The supplements or drugs we take can be generally classified into two categories; natural and synthetic. Which one should we always go for then? Of course they are no match when compared because natural always comes up top, we have to go with what works well with our body, but I want to really compare them here for the normal person to understand and a decision on what you take into your body.

The main advantage of natural supplements over Synthetic supplements is that natural supplements come from food sources, as their name indicates. Since natural supplements come from food-based sources, your body has a better idea of what to do with them. As a result, you can expect that your body will be able to absorb the nutrition that they contain more readily than it can when you consume supplements that have artificial ingredients.

Artificial ingredients can be found in many supplements that have a “natural” label. Often these products work to pass themselves off as being “natural.” It is necessary to be on the lookout for such labels if you want to get the most out of your supplements and drugs. Often times drugs and supplements will add in colorings, preservatives and chemicals. These are things that your body doesn’t need, and they should be avoided.

Supplements composition

Excipients and fillers

Most if not all drugs and supplements are made up of what are called Excipients and fillers. They are the “glue” which bind and stabilize a supplement. Historically they have been considered to be without any medicinal influence. This assumption has allowed their use to be wide-spread with little regard for their actual influence. Excipients, for example have been found to initiate or participate in chemical and physical interactions which can compromise the efficacy of a drug or supplement. Excipients and fillers can influence the efficacy and quality of supplement and drugs and are best avoided when choosing supplements. The common types of excipients and fillers include:

  • Anti-adherents: these are used to prevent product from sticking or adhering to machines in the manufacturing plant, thereby decreasing waste and increasing profitability for companies.
  • Binders: Binders hold the ingredients in a tablet together.
  • Coatings: Tablet coatings protect tablet ingredients from deterioration by moisture in the air and make large or unpleasant-tasting tablets easier to swallow.
  • Colours: Colours are added to improve the appearance of a formulation.
  • Disintegrants: Disintegrants expand and dissolve when wet causing the tablet to break apart in the body.
  • Flavours: Flavours can be used to mask unpleasant tasting active ingredients and improve the acceptance that the patient will complete a course of medication. Flavorings may be natural (e.g. fruit extract) or artificial.
  • Fillers and diluents: these add bulk to products making very small active components easy for consumer to take.
  • Preservatives: preservatives are used to extend the shelf-life of products and prevent degradation, oxidation, bacterial growth etc.

The major concern with the use of some excipients and fillers in nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals is their ability to interact to the medicinal ingredients, hence influence the reliability of products. With chemical and physical interactions occurring within a supplement it is difficult to determine the exact efficacy of the product remaining. Interactions can render the active ingredient less active and make it less bioavailable (less available for the body to use).

When choosing supplements it is important to choose professional brand products that avoid the use of harmful excipients and fillers. This will prevent any adverse effects, but also will enhance therapeutic response as bioavailability of products will not be affected.

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