A building that used to serve as a sawmill for Shed City on Route 1 in Warren is now a state-of-the-art facility where natural health supplements are scientifically formulated, produced, marketed and shipped.

Dr. Jeff Leighton, a pharmacologist with extensive experience in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry, founded Maine Natural Health in 2005. The company’s clinical research arm is called the Natural Products Research Institute.

Leighton said the idea for his company came from his son, who wanted to start using health supplements for his bodybuilding regimen. Having spent years researching and developing medicines for the pharmaceutical industry, Leighton wanted to know what was in the supplements. He said he found that many of them were either ineffective or dangerous or both.

He said the health supplement industry is largely unregulated by the government, even though it is regulated in most other countries. When he told his son not to use the supplements, his son posed a challenge.

“If you know so much, why don’t you make me the products,” his son said.

Leighton took on that challenge. He said he has developed products that are both safe and effective. He has also created products that will help not only bodybuilders and fitness or athletic enthusiasts, but also those who hope to prevent health problems as they age.

Leighton said he has started what he calls a “Mom and Pop” operation, but plans to take it national and international.

“We want to be the Ben & Jerry’s of natural products,” he said.

He said most products sold in stores with promises they will make a person healthier are not made using real science and are ineffective. They are a $228 billion industry in the United States.

Leighton had previously worked as principal scientist at Burroughs Wellcome and vice president of research at Glaxo. He moved to Maine nine years ago and opened the renovated Warren facility in March 2009.

The company produces several products including all-natural omega-3 fish oils in several natural flavors. Leighton is passionate about his fish oil and can talk about it at length.

He said it was discovered in Norway that people had far healthier hearts and arteries and reduced cholesterol. They were even found to suffer less depression and less pain. Research has shown that diets rich in omega-3 fish oils offer these health benefits and the oils provide lots of healthy vitamins.

During his time as a pharmaceutical researcher, Leighton visited Greenland and studied the health of Inuit people, whose diet consisted mostly of raw foods from the sea and fatty seal meat. While some were overweight and there were no vegetables in their diets, heart disease was virtually unknown to them. In 1976 when this research took place, he said, the pharmaceutical industry understood that omega-3 had health benefits. It didn’t act on it, however, because it was not possible to get the doses of the oil needed into a small pill or capsule.

Leighton also said simply eating fish is unlikely to work. People don’t eat enough of the right kinds of fish and cooking the fish can remove the value of the oil. In addition, while he recommends including fish in one’s diet, he said fish does often contain mercury.

The company produces a high-dose fish oil that contains no mercury and no chemicals. Leighton said he normally recommends a regimen of 4 grams per day. His oil comes in lemon, mint, vanilla, chocolate and other flavors.

The company also produces protein supplements. While people tend to associate this with bodybuilding, he said the aging population has high protein needs and his supplements can be used to help with weight control and loss.

His facility includes 4,000 square feet devoted to the headquarters where the company handles sales, marketing, Web design and graphic design. On the lower level is another 4,000 square feet devoted to scientific research and production.

Leighton said he expects to eventually move hundreds of thousands of units per month from Warren.

The company has about eight employees, most of them local Maine residents.

It sells its products in a variety of pharmacies, nutrition stores and fitness centers.

For more information visit MaineNaturalhealth.com.