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by Michael Lelah, Ph.D. - NOW Foods Technical Director
At NOW, we firmly believe that natural products are safer and more effective than synthetic products. We offer an extensive line of more than 1,400 products comprised of both natural and nature-identical products. Our insistence on natural products is one of the many factors that differentiates us from the mass market, where the use of synthetics is rampant. It also differentiates us from many competitors who claim to sell natural products. One look at their labeling reveals that their products are actually manufactured with synthetic ingredients and additives.
NOW Foods was founded for the purpose of providing affordable natural products to everyone, and we hold true to this principle today. As a chemist, our founder Elwood Richard understood the dangers posed by synthetic ingredients decades ago, and he knew that true health and wellness begins with products that are As Natural As Possible™. We’ve been manufacturing and distributing natural and nature-identical products since 1968, and our steady growth over the past 40 years is an affirmation of Elwood’s unwavering dedication to providing natural products that are both affordable and effective.
This page contains a list of the natural ingredients you’ll find in NOW products, followed by a list of the synthetic ingredients you'll never find in NOW products.
Chondroitin: Next to glucosamine, Chondroitin Sulfate is one of the most popular and effective joint support nutrients on the market. Clinical studies demonstrating Chondroitin’s efficacy have utilized bovine-source Chondroitin. However, Chondroitin from pig and chicken sources is more affordable and more readily available. At NOW we use only bovine-source Chondroitin, and our technical staff developed an analytical method that accurately identifies the source of our Chondroitin. Many brands don’t even identify their source.
CoQ10: CoQ10 is an antioxidant and a source of cellular energy. There are two forms of CoQ10 – the naturally fermented trans-CoQ10 form and the synthetic cis-form. The trans-form is the form found naturally in the human body, and this is the only form used in NOW products.
L-Amino Acids: There are two forms of most amino acids – the natural form, denoted by an L (L-Tyrosine), or the synthetic form, denoted by a D or DL (D-Tyrosine, DL-Tyrosine). There is evidence that the synthetic forms of amino acids may be toxic and/or less bioavailable, so you won’t find D or DLform amino acids in any NOW product.
Fish Oil Purification: The majority of fish oils used in NOW products are molecularly distilled. Molecular distillation is a physical separation and purification process that removes potentially harmful substances such as heavy metals and PCBs. NOW utilizes molecularly distilled fish oils whenever possible.
Natural Colors and Flavors: NOW does not use artificial colors in any of our products, instead choosing to use only natural colors such as annatto (red), beet (pink/red), carob (brown), and chlorophyll (green), to name a few. Many artificial colors, especially certain synthetic red dyes, are suspected to be toxic.
Natural Sweeteners: We do not use or sell artificial sweeteners such as saccharin, sucralose, and aspartame. Although these sweeteners are freely used and sold in the United States, there are still questions regarding their long-term safety. NOW sells only natural sweeteners such as xylitol, erythritol, fructose, and our proprietary BetterStevia™, and these are the only sweeteners used in our products.
Natural Vitamin E: Natural Vitamin E is comprised of eight different isomers – four tocopherols and four tocotrienols. Natural-form tocopherols and tocotrienols are denoted by a D, as in d-alphatocopherol. Synthetic Vitamin E and Vitamin E components are denoted with a DL, as in dl-alpha-tocopherol. NOW sells only the natural and nature-identical tocopherol and tocotrienol forms of Vitamin E, even when natural Vitamin E is scarce or synthetic Vitamin E is more affordable.
Organic: Organic products are cultivated and/or processed without the use of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, or other chemical substances. NOW offers a large selection of organic products, and we’re constantly looking to increase our selection. NOW organic products are third-party certified by Quality Assurance International (QAI).
Oxidation: Simply put, oxidation is the interaction of oxygen with other substances. With many natural products, prolonged exposure to oxygen causes degradation and spoilage, such as the effect seen with fruit that’s cut and left out too long. To protect our products and maintain freshness through the Best-By date, we include in many of our products Ageless® antioxygen packets to reduce oxidation, and silica-gel packs to eliminate moisture.
While it’s important to know what’s included in NOW products, we feel it’s equally important that you know what’s not included in our products, and why. At NOW we have quality standards, technical expertise, and a manufacturing infrastructure that allow us to fully control the contents of our products. The following is a list of ingredients you won’t find in NOW products.
Alcohols: We use only natural grain alcohol (ethanol) in our liquid extracts. Some synthetic alcohols are produced from petroleum, and many have questionable safety.
Aluminum: Aluminum compounds are not used in any of our formulas, and many of our products are tested to ensure the absence of aluminum. Some of our clays and trace mineral formulas naturally contain aluminum, and these products are clearly identified.
Chlorinated and Brominated Compounds: Chlorinated compounds, even organic chlorinated compounds, aren’t natural. In fact, these compounds are toxic and can be very dangerous to humans. PCBs and dioxins are two examples of chlorinated compounds; sucralose is another. We refuse to formulate any of our products with chlorinated compounds.
Ephedra, Bitter Orange and DMAA: Banned by the FDA in 2004, ephedra refers to an extract of the plant Ephedra sinica, also referred to as ma huang. At NOW we’ve always questioned the safety of ephedra; even when it was legal we never used it in any of our products. In the past few years Bitter Orange has been used by some manufacturers as a substitute for ephedra. Although Bitter Orange appears to be safer than ephedra, we will not use it in any of our products. We also have never used DMAA in any of our products.
