Importance of Quality Supplements and Why You Should Care
As a pharmacist, I’m often asked, “Is this product good? What do you think of it?”
My eyes will start running through important key features of the product and if I have my phone or laptop, I will go ahead and search through their website or any resources that can give me information.
Why to such an extent? The label and packaging looks great, their marketing says it’s the best, and their endorsers shares their positive testimonies about it, so it should be good quality right? Well, sadly, this is not always the case.
Several people take some form of dietary supplement. Their reasons may be many but almost all would say that they have a desire to improve their health. It may seem obvious that the quality of your health outcomes depend on the quality of the product you take. Unfortunately, many people do not step back to double check this. With the globalization of the dietary supplement in the market, it is valid to ask questions like “Is the quality of this product good?”, “Can I trust the supplier?”, “On what basis will I put my trust?” The quality of a supplement brand is not mainly determined by their packaging, their marketing or the testimonies from the buyers. There are a couple of things you also have to look into.
But before that, let’s state the reasons why quality REALLY matters.
1- Identification of Ingredients
“Does the product contain the exact ingredients that appear on the label?”
There are reports that show certain products on the market that do not contain the ingredients advertised on the label upon checking in the lab. Instead of containing the active ingredients, it is possible to find cheap fillers such as wheat, rice, starch and worse contaminants that may make you sick and you surely do not want to ingest. This not only ensures your health, but also protects your wallet.
2- Dosage & Potency of Ingredients
“Does the product contain the right amount of ingredients indicated?”
“Are the doses enough to give health benefits but not too much to harm me?”
Aside from making sure that the ingredients are correct, it is also important that they are at the right amounts to present a certain effect on your health. Doses shouldn’t be too high that will harm you nor too low that may have no effect. This is especially important for children’s supplements where doses are critical for their small bodies.
3- Purity of Ingredients
“Does the product contain unnecessary and harmful ingredients?”
Supplements should contain pure ingredients without the unwanted ingredients such as heavy metals (very common in fish oils), toxins, chemicals and adulterants like active pharmaceutical ingredients. Companies that take extra effort in this understands how allergens such as gluten, coatings, shellacs, artificial colorings, flavors and sweeteners and unnecessary binders, fillers and preservatives can affect health and hamper progress.
4- Proven and Tested Form and Delivery System
“Will the supplement dissolve and will the ingredients be absorbed by the body?”
It doesn’t make sense taking a supplement that won’t dissolve and cannot be absorbed by the body. There are different delivery systems with different rates of dissolution as well as different forms with different absorption rates. Taking the better ones will ensure optimal absorption and effect.
Before you buy any products, make sure to check, evaluate and research. It will take more of your time, but for sure it will be worth it.
Here are 4 things you should check for supplement quality.
1- Manufacturing Information
“Does the product have a batch/ lot number?”
“When will the product expire?”
Depending on the product, shelf life can range from 1 to 3 years from the date of manufacture. The expiration date does not mean that products “go bad” after the indicated date. It simply means that it can no longer guarantee the stated indication appeared on the bottle or container.
2- Regulation & Certification
“Is the product approved and regulated by the FDA?”
FDA is responsible in regulating supplements and drugs. However, supplements are considered food and are not regulated the same way as medications. FDA simply requires manufacturers to provide documents to ensure that dietary supplements are safe and pure. They make sure that good manufacturing practices are followed. FDA does not test dietary supplements for safety or efficacy before marketing nor do they certify supplement manufacturing facilities. Although, it is best to purchase products regulated by FDA, it does not give us full assurance of its quality. This now lead us to the next feature to check on.
3- Third Party Testing & Validation
“Does the manufacturer of the product go beyond to confirm its safety and purity?”
“Does it have any verification mark on the product and their website?”
We are now left to ask if the company or manufacturer produces quality supplements with transparency and integrity. Quality companies would go beyond the usual requirements of cGMPs (Current Good Manufacturing Practice) and get third-party certifications. Checking any of these three seals on the product label provides you the confidence in the quality of a dietary supplement. NSF International, US Pharmacopeia and ConsumerLab are independent agencies that test for product’s purity and potency. Manufacturers are required to pay a certain fee for their own product samples to be tested. This is one reason why products with this seal will cost more than the others.
4- Ingredient Information
“Does the product have the right source and type I need?”
“Is the source and type high absorbable?”
Lastly, check where the ingredients are sourced from.
Vitamins and minerals are sourced from many different places and are presented in different forms. For example, Vitamin B6 (pyroxidine HCl) is the cheaper form of B6. The better quality would be pyroxidine-5-phosphate (P5P) which is the most biologically active form. Iron Sulfate is very common but this can cause constipation. The better form is Iron Citrate formulated with Vitamin C which is more readily absorbed than Iron Sulfate.
We are free to choose which dietary supplements to purchase and take- at our own risk. If you want the best results with the least possible health risks, choose high quality and pure supplements from reliable companies. It would also be wise to consult with a doctor or pharmacist who is well versed with dietary supplements. Health is an investment, not an expense.
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