Thorne Verified: Natural Colors and Flavors

Thorne Verified: Derived from Natural Colors and Flavors

When Thorne chooses to flavor, color, or sweeten a product, we choose to only use ingredients derived from natural sources, such as monk fruit, cinnamon, and cocoa. In today's world of overprocessed foods and beverages, you have certainly come across artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners. They are found in breakfast cereals, baked goods, candy, drinks, canned fruit, yogurt, and even supplements. But what are artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners and why do companies use them? And why does Thorne only use colors, flavors, and sweeteners derived from natural sources? On this page, you will find the answers to common questions regarding artificial ingredients.

Artificial Colors

Why artificially color foods, drinks, and even some supplements?

The primary reasoning is marketing. Artificial coloring enhances the appeal of a product - brightening a sports drink or making a bowl of sugary cereal appear more appetizing. Other reasons manufacturers use artificial colors include:

  • To counteract natural color loss due to exposure to light, air, and temperature
  • To restore color to a food whose coloring was lost in processing
  • To provide identity to a food that would otherwise be colorless
  • To indicate the flavor of a food (red = cherry; yellow = lemon)

Artificial colors and food dyes are made from chemicals derived from petroleum. To date, there are nine color additives approved by the FDA for use in foods. They are:

Used In:
FD&C Blue No. 1
Confections, beverages, cereals, frozen dairy desserts, popsicles, frostings, icings
FD&C Blue No. 2
The rice bran extract is fermented using a soy-based enzyme
FD&C Green No. 3
Cereal, ice cream, sherbet, drink mixers, baked goods
Orange B
Hot dog and sausage casings
Citrus Red No. 2
To color orange peels
FD&C Red No. 3
Confections, beverages, cereals, ice cream cones, frozen dairy desserts, popsicles, frostings, icings
FD&C Red No. 40
Cereal, beverages, gelatins, puddings, dairy products, confections
FD&C Yellow No. 5
Confections, cereals, snack foods, beverages, condiments, baked goods, yogurt
FD&C Yellow No. 6
Cereals, snack foods, baked goods, gelatins, beverages, dessert powders, crackers, sauces

Three artificial colors - Red No. 40, Yellow No. 5, and Yellow No. 6 - account for 90 percent of the dyes used in foods and beverages in the United States.1 Despite their widespread use, there are concerns about the safety of using artificial colors in foods - including risks linked to cancer, hyperactivity, and allergies.1,2 This is why Thorne doesn't use any of the nine artificial colors listed above in our products.

How does an individual know if there are artificial colors in their foods or supplements? Look at the label. The FDA requires food and supplement manufacturers to list any added FDA-certified color.

Colors on Thorne's "No List"

Although not all artificial coloring is harmful, there are those that can be cause for concern. The following artificial colors are on Thorne's "No List" - the list of ingredients that will never be included in Thorne products. Also included on this are natural colors that Thorne has chosen not to use and the reasons why.

All FD&C numbered color pigments
Artificial colors and dyes. They often contain aluminum, sometimes lead and mercury, and are linked to cancer, hyperactivity, and allergies.
Titanium dioxide
A metallic colorant that makes ingredients white. It has been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a Class 2B carcinogen (i.e., "possibly carcinogenic to humans").
Carmine (cochineal, natural red 4)
A natural red/crimson dye. Made from female cochineal insects, it can cause allergic reactions and anaphylaxis.

How do Thorne products get their colors?

You might wonder why certain Thorne capsules and powders have a color. For the most part, Thorne products - particularly capsules - are a natural white/beige due to the lack of artificial colors. Some color variance is normal for some products, especially products that have botanical ingredients. One reason for color variance is that Thorne does not use the fillers typically used to keep products uniform in appearance. So for a botanical ingredient, depending on the time of year and weather conditions when it was grown and harvested, color variance can be common; for example, a botanical ingredient can be bright yellow at one harvest and paler yellow at another. Examples of botanicals that have natural bright colors are berberine (golden) and curcumin (golden orange).

