INVESTIGATING THE Best Vitamin Supplements

Measuring 'Value for Money'


During my research into the industry's best vitamin supplements, the value for money factor proved to be just as important as the effectiveness, manufacturing, ingredient quality and safety factors. No doubt, for many people, it's probably the number one concern!

Using value for money as one criteria to evaluate and compare leading nutritional health supplements proved to be the most difficult criteria of all.

I knew what I wanted to do but getting a lot of the key information I needed proved near impossible.

The 'PROPRIETARY WALL OF SILENCE' shot up QUICKLY for all but one of the supplement companies I contacted when I began compiling the necessary information I required to create a series of head to head supplement comparisons. So I’ve improvised to some degree!

To begin with, I contacted four companies who sell, what my research showed to be, the four market-leading multi-nutrient nutritional health supplements:

  • 'Essentials' from Usana


  • 'Total Balance' (Men's Premium Version) from Xtend-Life


  • 'Lifepak' (Regular Version) from Pharmanex


  • 'Life Force' (Multiple) from Source Naturals

I then asked them a series of questions. With respect to the 'value for money' factor, the question I presented was straightforward: 'how did their product offer better 'value for money' than their direct competitors.


What Were They Hiding?

They all responded but only two of the companies actually gave answers to the 'value for money' question (the other two avoided answering by saying they "don’t do comparisons with other products" – which was something I was not asking them to do!)

One of the answers given was just so general - it was a list of 7 comments taken from their marketing literature and in no way addressed the question I had asked. Things like "xxxx provides a wide range of antioxidants for optimal benefits...."

All these leading supplements contain a wide range of antioxidants!

Only the Xtend-Life company, who self-manufacture the 'Total Balance' supplement, answered the question in the way I had intended.

They also supplied me with a copy of an answer they had previously given to a person in Thailand who had also asked them about the value for money issue.

I’ve included that letter further down this page for you to read (used with permission).

The chairman of Xtend-Life, Warren Matthews, said it was extremely difficult to quantify value for money because it involves a very detailed analysis.

He identified two key factors as the critical 'value' areas for consumers to hone in on when looking to identify superior value for money in nutritional supplements.

  1. Choice/potency/dose amount of specialized key ingredients

  2. THE SUPPLEMENT 'DELIVERY SYSTEM' employed to ensure much higher levels of bioavailability (absorption into the bloodstream).
So much of what he said during our on-line discussion reminded me of a key point I’ve stressed many times throughout this site in relation to supplement value for money and efficacy.

That (virtually) every supplement is manufactured to a pre-determined price-point!

If you’ve already read some of my articles you’ll probably know how a supplement company’s organizational structure and marketing/distribution set-up significantly impact on their products' value for money.

Pressures from these factors mean a company has to formulate a supplement to a price – there’s a bottom line that must be met and high fixed costs to be factored in.

These impact on what ingredients (and how many) a manufacturer can afford to include – and in what potencies and what dose amounts.

For example:


Total Balance has 96 ingredients for - $47.75


Life Force has
47 ingredients - $44.50


Essentials has
43 ingredients - $35.60


Lifepak has
40 ingredients - $35.80


Even at this most basic level you can clearly see differences in value for money from one elite supplement to the next!

Xtend-Life (Total Balance) is the smallest company of the four, by far. It is a medium sized, family owned company. There is no huge organizational structure like the others and it is the only company NOT using multi level marketing to distribute its products. That means no commissions to pay out. Instead, they sell direct to the customer exclusively through the internet – no marketing costs, no full color brochures to print, no fancy little branded carry bags and so on.

It's easy to see how these factors affect even the best vitamin supplement companies and as a result they influence just how many ingredients a company can afford to include - in the case of Total Balance a whopping 96 of them - yet still make a fair profit.

Once you start to examine the price of certain key ingredients; the potencies used; and the various dose amounts, then you can REALLY see at a much deeper level how much VALUE FOR MONEY A SUPPLEMENT OFFERS YOU.

That’s how you’ll find and verify the best of the best.

Further down are the names of just a handful of key ingredients that are 'high priority' ingredients for inclusion in the formulas of the best supplements - but mostly aren’t - due to their high cost. These particular ingredients are very very expensive, highly efficious and well studied.


L-Glutathione - A Critical Ingredient


L-Glutathione is a crucial compound in your cells! It is the most abundant antioxidant enzyme in your body and is essential for cell health and organ survival.

A major problem that we need to acknowledge is that your body manufactures less and less Glutathione as you age.

So it's not hard to see that L-Glutathione is without doubt a key ingredient for health supplements ...... BUT there’s a ‘but’ -

It must ONLY be included in the REDUCED - LOW MOLECULAR WEIGHT FORM.

With the regular form of L-Gluthathione the molecules are too big and they can’t penetrate your cell membrane walls - absorption is therefore poor.

If your supplement contains L-Glutathione without the word ‘reduced’ next to it – you’re getting poor value for money from an otherwise 'great' ingredient. The best supplements always include the 'Reduced Form'.


L-Glutathione is around
80 TIMES MORE EXPENSIVE
than Vitamin C!



Vitamins, Minerals & Value For Money

Now, if you've read through my site and found the best vitamin supplements comparison tables you’ll know just how much of each of these supplements is comprised of cheap old vitamin C.

Here’s an example:

Total Balance: 4% of 1 tablet is vitamin C

Essentials: 41% of 1 tablet is vitamin C

Life Force: 27.5% of 1 tablet is vitamin C

LifePak: 13.3% of 1 tablet is Vitamin C

It's obvious how the 'value for money' angle is a critical criteria to be used when comparing vitamin supplements.

Now while on the subject of vitamins – please keep this in mind....

.....Vitamins and minerals are the 'CHEAPEST' of all ingredients!

Try not to forget that – it’s critical when considering value for money.

Of course vitamins and minerals have to be there but not in the large dose amounts that most supplements include. If you’re using a quality, top-end supplement and paying a top end price - $50 to $70+ a bottle/box, and that supplement is significantly made up of vitamins and minerals, then....

..... You are getting poor value for money!

In this case the supplement you are using is essentially an extreemly expensive multi vitamin and mineral tablet – with no room for many of the key ingredients I’m about to list.

But first, let’s look at the four supplements again and consider the value for money of each but this time in terms of:


Vitamin, Co-factor, Mineral Content


Total Balance (Men's Premium) is 24% vitamins and minerals

Essentials is 79% vitamins and minerals

Life Force is 69% vitamins and minerals

LifePak is 85% vitamins and minerals

Let's think back to the purchase price of each of these supplements! Aha! Now you're thinking like a knowledgeable expert.

Here are the names of 8 other extremely expensive key ingredients (in addition to L-Glutathione (Reduced form).

Let's start carefully examining those supplement labels!

  • L-Carnosine


  • Bilberry


  • Resveratrol


  • Polysaccharides


  • SAMe


  • Zeaxanthin


  • Tocotrienols


  • Chrysin (Men's formulas)

Delivery System


Bioavailability of ingredients is an extremely important factor to consider when gauging value for money in the best vitamin supplements.

After all – what’s the point in paying good money if a lot of the ingredients don’t make it into your bloodstream.

On this point Total Balance is different from the other 3. It uses ENTERIC COATING to ensure significantly greater bioavailability of its ingredients.

Enteric coating protects the vulnerable ingredients as they pass through the acidic environment of the stomach until they arrive at the upper intestine which is where absorption into the bloodstream takes place.

Why does the use of enteric coating offer better value for money?

Because stomach acid significantly damages or destroys certain nutrients!

Some experts believe that due to damage from stomach acid only 10-15% of the active ingredients in supplements actually get into the blood stream. Others believe it’s more than that but there’s no conclusive clinical proof as yet for a definitive percentage range.

Vitamins and minerals are not affected by stomach acid but others, including pancreatic enzymes, some vegetable enzymes, and a number of expensive/highly beneficial ingredients are (i.e. the ones you want getting into your bloodstream!).

Here’s a list of some key ingredients which are affected by stomach acid:

  • Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP)


  • Aloe Vera Polysaccharides


  • Alpha Lipoic Acid


  • Amylase (enzyme)


  • Betaine Hydrochloride


  • Bromelain (enzyme)


  • DMAE


  • Enzidase (enzyme)


  • Isolase (enzyme)


  • L-Carnosine


  • L-Glutathione


  • Lipase (enzyme)


  • N-Acetyl L-Cysteine


  • Phosphatidyl Choline


  • Resveratrol


  • Ribonucleic Acid (RNA)


  • SAMe
Did you notice that 5 of these were in the expensive key ingredients list from above?

Bioavailability - The Bottom Line

If a sophisticated delivery system such as 'Enteric Coating' is not employed then bioavailability is significantly reduced! - as is your supplements’ effectiveness and value for money (not to mention your health!).

What’s the point of having an expensive ingredient like L-Glutathione in a non-enteric coated supplement – little if any makes it into your body! A total waste!

The other 3 supplements don’t have enteric coating but that’s ok as they also don’t have any of the expensive ingredients which are damaged by stomach acid. (Actually that’s not quite true - one does have L-Glutathione in the regular form so that’s double minus value for money points for that product).