Excipients: NOW does not use common mass-market multivitamin excipients. These include excipients such as hydrogenated oil, talc, Crospovidone, Butylated Hydroxytoluene, and Hypromellose. While these excipients increase manufacturing efficiency and cost less than natural excipients, products containing them can no longer claim to be natural, and may adversely affect health. We choose to use natural excipients, which are also suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
Fluoride: Sodium Fluoride is used to prevent tooth decay and is added to the majority of our water supply for this reason. However, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests fluoride is unnecessary, excessively used, and potentially harmful. We do not include fluoride in any of our products, including toothpastes and mouthwashes.
Genetic Modification: NOW supports the use of non-GMO ingredients and the right of consumers to be notified of ingredient sources in the products they take. We avoid the use of ingredients from genetically engineered sources in NOW products whenever possible. To this end we obtain documentation from our ingredient suppliers verifying their ingredients are non-GMO, which is also referred to as identity-preserved (IP), and we declare non-GMO ingredients on our product labels. We’ve also obtained Non-GMO Verification for some of our ingredients and products through The Non-GMO Project, and we’re working to get more certified. In some cases we may have incomplete documentation for an ingredient, or we cannot verify the ingredient’s IP status for certain reasons. In these cases we will not declare products with these ingredients to be GMO-free until we’re able to verify their IP status. Stringent internal audits indicate that the majority of our products are either IP-verified non-GMO, or made from ingredients where no genetic modifications exist in the food supply. We’re committed to rapidly expanding our non-GMO food product offering.
Heavy Metals: Almost all botanicals contain trace amounts of heavy metals since these metals are naturally found in both soil and water. Although low levels of heavy metals are generally benign, larger amounts are known to be toxic to humans. NOW tests all appropriate products to ensure that heavy metal levels are within nationally and globally recognized safe limits.
Hormones: We do not sell androstenedione, estrogen, testosterone, or DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone). All are considered steroid and/or anabolic steroid supplements, which may have potentially harmful side effects.
Hydrogenated Fats and Trans-Fats: Hydrogenation is a chemical process where unsaturated fats (such as vegetable oil) are chemically modified to make them solidify better at room temperature. Artificial trans fats are a particular form of these chemically modified fats. These synthetic fats are unhealthy, and have contributed greatly to the obesity epidemic in America and abroad. NOW does not use either hydrogenated or trans fats in any of our products.
Irradiation: Irradiation is the exposure of an object or substance to radiation. In our industry, irradiation is used to kill bacteria. However, there are side effects, since radiation can transform the natural components of herbs and botanicals into unnatural molecules. We conduct thorough microbiological tests, as well as use sophisticated tests that can detect radiation signatures, and we reject any ingredients where gross exposure to radiation is detected.
Microbial Contamination: Many natural ingredients contain naturally occurring low levels of microbes. However, high microbial contamination, and the presence of pathogens and aflotoxins, aren’t natural and are potentially unsafe. Our in-house microbiology laboratory is staffed by trained professionals who test for the presence of microbial contamination.
Parabens: Parabens are synthetic chemicals widely used as preservatives in the personal care industry. Many brands that prominently declare their products to be natural use parabens – making their natural claims untrue. NOW Solutions personal care products are completely paraben-free.
Pesticide Residues: Pesticide screening is one of the many tests we perform on incoming raw materials. We’re able to detect even trace amounts of pesticides. Plant roots in particular are susceptible to pesticide contamination, and we thoroughly screen such materials. In some situations, fumigation and other treatments are required by law.
Peak E Free Tryptophan: NOW Foods has demanding specifications for our L-Tryptophan products. All of our L-Tryptophan products are free of detectable levels of Peak E. Peak E contamination was linked to a disabling autoimmune illness in 1989. NOW audits all its sources of L-Tryptophan and tests every lot for contamination. If any Peak E is found, the lot is rejected.
Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) and Propylene Glycol (PPG): Ethylene and propylene glycols are used as antifreeze. PEG and PPG are derived from antifreeze. NOW Foods does not use any PEG or PPG in our supplements. All of our Personal Care products are PEG- and PPG-free.
Polysorbate: Polysorbate 80 is a PEG derivative used in many formulas to increase bioavailability. This petroleum-derived synthetic ingredient is not used in any of our products. Did you know that many enhanced-delivery CoQ10 formulas contain Polysorbate 80? Our CoQ10 formulas do not contain Polysorbate 80.
Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids: Some natural herbs contain these PA alkaloids which are hepatotoxic (liver toxins). These herbs include comfrey and butterbur. Our butterbur is free of pyrrolizidine alkaloids, and we do not sell comfrey for internal use. Borage Oil is naturally free of PAs, which may naturally occur in other parts of that plant.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS): This nasty, irritant synthetic surfactant is also widely used in personal care products such as shampoos and oral products such as toothpaste. NOW Foods does not use SLS.
Titanium Dioxide and Phosphates: These synthetic ingredients are widely used as excipients in supplements. Excipients are ingredients that have no nutritional value, but have been added to improve processing or add color. NOW minimizes the use of these additives. In fact, most of our softgel capsules and CoQ10 softgels are formulated to be free of titanium dioxide - a rarity in the market.