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The quest for naked nutrients

Raw. Natural. Organic. Buzzwords of the health industry, these concepts can be difficult to apply to supplements. Two companies are pushing the envelope to bring customers increasingly bioactive and minimally processed vitamins. Here's a peek into what makes them different.

Bringing vitamins to life
Garden of Life, a West Palm Beach, Fla.-based maker of nutritional products, has released a line of “raw” supplements called The Vitamin Code. Because “raw” supplements had never before been defined, Garden of Life developed and follows 10 rules for raw (see for details). Whereas typical cultured or fermented whole-food vitamins and minerals are made by breaking down large and complex things into simpler forms that can be fashioned into tablets, The Vitamin Code does the opposite, according to Jordan Rubin, CEO and founder of Garden of Life. Instead, friendly yeast or bacteria are fed a nutrient, such as calcium, and the yeast metabolizes it and grows. “You have a living organism that's high in that nutrient,” Rubin says.

Allowing nutrients to be integrated into a food form helps appropriately direct the nutrient within the body, according to Rubin. Take calcium, for example. “Calcium is good for bones and teeth. It's great in those places, but it's not good in the brain,” Rubin says. “What tells calcium where to go? We found that calcium in the form of food contains code factors that allow it to be first integrated into food and secondarily into the body where it needs to without forcing it.”

To preserve the integrity of nutrients, Garden of Life doesn't heat ingredients above 115 degrees Fahrenheit or include any other heated components. Adhering to this guideline means The Vitamin Code comes in capsules rather than tablets, which are often exposed to high heat and pressure, Rubin says. “We couldn't produce a tablet that didn't oxidize and cause nutrient loss in our antioxidants and vitamins and minerals, so we used capsules.”

Concentrating nature
Jason Mitchell, N.D., vice president of research and new product development for the Hauppauge, N.Y.-based supplement manufacturer Country Life, was looking for a way to simply fill in the nutritional gaps for people when he developed the RealFoods Organics line. “It's the first and only product line where it's made almost entirely from fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds and sprouts,” Mitchell says. The process takes roughly 50 certified organic foods and blends them according to specific percentages. Then the puree is analyzed to identify what nutrients have dropped off during processing. “We add back, only in a small amount, certain vitamins and minerals that we have identified as something that has degraded due to the process,” Mitchell says of the added isolates. “We fortify only what was lost.” The blend then gets fermented to create a nutrient-dense and concentrated broth that's freeze-dried and made into a tablet.

The benefit of deriving a supplement from whole fruits and vegetables is that the final product “contains vitamins A to Z that we know about, and it contains a lot of things that nature has planned for us to consume but that we haven't identified yet,” Mitchell says. That way, any cofactors that might help with nutrients' function are also included in the product.

Pamela Emanoil Bond is a freelance writer in Eldorado Springs, Colo.

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