The Increasing Popularity of Beef Liver Capsules and Raw Organs
I started in the dietary supplement industry in 1979, so I’ve been in the business a pretty long time and have seen some pretty odd concepts for dietary supplements. I can still remember the first time I looked at some bottles on the shelf of a vitamin store and thought, “Now that’s bizarre! What’s the thinking here?” What I was looking at were bottles of glandular products, also known as raw organ supplements. Eventually, I discovered that there was actually a rationale for the use of some of these products, and that’s what this article is about.
So, fast forward to today. Everything old is new again. There’s been an increase in the popularity of beef liver capsules and other raw organs on social media platforms like Instagram. But why? What can these products actually do for you? And why, as a brand owner, would you want to consider having such products manufactured for you? Also, what are their downsides?
Those are the questions I'm going to answer here. Keep reading or click below to listen to the podcast I recorded about this topic.
Let's Start with Talking About Desiccated Liver
Did you know that the dietary supplement industry actually started with two products? Those products were Brewers’ Yeast and Desiccated Liver.
What is Desiccated Liver and What Nutrients Are In It?
Desiccated liver (which comes from cattle) provides a rich, naturally occurring source of B vitamins and amino acids which athletes and other active individuals often used to support improved performance and energy. In fact, the early fitness guru Jack LaLane used to promote the use of desiccated liver. It also contains vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, iron, calcium, phosphorus, and copper. In addition, some individuals have used desiccated liver to provide glandular support to their own livers.
What Does Desiccated Mean?
The term “desiccated” essentially means dehydrated. Typically, this is done at a low temperature in order to remove moisture and retain nutrient value once it has been tableted or encapsulated. Desiccated liver supplements should also be defatted since it is the fat portion of the liver that tends to store toxins.
What Kind of Desiccated Liver Supplements Should Consumers Buy?
The savvy consumer who wishes to use desiccated liver should look for a supplement derived from calves since it is likely that far fewer toxins would be present compared to adult cattle that have had years to store more toxins.
What are the Health Benefits of Desiccated Liver?
Desiccated liver is among the group of supplements that have been used by Olympic athletes since the 1950s to help them gain a competitive edge.[i]
Also, consider that for decades, vitamin B12 shots have been administered by doctors to energize people. In the past, many nutritionally oriented physicians also recommended desiccated liver to their patients since it contains B12 and iron, among a host of other nutrients essential to generating more energy and stamina.[ii]
In addition, early experiments conducted by Dr. D.B. Ershoff on laboratory animals demonstrated that supplementing the animals’ diet with desiccated liver increased their endurance by nearly 750%.[iii]
What about the use of desiccated liver by some individuals to provide glandular support to their own livers—is there a scientific basis for this? Maybe. In one in-vitro or “test tube” study[iv], a liver extract from pigs was found to act synergistically with growth factors to stimulate the growth of liver cells.
Of course, critics have stated that the use of a glandular substance would have no benefit since it would have to be completely digested down into individual amino acids before the body could absorb them, and once that happened the body would not recognize that those amino acids came from a glandular source. This is a common misconception, however.
The fact is that not all ingested proteins need to be broken down into individual amino acids before they can be absorbed. Research has clearly shown that approximately five percent of the protein load delivered to the small intestine is not broken down into amino acids in the gut but passes as intact smaller protein molecules into the circulatory system.[v]
What About Other Raw Organ Supplements?
The Thymus Gland and Immune Health
Given the understandable concern about immune health today, the thymus gland is worth consideration. The thymus is a particularly important component of the immune system. It processes lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell), causing them to become T-cells. T-cells have the ability to destroy foreign microbes and some other harmful substances directly. The thymus hormone thymosin also helps in the production of plasma cells which produce antibodies. As you can see, a properly functioning thymus gland is tantamount to good immunity.
Studies About the Thymus Gland
Studies have revealed that the administration of thymus fractions extract enhances immune function. This was demonstrated in a double-blind study[vi] on 98 healthy older people and 19 young adults from Yugoslavia (when there was a Yugoslavia). The thymus concentration significantly increased the production of antibodies and other immune system protective substances including lymphocytes. There was even a delay in skin allergic-type reactions. In other studies[vii], thymus fractions exerted a stimulatory effect on T-cells and other immune cells.
Should Brand Owners Consider Adding Organ Supplements to Their Product Line?
That decision is purely yours—but it does seem to have started trending.
The upside is that it’s something different that every brand doesn’t have, so it’ll give you an additional point of differentiation. The downside is that beef liver supplements in particular often require as many as 4-6 pills for a daily dose.
Another consideration is that you want to make sure to have organ products made with a contract manufacturer who is used to sourcing animal materials and will do so with an eye to safety and quality.
How Can NutraScience Labs Help You Manufacture Beef Liver and Other Raw Organ Supplements?
An experienced supplement contract manufacturer like NutraScience Labs can help make sure that the right organ materials are being sourced. We've helped over 2,300 dietary supplement brands around the globe manufacture and bring customized, high-quality nutraceuticals to the market, so we know a thing or two about this topic.
[i]Grivetti LE, et al. From ancient Olympia to modern Atlanta: celebration of the Olympic Centennial. (symposium on nutrition and physical performance) Nutrition Today (1996) 31(6):241(9).
[ii]Langer S. Energizers: moving mind & body. Better Nutrition for Today's Living (1995) 57(8):40(3).
[iii]Langer S. Cutting edge nutrition for athletic women. Better Nutrition for Today's Living (1994) 56(5):40(4).
[iv]Nelson C, et al. Glycerophosphorylethanolamine (GPEA) identified as a hepatocyte growth stimulator in liver extracts. Experimental cell research (1996) 229(1):20-6.
[v]Hemmings, W.A., et al, Gut (1978) 19: 715.
[vi]Jankovic, B., et al, Am NY Acad Sci (1988) 521: 247-259.
[vii]Balleari, E., et al, Thymus (1992) 19(1) p 59-63.