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Why you’ll be seeing more of these
up-and-coming supplement superstars
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 stand-bys have novel twists, like advanced delivery systems, synergistic formulas, or new-and-improved ingredient sources, including more organics. The top 12 you should know about:
1 PQQ. 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 mitochondria—the cell’s energy producers—and can protect mitochondria from damage.
2 Pterostilbene. 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.
3 Ubiquinol, the active form of coenzyme-Q10 (CoQ10), 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.
4 Agarikon (Laricifomes officinalis), a type of fungus that grows on conifers, has been used for thousands of years to protect against 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, like smallpox or anthrax. The extract shows promise as a protective agent against other viruses as well.
5 Krill oil, made from Antarctic krill—tiny, shrimp-like crustaceans—are rich in an oil that contains omega-3 fatty acids and astaxanthin, a red antioxidant pigment. It 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 to 3 gm 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, fruit flavors and carb-free formulations, to stevia-sweetened formulations made from organic and/or grass-fed cow’s milk.
7 Relora, 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 minimizing stress-eating habits and regulating the body’s tendency to store fat in the presence of high cortisol levels.
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, and reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, and even 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.”
9 Collagen. 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. Another application of collagen is weight loss—collagen has an appetite suppressing effect, according to some studies. Look for hydrolyzed collagen capsules, as well as drink powders, and cosmetics.
10 Green foods. Designed as an easy and 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 like chia seeds and probiotics. You’ll also see more formulas with berries, black cherry, and superfruits like açai and goji, to add valuable phytochemicals to your diet.
11 Curcumin. It’s still big news in the anti-inflammatory world as a safe, natural, food-based supplement; studies have shown it can treat conditions ranging from inflammatory bowel disease and rheumatoid arthritis to cystic fibrosis, and 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 like black pepper, garlic, saffron, and ginger.
12 Lychee. It’s a cute fruit native to China and Southeast Asia with what’s sometimes described as “perfume” flavor, and is popular in desserts in Asian countries. Now, lychee extract is proving to help trim abdominal fat, and may help people with metabolic syndrome (characterized by obesity, hypertension, and prediabetes). A study published in the Journal of Functional Foods found that human subjects who took the lychee extract Oligonol lost an average of 3 cm. in waist size and experienced a 15 percent reduction in abdominal fat.
Top 10 Core Health Basics
Make new supplement friends, but don’t forget the loyal companions to your everyday health regimen. (Bonus: most do double—or triple—duty, benefiting one or more body systems.) Stock up on these 10 essentials:
- Calcium. You know it’s crucial for bone health, but it also enhances the body’s ability to maintain normal weight, regulate blood pressure, and helps with PMS. Some studies suggest it protects against colon cancer. Look for calcium citrate for best absorption, and shoot for 1,000 to 1,200 mg a day in two doses, with meals, to maximize absorption.
- Omega-3s. They’ll keep blood pressure normal, lower triglycerides, reduce the risk of blood clots, protect against inflammation, and enhance mood. Some studies also suggest omega-3 fats protect against Alzheimer’s. Most people need 1,000 mg a day, but if you’re at risk for heart disease or a mood disorder, you may need more; check with your health care practitioner.
- Vitamin D. Many recent studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of vitamin D in preventing a number of chronic diseases and conditions, including cancer, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, and autoimmune disorders. The recommended dose still hovers around 400 IUs, but most experts say adults can safely take 1000 IUs a day.
- Chromium. It helps balance blood sugar levels, and may protect against diabetes. Chromium also protects the heart by decreasing LDL, increasing HDL, and lowering blood pressure. Most people need 35 mcg a day of chromium picolinate (the most effective form).
- Probiotics. In addition to treating gastrointestinal disorders and improving digestion, probiotics enhance immune function and fight off infections, and may protect against colon cancer. Some studies suggest probiotics also modulate inflammatory response and regulate cholesterol levels. Shoot for doses in the range of 1 billion to 10 billion colony-forming units (CFUs).
- Selenium. It may be cancer-protective, especially against colon, lung, and prostate cancers. Many studies also show that selenium improves immune response and protects against cold and flu. Most people need 200 mcg a day.
- Glucosamine. It has been shown to reduce joint pain and stiffness, improve mobility, and slow or prevent the progression of osteoarthritis in the knees. You’ll find it as a single supplement, and in combination with chondroitin. Most studies found effect at 1,500 mg a day of glucosamine, and 1,200 mg a day of chondroitin.
- Multivitamin. A multivitamin/multimineral can fill in nutritional gaps, especially in trace minerals and B-vitamins. Look for food-based supplements, and be aware of any repeats of other individual supplements you may be taking.
- Folic acid. Also called folate, this B vitamin is essential for women of child-bearing age to protect against birth defects; it also lowers homocysteine levels to prevent blood clots, stroke, and heart disease, and may ward off Alzheimer’s. The usual dose is 500 mcg a day.
- Magnesium. Known for its role in bone and heart health, magnesium is also a powerful natural stress-buster and relaxant. It may also improve sleep, and acts as a gentle natural laxative. Start with 250 mg a day, and increase your dosage to up to 1,000 mg a day.
Superstars on Store Shelves
RESERVEAGE ORGANICS CocoaWell Maximum Potency Organic Cocoa boasts 100% pure and organic cocoa from the rainforests of South America infused with green tea, and delivering beneficial flavonols without the sugar and fat of chocolate.
GENCEUTIC NATURALS Curcumin contains 19 times the curcumin content of the ground turmeric spice with Next Generation Curcu-Gel BCM-95, shown in studies to absorb 700% better and last up to 10 hours in the blood. Standardized to 95% curcuminoids.
LIFE EXTENSION PQQ Caps with BioPQQ delivers a purified, highly potent form of PQQ from Japan produced through a natural fermentation process (BioPQQ). PQQ has been shown to enhance cognitive function and protect mitochondria.
MERCOLA Ubiquinol Enhanced Bioactiviy CoQ10 softgels, made from 100% pure and natural ingredients, deliver a highly absorbable form of ubiquinol (the reduced, active form of CoQ10).
GARDEN OF LIFE Perfect Food Raw Organic Green Super Food powder packs 35 raw organic greens, sprouts, and vegetable juices naturally rich in antioxidants, enzymes, amino acids, and essential fatty acids. Easy to mix in water or juice.