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 general, you are seeing more liquid and effervescent formulas, especially for multivitamins, B vitamins, vitamin C, and immune busters”, says James Gormley, natural products industry analysts and Board member of the Natural Health Research Institute (NHRI). “You’re also seeing more supplements specifically designed for children, especially new forms of omega-3 fats, and combination formulas, which are more convenient and often more economical than buying individual supplements.”
Meanwhile, some old standby is getting novel twists, such as advanced delivery systems, synergistic formulas, or new-and-improve ingredient sources, including more organics. Here are some herb superstars you ought to know about:
PQQ - Pyrroloquino-line quinine (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.
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 inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells, and another study found that pterostilbene was more effective than resvetrol in inhibiting colon cancer cell growth. Pterostilbene may also reduce LDL cholesterol while increasing HDL levels, and may help protect against diabetes.
Ubquinol - The active form of coenzyme Q10, this Ubquinol is essential for cardiovascular health. In one study, patients suffering from advanced congestive heart failure exhibited significantly improved heart functions after supplementing with Ubquinol. 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 Ubquinol diminishes with age, taking a Ubquinol supplement may be a better bet for people over age 40.
Agarikon - It is a type of fungus that grows on conifers and 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 protective agent against other viruses.
Krill oil - Tiny, shrimp-like crustaceans called Antarctic krill 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 dysmenorrheal, premenstrual mood swings, and other symptoms of PMS. Another study found that 1-3 grams of krill oil per day reduced cholesterol by 34% and raised HDL cholesterol by 43% compared to placebo.
Whey - Still popular as a soy-free source of concentrated protein, whey may help regulate blood sugar, promote muscle building, and support the immune system. Today’s cutting-edge whey protein products have a variety of incarnations, from individual on-the-go packs to stevia-sweetened formulations made from organic or grass-fed cow’s milk.
Relora - A combination herbal formula made from phellodendron and magnolia mitigates the body’s productions of cortisol to reduce stress and anxiety. Relora acts as a gentle muscle relaxant and can combat mood swings, irritability, insomnia, and depression. It may even help in weight control by stemming stress-related eating and regulating the body’s tendency to store fat when cortisol levels are high.
Cocoa - The ingredient that gives chocolate its health properties, cocoa is now sold in supplement form. It 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. 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.
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. According to some studies, collagen also has an appetite suppressing effect, which makes it useful for weight loss. Look for hydrolyzed collagen capsules, as well as drink powders and cosmetics.
Green foods - Designed as easy, convenient ways to add more green to any diet, green foods powders or tablets are always popular. Look for new twists on old favorites: You will find more organic formulations, raw food formulas, stevia-sweeted blends, and powders with supplemental ingredients such as chia seeds and probiotics. You’ll also see more formulas featuring berries, black berry, and super fruits such as acai and goji, which add valuable photochemical.
Curcumin - Known in the anti-inflammatory world as a safe, natural, food based supplement, curcumin’s reputation is well deserved. Studies have shown that it 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 twist on curcumin products include high-dose formulas, synergistic blends that increase bioavailability, and the addition of other anti-inflammatory such as black pepper, ginger, garlic, saffron, and zingerone.
Lychee - 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 providing to help trim abdominal fat, and may help people with metabolic syndrome.