What to Look For When Purchasing Supplements
One of the fastest growing industries in the world is nutritional supplements. With so many choices in companies, forms of supplements, combination products, pricing, and drug-supplement interactions it is hard to know what to purchase.
Furthermore dietary supplement manufacturers and distributors are not required to obtain FDA approval before marketing dietary supplements. The companies are however responsible for ensuring: 1) the product it manufactures or distributes is safe 2) any claims made about the product are not false or misleading, and 3) the product complies with the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and FDA regulations in all other respects.
Some Areas to Look at When Purchasing Supplements:
Quality of Ingredients?
Are the ingredients organic? Are they non-GMO (Genetically Modified Organism)? Are they tested for heavy metals? Are they synthetic or whole food based? Are they irradiated? Are they hypoallergenic?
How “Clean” is the product?
After a product lists its active ingredients look to see how many additives, fillers, binders, preservatives, color dyes, artificial and natural flavorings, anti-caking ingredients, etc are present. Pick the product with the fewest “extras”.
Does the company follow GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices)?
These are industry standard manufacturing practices that were set up for the pharmaceutical industry to follow. Many supplement companies follow these practices as well, including Designs For Health, Orthomolecular Products, Xymogen, among others.
Was the product third party tested to verify its ingredients and dose?
Look for NSF (National Sanitation Foundation), GMP, or USP (US Pharmacopeia) certifications on the company’s website or the supplement bottle. Consumer Labs is similar to Consumer Report, only CL tests vitamins, herbs, supplements, and nutritional products. When you sign up for a subscription you can review the comparison testing done between different brands within the same supplement category.
Are there any studies using a particular brand or proprietary blend to back up health claims?
Sometimes companies will fund their own studies; sometimes outside organizations are interested in testing a theory and will use a particular product that is disclosed in their final paper.
When Selecting Supplements:
- Look for the best product you can afford.
- The better the product, the better the results.
- It may be difficult to find a supplement that is 100% in every area mentioned– pick the “best value” product especially if this is a supplement you will be using long term
- Avoid generic or store brand products unless you know the original company that makes the product for that store. In February 2015, four major retail chains that carry their own brand label had their herbs tested only to find out there was very little of the active ingredient in the product.
- Be careful when shopping on Amazon. It is typically better to buy name brand supplements from a reputable distributor or directly from the manufacturer of the product, rather than from a third party seller. There are reports of third parties dispensing expired or counterfeit products.