Let's Sum Up

What is clearly apparent from what we’ve seen above is that just because a supplement falls into the best vitamin supplement category – that is no guarantee it offers 'great', 'good' or even 'decent' value for money. Each supplement needs to be evaluated on a case by case basis. To generalize is probably an expensive mistake!

The marketing departments of the industry’s biggest, multinational supplement companies have the resources to churn out an avalanche of scientific facts and statements to support claims (that usually exaggerate the benefits and value for money of their products while hiding or minimizing weaknesses).

If you care about value for money, I recommend you look beyond the marketing hype and be prepared to dig deeper – in the same way I've shown you on this page. Although the best vitamin supplements are science-based and formulated by bio-scientists with years of experience, please keep in mind that, in most cases, these scientists do not have a free-hand in selecting exactly those ingredients and dose amounts that their knowledge and experiance informs them should be there.

As I mentioned previously, financial pressures associated with certain commonly used business models in the supplement industry severely impact on a supplement's value for money and of course its effectiveness in supporting your health.

By using ‘value for money’ as a key comparison and evaluation criteria you now know how to go about drawing out the best supplements from the rest of the pack.

When using this criterion I do strongly suggest you make time to check up on all of these factors:

  • Total number of ingredients


  • Potencies (the higher the better)


  • Dose amounts (should be generous except for vitamins/minerals)


  • Overall percentage of vitamins and minerals


  • Total of active ingredients – some supplements contain a tonne of non-actives (excipients or “other ingredients”)


  • The inclusion of the expensive key ingredients from above


  • Enteric coating - if any of ingredients susceptible to stomach acid are present


  • Cost of the product

Good Luck! Now that we've finished discussing the 'value for money' angle, it may be a good time to jump over to my supplement comparisons to see how the four premium, market-leading supplements, mentioned in this article, stack up head to head.


Value For Money Letter


Here’s the letter from Xtend-Life to a Nuskin distributor in Thailand who queried the value for money angle between the two best vitamin supplements sold in Thailand – Total Balance and LifePak.

The letter, from 2006, gives a nice yet simplistic view of the factors which reflect Total Balance’s value for money.

The answer included a head to head comparison spreadsheet so I’ve put that in as well (also used with permission).



"Thank you (name withheld)

I enjoyed the meeting also.

I have attached a file that I am working on as you may find it interesting.

Basically it is comparing the Thai LifePak with the Thai Total Balance.


The key points are:

  1. Our retail price is similar to the LifePak distributors’ price. (Were the prices you gave me inclusive of VAT?)


  2. Now...this is the really interesting part. The active ingredients in a tablet of LifePak are only 253mgs. In contrast the active ingredients in a Total Balance tablet are 752mgs.


  3. The Total Actives in a full pack of LifePak containing 180 tablets amount to 45,469mgs versus 90,220mgs in 120 tablets of Total Balance... LifePak has less than half the active ingredients.


  4. But it doesn't end there. Look at the number of ingredients that are missing, not to mention the ones that are in LifePak that should not be there...namely Vitamin A, Iron and Vitamin K. Vitamin K is banned in many countries, and I am surprised that they got it approved in Thailand.


  5. You will notice that our levels of vitamins and minerals are in most cases lower than LifePak's. This is because we comply with the maximum daily legal allowance by the Thai FDA. This can be calculated by multiplying the rates by four which is the daily recommended dose.

    LifePak are being less than honest and they may run into a problem in Thailand if the FDA became aware that they state the daily dose to be two tablets a day on the packet whereas distributors tell customers 6 tablets a day (as does their Thai website).

    However, the lower levels in Total Balance do not matter because we more than compensate with other more potent ingredients such as Tocotrienols which is a much more complete and potent form of Vitamin E. In fact up to 50 times that of normal vitamin E. It is not good to regularly take Vitamin E without it being balanced by tocotrienols.


  6. Basically the LifePak Thailand version is really nothing much more than a good multi-vitamin/mineral tablet and a grossly overpriced one. I would not want to be relying on it as my supplement foundation.

    Actually (name), I would really appreciate your comments on the spreadsheet from a LifePak distributor’s point of view. I know it is only rough as I have a lot more work to do on it and then to put it in a form which can easily be understood.

    I should mention that LifePak has NO expensive or really effective ingredients. To put that into perspective L-Glutathione costs more than 80 times that of Vitamin C. Of course that is only effective if it is in an enteric coated tablet...but the cost of enteric coating would be probably 50% of the cost of ALL the LifePak ingredients put together. I haven't done the specific exercise to check that yet, but I will.