Vitamins can have natural colors (besides white or beige) too. For example, Thorne's B-vitamin complexes have an orange/yellow tint due to the natural color of riboflavin (B2). Riboflavin is also the reason why B vitamins cause urine to turn bright yellow. In addition to its therapeutic uses, riboflavin is also used as a natural coloring agent - like in Thorne's Pectinate®.

Finally, there are times when Thorne uses an ingredient derived from a natural source to color a product - Amino Complex (Berry), for example. This powder gets its berry-like color from the addition of fruit and vegetable juices and is labeled on the container that the purpose is for color. Amino Complex (Lemon) uses turmeric as a natural coloring agent. Another example is the lycopene (from tomatoes) and turmeric that are used to color the capsule itself in Thorne's Q-Best - making it more attractive but still a healthy choice.

Artificial flavors and sweeteners

Artificial flavors are used much like artificial colors. They enhance the appeal of a product by improving its taste. To understand what constitutes an artificial flavor, it is important to know the definition of natural flavors. According to the FDA, natural flavors must be extracted from natural sources, like fruits, herbs, spices, vegetables, or animal products. Artificial flavors are lab-made flavorings, a combination of chemicals synthesized to smell and taste similar to natural flavorings.

A good example of an artificial flavoring is "grape" flavoring used in purple-colored candies and drinks. Methyl anthranilate is the chemical most commonly used to flavor many "grape" flavored foods and beverages.

For the few flavored products offered by Thorne - mainly powders - Thorne uses flavors derived from natural sources like cocoa, vanilla, and berries.

Artificial sweeteners and flavors can be less than healthful, and several are on Thorne's "No List." These are the sweeteners and flavors you will never find in a Thorne product and the reasons why.

Acesulfame-K (Ace-K)
An artificial sweetener that has been linked to insulin resistance and high blood sugar.
Aspartame (Nutrasweet, Equal)
An artificial sweetener that has been linked to insulin resistance and high blood sugar.
Artificial sweeteners allowed in Canada and Europe but banned in the United States (where the FDA has not found evidence of safety). Studies associate them with bladder tumors in rodents and testicular atrophy and sperm disruption in monkeys.
Ethyl vanillin
Artificial vanilla flavor more potent than vanillin, used to give chocolate a vanilla flavor. It is manufactured from petrochemicals and is reported to cause allergic reactions and headaches in sensitive individuals.
Synthetic vanillin
Artificial vanilla flavor. Natural vanillin is a constituent of vanilla; however, synthetic vanillin is used in imitation vanilla flavoring and is generally manufactured from petrochemicals. Another form is from genetically modified yeast. It can trigger allergic reactions, GI upset, or migraines.
Saccharin (Sweet 'N Low, Sugar Twin)
An artificial sweetener that has caused bladder cancer in animals, and only observational studies prove safety in humans. As a sulfonamide it can also cause allergic reactions.
A sugar alcohol used as a sweetener that can cause diarrhea, gas, and bloating.
Sucralose (Splenda)
An artificial sweetener that has caused leukemia in animals, and in humans is associated with bowel inflammation and a decrease in beneficial GI flora.

When we need to flavor a product

Although Thorne does not flavor or sweeten many products, some protein and other powders are more palatable with a little flavoring or sweetening. When Thorne does need to enhance palatability, we use ingredients derived from natural sources. For example, MediBolic is flavored with cinnamon and MediClear-SGS (Chocolate) is flavored with cocoa.

Flavor profiles often involve ingredients to mask a bad flavor that comes from a nasty-tasting herb - like Boswellia, for example. The chemists who develop the flavors we use adhere to our "No List."

What sweeteners does Thorne use?

Some Thorne products - protein powders, amino acids, and others - do contain ingredients that enhance taste. But like colors and flavors, these sweeteners are derived from natural sources, including evaporated cane juice sugar, monk fruit, and stevia.


Q: What products contain flavors and/or sweeteners derived from natural sources?

A: The following Thorne products contain flavors or sweeteners derived from natural sources:

Q: What products contain colors from natural sources?

A: The following Thorne products contain colors derived from natural sources: