Do your homework; all supplements are not created equally.
When you set out to purchase a health product such as supplements, protein powder, green drinks, etc. you may ask a sales associate for their opinion or surf the web for clinical research on different products. The numerous claims from companies may only make you more confused. How do we know which supplements are a waste of our money and maybe potentially harmful? “The proof is in the in the pudding.”
In the United States, dietary supplements do not require proof of efficacy and do not require premarketing approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).1
Therefore, the safety and standard come down to the ethical standards and responsibility of the manufacturer.
There are many factors to be wary of when purchasing a supplement. The nutrients the product contains may be subpar and poorly absorbed or utilized by the body. It may include colors, fillers, and allergens. The raw materials may not be properly tested for toxins, and the factory where the product is produced may not follow good manufacturing procedures.
How do you know a supplement brand has your best interest at heart?
A company that provides every ingredient and every amount allow you to make the best decision for your unique biochemistry. This means no proprietary blends, full disclosure labeling, and freely given information upon request.
This includes sourcing an ingredient, storing it, third-party testing, certificate of analysis, current good manufacturing practices, and audits. This ensures purity, safety, and efficacy. Let me break these practices to better understand why they are essential to you when deciding to affect your health.
GMP (Good Manufacturing Process)
This ensures appropriate facility conditions—prevention of microbial contamination, sanitation, and cleanliness.
Supply Chain Scrutiny
In house sourcing and procurement of ingredients are selected by individuals within the company based on set criteria, and accurate records are kept.
Independent auditing agencies inspect that verify ingredients, sourcing, manufacturing standards, distribution channels, and accurate labeling.
There is justified concern surrounding heavy metals. Heavy metals are a group of metals that can be toxic when consumed by humans.2 Heavy metals are a natural component of the earth’s crust; however, human activities have drastically altered their geochemical cycles and biochemical balance. Therefore, plants have been affected; this has resulted in higher accumulation in plant parts.3 Whether you are purchasing a plant-based supplement, fish oil, or animal supplement, they may contain some heavy metals. Plants can absorb heavy metals from the air, soil, and water while growing. Animals and fish can also ingest and absorb heavy metals from their environment.4 When some dietary supplements were tested, they were found to have levels of metals above their maximum allowable levels.5 A company should track and evaluate heavy metals per raw material. Each lot of finished products should also be tested to ensure the safety of the products further. Although, as humans, we require some amounts of heavy metals, we do not want excessive amounts.6
Why go through all this trouble researching ways to supplement your diet? Is it enough to just eat healthily? Do you need supplements if you eat a healthy diet?
More nutrients from supplementation may have become essential to the American diet. Studies indicate that modern plants decrease crucial nutrients and offer lower minerals, including zinc, iron, and calcium, due to soil overuse and elevated carbon dioxide levels.7 Dietary supplements can help you get the required amounts of essential nutrients for your body to maintain balance and run optimally. It may be especially beneficial if you do not eat a nutritious variety of foods. However, supplements do not take the type of foods that are important to a healthy diet.8
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
More Bang for Your Buck!
Not all vitamins and minerals are created equal; some are highly absorbable and more bioavailable. Your body recognizes the difference between synthetic and plant-based supplements. Supplement companies whose interest is in helping you establish and sustain good health will follow practices that preserve the nutrients, co-factors, and co-nutrients in the final product. A company should follow proper drying, milling, and concentrating techniques that lock in the beneficial compounds, to ensure the final product contains the maximum benefits for you to achieve results.9
Bioavailability is how easily your body can absorb a given nutrient. Evidence indicates that healthy, whole plant foods are the foundation of a nutritionally complete diet.10 This includes the supplements you use to maintain your health and fill in the gaps of nutrition you may be lacking in your diet. Supplements that your body is equipped to handle are coming from a source that our body recognizes. Your bodies know these plants to be food.11
Absorption and bioavailability go hand in hand. This may mean the product includes digestive support. Many people suffer from weak digestion needing support from the supplement to break down the body’s nutrients to utilize for energy, growth, and cellular repair. A well-formulated product should contain ingredients that work synergistically together. Many nutrients require other co-factors to interact with for the body to achieve the full benefits.12 While many people do very well with a basic supplementation program, more advanced conditions may require additional supplements.
While many people do very well with this basic program, more advanced conditions require additional supplements. I highly recommend talking with an integrative nutritionist or physician to address your unique needs.
It is best to speak with your health care provider when embarking on a plan to use supplements. They can test you for any deficiencies and advice you appropriately.