At the show, Nutraland USA showcased its new Somato ingredient, which it describes as “the first whole food–derived melatonin from tomatoes.”
A lot of the melatonin in sleep supplements today is produced synthetically. And while those products are effective and safe, one company, Nutraland USA Inc. (Irvine, CA), launched another melatonin ingredient option at October’s SupplySide West show: a phytomelatonin ingredient derived from tomatoes called Somato. The company describes Somato as “the first whole food–derived melatonin from tomatoes.”
According to Gene Bruno, MS, MHS, RH(AHG), chief scientific officer for Nutraland USA, all plants produce melatonin as part of their light/dark cycle. For Nutraland, the task was to find a plant from which it would be commercially viable to extract plant-based melatonin. “Some plants have more, some plants have less,” Bruno explained at SupplySide West. “That’s why you have to find the right ones that have a substantial enough amount and are able to extract that in a meaningful way.”
The ingredient is made from whole, dried tomatoes. One of the benefits of phytomelatonin is that it also offers other beneficial compounds from the plants. For instance, said Bruno, Somato contains naturally occurring lycopene.
Somato isn’t Nutraland’s first foray into phytomelatonin. In 2019, the company introduced a phytomelatonin ingredient derived from St. John’s wort called SomNatural. Like other phytomelatonins, SomNatural offers other naturally occurring compounds from the plant which Bruno said “have been shown to have other benefits associated with them.”
When compared head to head, it’s often debated whether natural and synthetic ingredients differ in terms of efficacy or safety. Sometimes, the choice of a natural ingredient comes down to consumer or manufacturer preference. Bruno pointed to an in vitro study1 published in 2021 that compared phytomelatonin to synthetic melatonin in terms of their antioxidant benefits and found phytomelatonin “more efficient concerning the antioxidant properties,” the study researchers wrote.
Bruno added that Nutraland is currently funding a 300-subject, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial comparing SomNatural, synthetic melatonin, and placebo.
The price of phytomelatonin is currently higher than synthetic melatonin, but Nutraland’s president Sanying Xu assured that if manufacturers look at the cost of phytomelatonin per dose, the difference in cost between phytomelatonin and synthetic melatonin “is less than 1 cent.”
And, he said, companies using phytomelatonin can claim their products are natural sleep aids. “This is truly natural,” Xu said, “unlike so many brands or supplements claiming that they’re natural sleep aids. Not all melatonins are natural.”