I asked Stephen Terras, owner and director Terranova
a question about the ingredients in supplements of Terranova.
Terranova is all organic and not synthetic,
but can you explain how you produce (for example) vitamin B12 and Vitamin A?
Regarding ingredient sources, Terranova use naturally derived and/or organic ingredients wherever possible, however the definition of ‘natural’ and ‘synthetic’ is not as clear as it should be when dealing with certain nutrients, such as B vitamins and vitamin C, for example.
The majority of vitamins we use are produced using ingredients of a natural origin, such as Vitamin E from soya (but the finished ingredient is soya-free), or Vitamin C which is produced by fermentation of glucose from corn (but the finished ingredient is corn-free), or Vitamin D which is derived from a lichen species.
In the case of the B vitamins these are produced by a microbial fermentation process, as is the case for many other nutrients.
This is not an extraction process because the bacteria do not actually contain the vitamins, but the B vitamins are produced as a result of the fermentation process. Nearly all vitamins today are now prepared in this way as simply extracting or isolating a specific nutrient from food is not as simple as it may sound without involving some sort of processing and/or stability aid (and the cost of extraction of nutrients from food would often make the ingredient excessively expensive).
In reality, for most (but not all) nutrients, there is little difference in terms of activity between ‘natural’ and ‘synthetic’ forms of most vitamins…and when it comes to terminology, as a result of the vitamins being fermented (produced with, but not from a natural ingredient), they may consequently be regarded as ‘synthetic’ despite their natural origins.
Sometimes you will be able to tell from the name of the ingredient, but not usually.
For example, the way to determine the difference between natural and synthetic vitamin E is by the prefix.
Natural forms of vitamin E are listed as d-alpha tocopherol, d-alpha tocopheryl acetate, or d-alpha tocopheryl succinate. In contrast, synthetic forms of Vitamin E are labelled with a dl- prefix.
The Vitamin E used in the Terranova products is d-alpha tocopheryl succinate which is the preferred natural form that is extracted from a soya derivative using chemical synthesis.
So, it’s classed as natural because it’s the d form not the dl form, but to obtain the Vitamin E a process is required which may lead to the ingredient being regarded as ‘synthetic’.
All of our minerals are naturally derived, but for the purpose of enhancing absorption efficiency, many will be bonded to some organic compound such as a amino acid or perhaps citric acid (these organic compounds are often produced from microbial fermentation as well).
And in the term ‘organic compound’ the word ‘organic’ does not mean the same as when we refer to a food or plant as ‘organic’.
B vitamins in ours and almost every other supplement product on the market, will be produced from fermentation.
Sometimes the thing being fermented to produce the nutrient is of plant origin (such a glucosamine HCl from corn fermentation), but with some other nutrients it is different. With some nutrients it is fermentation of yeast (such as CoQ10) or other starting materials.
And sometimes it is a case where a bacterial produces the nutrient, which is then isolated from the bacterial medium (as far as I know, this is the case with many B vitamins).
And vitamin C will be produced from fermentation of glucose (often from corn). I know this sounds like they are ‘natural’, and in some cases this is the case – and it is the case when there is something from the natural source present in the ingredient or when the nutrient is actually EXTRACTED from the ingredient of natural origin.
But the problem is that in many cases the nutrient will not contain anything left from the natural source and in many cases the nutrient might be made with an ingredient of natural origin, but not extracted from it.
If it is not taken from a natural ingredient and contains nothing left over from the natural ingredient, is this nutrient ‘natural’??
In this case it is common to refer to this kind of nutrient as ‘synthetic’. But in this case, synthetic does not mean the same thing as ‘man-made’.
ALL supplements are man-made and industrially produced – even the natural ones! But it is the fact that the nutrient is purified and isolated with nothing of a natural origin left in the finished ingredient that leads some people to refer to some of these nutrients as ‘synthetic’.
Technically speaking, the term ‘synthetic’ means that something was synthesized. Synthetic doesn’t always mean ‘man-made’. The good bacteria in our intestines synthesize B vitamins too, but these are clearly not man-made, industrial vitamins!!
When it comes to providing our customers with accurate information, it’s important that we are able to guarantee our label declarations for specific amounts of certain vitamins.
Using nutrients that are exclusively derived from food typically does not provide concentrated enough levels (and certainly not in a cost effective way) and also would usually not provide the high degree of purity and consistent, repeatable dose that can be achieved with nutrients that are produced from one or more of the aforementioned fermentation processes.
The important thing for us is to use the most evidence-based ingredients and the ones with the greatest amount of scientific research to validate both the efficacy and safety.
Fermentation processes (such as for B vitamins) certainly provide this. The main downside of the pharmaceutical technologies in nutrient production is that the production and purification process leaves little or no presence of the naturally-derived metabolic synergists that exist in foods that are rich in that particular nutrient. Food don’t provide the higher concentrations needed for most supplements, and pharmaceutically produced ones don’t provide the natural synergists that allow the body to use the nutrient to the greatest degree of efficiency.
THIS is the main reason why we synergistically enhance all of our nutritional supplements with an intensely synergistic complex of wholefoods and botanical ingredients (Magnifood).
These foods and botanicals are not chosen randomly, but rather for the biochemical synergy that they may provide to the specific nutrients in that product. These synergistic food and botanical complexes are referred to as Magnifood.
So essentially, we are able to get the cost effective concentration and repeatable dosage from the phamaceutically produced vitamins, while synergistically enhancing these nutrients with the Magnifood complex that the nutrient is combined with.
Nearly every company in the world uses the pharmaceutically produced vitamins, and the very few that don’t are typically delivering significantly lower amounts of the nutrients – what would usually be considerded sub-therapeutic amounts. And ironically, they are often relying on technologies that bring a significant premium to the price of the product – without necessarily providing proven advantages in terms efficacy.
And as you know, Terranova is also one of the very few companies in world that is 100% free from manufacturing excipients (fillers, binders, flowing agents, lubricants, disintegrants, etc), and Terranova is one of even few brands in the world that is 100% vegan.
So we take very seriously the need to have products which are as clean as possible, but without sacrificing scientifically proven safety and effectiveness.
I apologise for the the long explanation, but this topic is exceedingly complicated, and the derivation of nutrients varies from nutrient to nutrient.
We are a company that has a reputation for always providing transparent answers, even if they are not the answers that most companies like to talk about….and this subject is undoubtedly on that most supplement companies very much dislike discussing!!
I hope this is information is helpful!
∼ Stephen Terrass
Founder and Formulator