Essentials

Nutritional Health/Vitamin Supplement Review


Manufactured By Usana

General

Essentials nutritional supplements review

....."USANA Health Sciences has become one of America's leading companies in the field of health and nutrition." I took that straight from Usana's own website! The company has been publicly trading since 1992 and its growth has been phenomenal.

At the time I began researching, evaluating and gathering my notes to review the 'Essentials' health supplement from Usana, I truthfully believed the above statement about Usana to be true.

BUT then Usana ran into some troubles (which rightly or wrongly) have caused a number of supplement consumers to be suspicious and wary of Usana's products. In case you are new to the nutritional supplement scene and are not aware of what happened, here's a very brief (factual) outline.


(2007)The Wall Street Journal published a summary of an 86 page report by the Fraud Discovery Institute (FDI) which accused Usana of fraud (including 'product issues' such as ingredient dose amounts and potencies not meeting label claims). Note: The FDI is directed by Barry Minkow, who himself spent almost eight years in prison after being convicted of fraud and conspiracy in the 1980s.

Independent Usana distributors then filed a lawsuit accusing Usana of fraud and deception.

Usana immediately filed a defamation law suit against Barry Minkow and the FDI. They believed Minkow was conducting a negative public relations program aimed at manipulating Usana's stock price.

The 'distributor lawsuit', which was seeking class-action status, was filed on behalf of hundreds of low-level distributors in California, (which has tough multilevel-marketing laws). The lawsuit was seeking damages for "downline" Usana distributors who were left with thousands of dollars of losses each after paying for business "kits" and products they say they couldn't sell at inflated prices.


Please research this issue online if you would like to know more and form your own point of view. There is a tremendous amount of information which has been released from both sides.

Just like Pharmanex, Usana has grown into a huge, science-based company that appears to have a true commitment to making a difference rather than just churning out cheap, largely ineffective, mass market supplements for easy profit. 

Usana, which you can see from above, also uses a Multi Level Marketing (MLM)marketing structure,(multi level marketing is a form of direct selling, consisting of distributors, people like you and I, who sell straight to the end user).

Usana Life Sciences Inc. has a wide organizational structure and are a listed company, and as such they are bound by the same profit and cost pressures as Pharmanex - the suppliers of 'Lifepak". ( Lifepak review)

With respect to the formulation of their supplements, Usana heavily promotes the following message: The right ingredients - The correct amounts - The Precise Balance - The Optimal Form. That of course is exactly how it should be so let’s take a deeper look at Essentials and see how it shapes up.

USANA Essentials for adults is a combination of two products:

Mega Antioxidant: a balanced, high-potency blend of 30 vitamins, antioxidants, and other important nutrients

Chelated Mineral: a complete spectrum of essential minerals 

Strengths

The first obvious strength that pops to mind is Usana’s manufacturing standards. They manufacture their own products which is something very few supplement companies do. 

This is proof of a total commitment to quality and to producing one of the best vitamin supplements in the market. I especially like the opening sentence on the manufacturing page of their website – 

"Poor manufacturing can destroy great science." 

This is so true and is a real concern when companies contract out their manufacturing. When talking about manufacturing highly effective premium grade supplements, its vitally important that a company control every aspect of the manufacturing cycle. There are so many things that must be done correctly (by people with the necessary technical expertise) to produce an elite supplement- the super supplements of the industry!

Secondly, they manufacture to pharmaceutical level and this positions them as one of just a handful of supplement companies who reach this highest level for manufacturing. 

Both Usana and the makers of 'Total Balance' (Xtend-Life) deserve prominent recognition for their pharmaceutical level manufacturing.

Like all the elite supplements in my supplements comparisons , Essentials is a nutritionally complete product because its broad spectrum choice of ingredients targets every organ and system in the body. 

The key question then is: ‘how comprehensively does Essentials do that and how much value for money does it offer?’

See the 'weaknesses' section below.

Essentials contains vitamins, minerals, one enzyme for digestion, 2 amino acids, phytonutrients, standardized herbal extracts, trace minerals and one very important amino acid enzyme which we need more of as we age (L –Glutathione). Unfortunately, Essentials uses a cheap form of L-Glutathione which has extremely poor bioavailability and is well documented!

Essentials does well in the ‘Bone Support’ category by containing 6 of the 8 most potent 'bone nutrients'.

Raw ingredient quality is a real strength – this is to be expected since they manufacture to pharmaceutical GMP. Their testing protocols are top-notch and every test that should be there is there. 

Raw materials are quarantined on arrival and comprehensively tested for contaminants and compliance with their Certificate of Analysis (C.O.A.). NOTE: many companies out there do not test for C.O.A. compliance. This is one easy way to spot an inferior company with less effective supplements. If its not on the website then email a company and ask them straight out! 

Usana does more tests during manufacture and again prior to packaging. 

I could write a lot more on this topic but you get the picture, right!........ 

.........There are no contaminants in Essentials!

And with regard to the ingredients that are in the formula, they are pure and in the best form for optimal absorption ( except L-Glutathione which they need to use in the reduced/low molecular weight form)!

Each of the two tablets which make up Essentials contains 8 (naturally sourced) excipients (non active ingredients) which is well within the optimal range for non actives (which are there to assist the manufacturing process). This is definitely a strength compared to most multi ingredient vitamin supplements in the market (e.g. the very well known and popular multi ‘Ce_ _ _ _ _’ has a whopping 62 excipients! (Correct as at December, 2015). 

The less of the (right) excipients the better. You only need what is necessary to assist the stability of the tablet and to help the manufacturing process. Additional excipients take up room in the tablet that is better filled with active ingredients.

