited significantly improved heart function after supplementing with ubiquinol. It also acts as a powerful antioxidant to help protect cells from oxidative damage, and may play a role in preventing cancer and diabetes. Because the body's ability to convert CoQ10 into ubiquinol diminishes with age, taking a ubiquinol supplement may be a better bet for people over 40.
4Agarikon (Laricifomes officinalis), a type of fungus that grows on conifers, has been used for thousands of years to protect against consumption and smallpox. An extract of the fungus was recently tested through the BIO Shield Program, a division within the Defense Department that searches for remedies against biological warfare agents and bioterrorism threats such as smallpox or anthrax. The extract may show promise as a protective agent against other viruses.
5Krill oil. Antarctic krill-tiny, shrimp-like crustaceans-are rich in an oil that contains omega-3 fatty acids and astaxanthin, a red antioxidant pigment. Krill oil has a different chemical structure than most fish oils, and may be more easily absorbed by the body. Studies have shown that it can significantly reduce dysmenorrhea, premenstrual mood swings, and other symptoms of PMS. Another study found that 1-3 grams of krill oil per day reduced LDL cholesterol by 34 percent and raised HDL cholesterol by 43 percent compared to placebo.
6 Whey formulas. Still popular as a soy-free source of concentrated protein, whey proteins may help regulate blood sugar, promote muscle building, and support the immune system. New whey products have a variety of incarnations, from on-the-go individual packs to stevia-sweetened formulations made from organic and/or grass-fed cow's milk.
7Relora, a combination herbal formula made from phellodendron and magnolia, mitigates the body's production of cortisol to reduce stress and anxiety. Relora also acts as a gentle muscle relaxant and can combat mood swings, irritability, insomnia, and depression. It may help in weight control by stemming stress-related eating and regulating the body's tendency to store fat when cortisol levels are high.
8 Cocoa. The ingredient that gives chocolate its health properties, cocoa is now sold in supplement form. "Cocoa demonstrates significant benefits for the cardiovascular system, helping to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, elevate HDL (good) cholesterol, reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, reduce the risk of high blood pressure, and even reduce the risk of cancer," says author and plant medicine expert Chris Kilham, known as the "Medicine Hunter" for his extensive research in over 20 countries. "Furthermore, cocoa consumption is associated with reduced cognitive decline in old age, and cocoa is rich in agents that enhance the production of various feel-good chemicals in the brain."
9Collagen. Collagen is the most abundant protein found in the body, and we lose it as we age. Collagen loss is linked not only to sagging skin and wrinkles, but also to weak muscles and organs-including thinning lung tissue-and bone loss. According to some studies, collagen also has an appetite suppressing effect, which may make it useful for weight loss. Look for hydrolyzed collagen capsules, as well as drink powders and cosmetics.
10Green foods. Designed as an easy, convenient way to add more greens to any diet, green foods powders are still popular. Look for new twists on old favorites: You'll find more organic formulations, raw foods formulas, stevia-sweetened blends, and powders with supplemental ingredients such as chia seeds and probiotics. You'll also see more formulas featuring berries, black cherry, and superfruits such as açai and goji, which add valuable phytochemicals.
11 Curcumin. It's still big news in the anti-inflammatory world as a safe, natural, food-based supplement. Studies have shown that curcumin can treat conditions ranging from inflammatory bowel disease to rheumatoid arthritis to cystic fibrosis. And it may protect against cancer, Alzheimer's, cardiovascular disease, and obesity. New twists include high-dose formulas, synergistic blends to increase bioavailability, and the addition of other anti-inflammatories such as black pepper, ginger, garlic, saffron, and zingerone.
12Lychee. This cute fruit with what's been described as a "perfume" flavor hails from China and Southeast Asia, where it's a popular ingredient in desserts. Now, lychee extract is proving to help trim abdominal fat, and may help people with metabolic syndrome. A study published in the Journal of Functional Foods found that human subjects who took Oligonol (a lychee extract) lost an average of 3 cm. in waist size and experienced a 15 percent reduction in abdominal fat.
5 Favorite Cutting-Edge Formulas
Since PQQ is relatively new to the supplement scene, it can be hard to find. Fortunately, Life Extension makes this high-quality version with 10 mg of PQQ per vegetarian capsule.
Lichi Super Fruit
Lichi Super Fruit 90-Count
Reap the benefits of antioxidant-rich lychee fruit with this formula. In addition to lychee berry, the softgels contains green tea, açai, and resveratrol to support weight loss.
Grass Fed Whey Protein
Available in Chocolate and Vanilla flavors, this organic whey protein comes from grass-fed cows naturally raised in New Zealand and Tasmania. Pure and simple!
Collagen + C Pomegranate Liquid
From a company specializing in collagen supplements comes a premium liquid version of collagen (types 1 & 3), which is combined with vitamin C, pomegranate, green tea, and ionic minerals for optimal absorption.
This is an all-in-one greens formula that supports physical well-being, detoxification, alkaline balance, and energy levels. Features organic greens and concentrated superfoods.