The dietary supplement market is exploding. Manufacturers make outrageous claims that you will be younger, slimmer, have a great libido, relieve pain, and cure conditions. They are often laced with drugs and contaminants, don’t have enough of or have too much of the active ingredient and may not have any of the ingredient at all! Since the industry is not regulated, you must be a savvy consumer.
You must know if:
- The products are safe.
- They work.
- The cost is worth it.
There are thousands of manufacturers of dietary supplements, and the numbers keep growing every day. Many have enticing websites that are very convincing, so how do you know you are getting what you are paying for?
More Ingredients are Not Necessarily Better
Have you ever looked at a supplement and thought that it has everything you need and then some? It looks so complete and has you believing that it will help you with just about any ailment and prevent most. Buyer beware! Here are some of the pitfalls:
It may not have the right type of ingredient.
For example: The most effective magnesium to relieve constipation is magnesium citrate but the ingredient in most supplements is magnesium oxide which is the least absorbable as well as less effective. Check the studies to determine which ingredient is the most effective for your specific need.
It may not have enough of the ingredient to get the desired effect.
For example: B Vitamins are essential for energy production and if you have fatigue, a B vitamin formula with 25 to 50 mg is what has been shown to be most effective. However, many formulations have less than 4 mg.
Check the studies to determine what dosage has been shown to produce the desired effect for the condition you have.
This is the trickiest part. A company demonstrated an increase in growth hormone but only tested a few people once and there was no evidence that the temporary increase was sustained or had any long-term effects. Sometimes the studies that are touted to prove effectiveness were only done in mice or rats and this does not translate to humans or the studies done on humans had very few participants and that does not make it valid. You must look at the actual studies that they cite to “prove” efficacy and you may find it is all smoke and mirrors!
The Label Tells a Lot but Not All
The supplement Facts may show a sufficient amount of each of the ingredients; however, the serving size may be 2-8 capsules. When comparing prices, you must compare serving sizes.
Allergens and Sensitivities
Some people have sensitivities to ingredients that are fillers in the supplement.
Be sure your supplements are free of dairy, corn, gluten, fish, egg, nuts, and soy as these are the most likely to cause a reaction.
For example, a patient who had chronic gastrointestinal distress did everything right and brought her supplements to me. She was sensitive to dairy and didn’t realize that most probiotics are grown in milk. Her probiotics said contains milk on the label and when she stopped it, her symptoms resolved!
Many ingredients that have been studied have patents and trademarks. Look for TM or ® symbol. When you see these symbols, you know the ingredient has been tested and many of the quality brands will use the patented ingredients. Some examples are:
- Curcumin has many forms and the additives such as piperine make it more absorbable, however BCM-95® is the most highly bioavailable form of Curcumin.
- Albion Minerals is the premier manufacturer of patented organic mineral amino acid chelate that have significantly higher absorption rates. They use TRAACS testing method to ensure existence of amino acid chelate presence that protect a vitamin’s potency and protect it from damage.
- Probiotics that list the actual strains such as Lactobacillus plantarum (Lp-115) are of higher quality and have been tested.
- Herb quality can vary a lot and it is important to list the percent active ingredient as well as the part of the herb. An example would be Rhodiola Root extract standardized to contain 3% rosavins.
- Vitamins should have the type If the label just lists Vitamin A, then you don’t know what you are getting. Vitamin A is made up of 300 mixed carotenoids and the most effective are retinyl palmitate, beta carotene and mixed carotenoids.
Quality manufacturers have certifications that distinguish them from all the rest.
- cGMP shows compliance with good manufacturing processes that are consistent with FDA guidelines.
- NSF certified products assures that they use only FDA approved raw materials.
- USP indicates that the product contains the ingredients listed on the label, in the declared potency and amounts.
- UL® National Brand Certification Program (NBCP) is to assess the extent to which an organization conforms to the applicable regulations and/or standards regarding the products being manufactured.
Third party sellers on mass distribution sites often sell fake supplements. The distributors only distribute, and they are not responsible for what is being sold, how it is being shipped or stored or how many times it has been returned and then resold.
Heat sensitive supplements such as probiotics or fish oil must be stored in cooler temperatures and especially during summer months shipped in ice packs. Be sure you buy direct from the manufacturer or an authorized distributor that only sell authentic product that has been stored and shipped appropriately.
As you can see, there is a lot to know about supplements. If you are not up to the task of doing the research, consult a functional medicine doctor who can not only guide you on which supplements are right for you, they can steer you towards quality manufacturers and distributors who use only the finest ingredients and have the appropriate certifications. Supplement Savvy is a free educational program that gives access to my most effective protocols and supplement manufacturers and distributors at a discount. Sign up to learn more and take the guesswork away using this free educational program. Become Supplement Savvy!