Waking up, eating a healthy breakfast, and taking your vitamins is a ritual ingrained in many of us. When it comes to over-the-counter supplements, however, the news isn’t always good. Today we take a deep dive into learning what counts as a supplement, and what you need to know to pick the right one for your needs.
An Unregulated Market
When we buy something from the supermarket shelves, we rarely stop to consider if we’re getting what we are paying for. Over 50% of adult Americans take at least one supplement daily, but we rarely stop to consider what we’re buying. If you purchase iron vitamins, you may not consider the idea that they might not contain the vitamin you are purchasing, but you should.
The FDA defines vitamins and other supplements as, “products intended to add further nutritional value to the diet.” In short, they aren’t classified as drugs, and don’t get the same consideration that medical drugs do. In many cases, low quality products don’t contain the stated amount of the supplement, and in rare cases, may not contain it at all. There’s been more than one case, for example, where weight loss supplements have been found to contain stimulants like ephedrine. If you’re taking your supplement to address a vitamin deficiency (as with the common B12 vitamin deficiency), you may be left wondering why you aren’t seeing the results you need despite following the doctor’s advice.
How do you choose safe supplements?
Here’s our top tips to choose a safe vitamin or supplement pill:
- Purchase from a reputable source: Online sites like Amazon and eBay unfortunately allow fake sellers to slip through the cracks Made in the USA supplements are less likely to be made in unsafe facilities where accidental contamination can occur. They are also subjected to more rigorous health and safety standards.
- Check for fakes: Likewise, always inspect your purchase once you receive it. Fakes can be a problem if you’re not buying directly from the producer. Make sure the packaging, looks, and smell of the product are the same as you usually purchase. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with the brand itself to double-check if you have any concerns. While formulas can change over time, you need to know you are safe.
- Look for verification: Many (although not all) quality supplements will carry 3rd-party verification labels. The USP or NSF international are two reputable bodies to watch for. Likewise, you can check out independent verification sites like Labdoor.com or Consumerlabs.com
- Opt for single-ingredients where possible: ‘Proprietary blends’ are not regulated. Purchasing a single ingredient supplement is much more likely to deliver the amount promised without other adulteration
Supplements can play an important part in a healthy diet, even if you’re also eating well. Always make sure you are getting the quality and safety record you deserve by doing your research and buying from a quality vendor you can trust.