Having said that – Essentials has the highest total of active ingredients of the 4 supplements. If you consider this fact by itself and dig no deeper it looks like a clear strength. But I’m going to dig deeper. (See the ‘weaknesses’ section below)

Customer service was quite good although the responses where considerable slower than those from the Xtend-Life and Pharmanex companies who usually answered within 24-48 hours. 

Usana completely ignored my email regarding manufacturing questions and refused to reveal quite a lot of other requested information!

In respect of their excellent manufacturing standards I was quite ‘ticked-off’ over this as they appear to have nothing to hide and should be happy (and proud) to answer questions about their manufacturing processes. I certainly was not asking for information which was proprietary!

They got rather stroppy with a couple of questions I asked because the answers were already in their database of frequently asked questions. I must have missed those but no-one could accuse me of not scouring the websites and databases of these companies thoroughly before contacting them for information I wanted! 

I didn’t like the somewhat unfriendly tone in their response on that occasion and took offense. No company should respond to a persons email like that.

If you believe in very high doses of vitamins and minerals on the premise that the RDA's are well short of what is needed for good health and your diet is providing next to none, then you MAY consider the dose rates of vitamins and minerals in Essentials as a strength. I certainly don’t.

Weaknesses

Essentials is similar to LifePak in that a large percentage of a tablet is comprised of vitamin and minerals - particularly cheap ones.

79% in fact - this is the second highest proportion of all the elite supplements in my comparisons.

Vitamin C – one of the absolutely cheapest ingredients – makes up 41% of Essentials. Wow!

They have included what I consider reasonably high doses of vitamin E and magnesium and to a lesser extent calcium. 

The combined total of these 3 nutrients along with vitamin C accounts for 71% of a tablet.

Usana's marketing literature has the Essentials Label displaying for each ingredient the dose amount and % daily value in respect of the prescribed RDA from the U.S FDA. However they only show this for a serving size of 2 tablets while the daily dose (as prescribed on the label) is 4 tablets.

Why do this?

It seems rather strange to me. One possible reason could be to down play the overall daily totals of vitamins and minerals in the product. I'll leave you to come to your own conclusion on this point. 

Once again - if these are the ingredients you believe you need, in those amounts, then save yourself some money and get a quality multi vitamin and mineral supplement with similar dose rates for considerably less than the price of Essentials.

The vitamin and mineral content leaves very little room for other important ingredients like phytonutrients and herbal extracts. There are some but not many -Essentials has the second lowest ‘Total Ingredients’ score at 43.

Essentials contains a total of 219 mg of phytonutrients in a full daily serving – the second lowest score of all supplements in my comparisons.

It has 193 mg of flavonoids compared with 390 mg for Total Balance – i.e. 50% less.

Essentials fares better with carotenoids – a total of 10.6 mg compared with 17 mg for Total Balance. 

6 mg is the minimum standard for total carotenoids, based on the science based standards listed on my page ‘ nutritional supplement formulas This standard was adopted from the LifePak challenge criteria. (See that article for a list of scientific references supporting the creation of this standard).

Essentials contains N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine (amino acid); alpha lipoic acid (potent vitamin-like nutrient); and L - Glutathione – all excellent choices for ingredients. So what’s wrong with that? 

All three have been scientifically proven to be susceptible to destruction/damage by stomach acid! 

Since Essentials does not employ an enteric coating to protect these vulnerable nutrients, there is a big question mark as to how much (if any) are absorbed into the body.

Furthermore they have skimped and used the normal form of L – Glutathione - this form has poor bioavailability to begin with. This is a lot cheaper than the ‘reduced/low molecular weight’ form which has much higher bioavailability because the molecule size is much smaller and can penetrate cell membrane walls. 


There is a reasonable amount of antioxidants in Essentials. It came third in the total number of most potent antioxidants category of my research. 

Essentials has put all its flavonoids into one “complex” with a grand total amount – they will not reveal the individual dose amounts for each of these ingredients. Why? This is important information when comparing Essentials with its competitors. This must be seen as a weakness! The best vitamin supplements must be totally transparent with product information!

Additionally, Usana will not reveal the potencies of its 4 standardized herbal extracts (Billberry, Green Tea, Olive Leaf and Turmeric) as well as two other ingredients (Inositol and Lycopene). Once again why? You be the judge.

Essentials has only 1 male support nutrient - a tiny 1mg of lycopene (with an unspecified potency) and no female support nutrients. 

Essentials contains the ingredient ‘choline’ in the bitartrate form – this is a cheaper form than the ‘phosphatidyl choline’ used in Total Balance. Both forms have memory boosting properties but phosphatidyl choline has some additional benefits in that it helps in the metabolism of fats, regulates blood cholesterol, and nourishes the fat-like sheathes of nerve fibers.

There are no tocotrienols in the formula meaning the full spectrum of the vitamin E family is not there. This is poor for a vitamin supplement of this stature.

Usana offers no money back guarantee for Essentials. Why?

A company of this statue should stand by its product – especially since it promotes it as the best vitamin supplement available. Many lesser supplements now offer unconditional money back guarantees – its quickly becoming an industry standard. Come on Usana!


My final take on Essentials:

Usana is a company dedicated to quality and certainly knows how to formulate a state of the art multi ingredient supplement for good general health and preventative health care. They are one of the best in the business!

However the cost structure of their operations – MLM, along with a wide company structure and shareholder pressures means they too are restricted in what they can afford to include in Essentials. If these pressures were not there then Essentials would be significantly better.

NOTE: My comments to any unhappy Essentials users who want to contact me are these. Please do but let’s not get into a never ending commentary on vitamin and mineral amounts to which there will be no conclusive answer. 

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