Hope you find all this interesting.

Cheers,

Warren"




Best Vitamin Supplements
Total Balance /LifePak Comparison


Best vitamin supplements

Life Pak Thailand
Total Balance Thailand




Ingredients per 1 tablet :




Vitamin :




Vitamin A

692 IU
None

Beta Carotene

1971 IU
833IU

Vitamin E

15IU
2.5mg

Vitamin C

60mg
10mg

Biotin

55mcg
37.5mcg

Vitamin D3

90IU
1.3mcg

Vitamin K

7.3mcg
None

Vitamin B1

1.375mg
0.375mg

Niacin

7.0mg
4mg

Pantothenic acid

6mg
1.5mg

Folate

125mcg
50mcg

Vitamin B12

2mcg
0.5mcg

Vitamin B2

1.56mg
0.425mg

Vitamin B6

1.075mg
0.5mg

Mineral :




Boron

None
125mcg

Calcium

73.17mg
16.66mg

Magnesium

41.67mg
11.67mg

Selenium

23.33mcg
15mcg

Zinc

2.5mg
1.67mg

Chromium

113.39mcg
6.7mcg

Iodine

16.72mg
0.062mg

Manganese

0.67mg
0.87mg

Copper

0.33mg
0.33mg

Potassium

None
3.33mg

Iron

0.5mg
None

Molybdenum

12.5mcg
15mcg

Silicon

0.5mg


Other ingredients :




Green Tea Extract,97%

23.33mg
16.66mg

Alpha - lipoic acid

8.75mg
8.33mg

Lycopene

1.083mg
2mg

Grape Seed Extract

4.167mg
None

Mahonia Grape Extract

None
16.67mg

Grape Skin Extract (Resveratrol)

None
5.33mg

Citrus Bioflavonoids

4.167mg
None

Hesperidin (Bioflavonoid)

None
13.33mg

Quercetin (Bioflavonoid)

8.33mg
25mg

Lutein

0.433mg
0.833mg

Inositol

1.667mg
5.83mg

Yeast Extract (RNA)

None
8.33mg

Choline Bitartrate

None
39.99mg

Phosphatidyl Choline (as Lecithin)

None
20.83mg

Broccoli Extract (DIM)

None
16.67mg

N-Acetyl Glucosamine

None
15mg

Vinegar Powder (Betaine HCL)

None
23.33mg

Pineapple powder (Bromelain)

None
11.66mg

Papaya powder (Papain)

None
11.66mg

Beta 1,3-Glucan

None
6.67mg

Aloe Vera Polysaccharides

None
8.33mg

Tea Polysaccharides

None
6.67mg

Seaweed powder (Carrageenan)

None
4.5mg

Rice Bran Extract (DMG)

None
4.16mg

Rutin

None
1.67mg

Tocotrienols (Tocomin®)

None
1.67mg

Sugar Cane Extract (Policosanol)

None
1.25mg

Plant Chlorophyll (ATP Precursor)

None
1mg

Piperine

None
1.67mg

Mineral Sea Salts (trace elements)

None
3.5mg

Zeaxanthin

None
0.33mg

Amino Acids:




L-Cysteine

None
37.5mg

L-Tyrosine

None
33.33mg

L-Methionine

None
28.33mg

L-Glutathione (reduced)

None
18.33mg

L-Carnosine

None
16.67mg

L-Proline

None
16.67mg

N-Acetyl L-Cysteine

None
5.83mg

Acetyl L-Carnitine HCL

None
5.83mg

Additional Extracts :




Turmeric Extract

None
110.5mg

Pomegranate extract

None
50mg

Ginger Extract

None
16.67mg

Hawthorne Berry Extract

None
16.67mg

Olive Extract

None
16.67mg

Bilberry Extract

None
8.33mg

Black Cumin Extract

None
8.33mg










252.61mgs actives per tablet
752mgs of actives per tablet.




No enteric coating
Enteric coated tablets




180 tablets in a pack
120 tablets in a bottle




Pack contains 45,469mgs active ingredients
Bottle contains 90,240mgs active ingredients










Retail Price - 3950 baht
Retail Price - 2570 baht + VAT = 2750 Baht




Distributor price - 2500 to 2700 Baht





Note to spreadsheet:

Variations exist between the formulas of the regular versions of both supplements and those of the versions sold in Thailand due to local regulatory requirements.

'Value for money' is obviously an absolute key variable but, as you've seen above, it's far from an exact science and made far more difficult to determine when vitamin supplement companies refuse to divulge basic information (that's clearly not proprietary).


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