Are supplements natural or synthetic?
The raw ingredients that go into USANA products come from a variety of sources. Some are derived from plants (our vitamin E, for example, is derived from soy) while others are produced synthetically. Some are derived from natural sources but have been further modified by synthetic steps. Others are derived from fermentation processes.
Natural versus synthetic is just one of the criteria that USANA uses to select the raw ingredients that go into its products. Other factors taken into account are potency, purity, safety, stability, and reliability of supply.
All factors being equal, we will select naturally derived materials over synthetically derived ones. But often times, all factors are not equal. We use vitamin and mineral compounds in the chemical form – be it “natural” or “synthetic” – proven to be effectively absorbed and utilized by the body, and that are safe, pure, and free of any contaminants.
There is a common misconception that “natural” vitamins and minerals are extracted from plants in their pure form, making them superior to “synthetic” vitamins and minerals which are made in a laboratory. This is often a misleading distinction.
First, it is not possible to extract pure vitamins from plants without considerable and significant processing that may include harsh chemical extraction solvents. Next, the biological activity of a compound has nothing to do with its source and is more determined by its chemical structure. In other words, it typically makes little difference whether the chemical originates from a leafy plant or is synthesized – it is the same compound, regardless.
Some vitamin and antioxidant compounds can be efficiently synthesized in laboratories to produce products that are identical in chemical form to those found in nature and are extremely pure and equally safe (and often much less expensive than their “natural” counterparts). In addition, some synthetic vitamins are preferentially absorbed over compounds provided by food sources.
One good example is folic acid, which is more easily absorbed than folate from food sources. Folates in food are typically large protein-bound molecules and must be hydrolyzed or deconjugated before absorption and transport into the cell.