Buying Nutritional Supplements - What You Need to Know

The clinical experience of naturopathic doctors has shown that you'll get healthier if you buy the highest quality dietary supplements. There are no standards for quality, so buy wisely. Use the quality guidelines listed below.

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The primary requirement for any supplement is that it actually works. In order to be clinically effective, it must be of the highest possible quality. However, quality varies widely because there are no quality standards in the industry. So you can't rely only on the label.

Take vitamin E, for example. A study of various vitamin E products by laboratory analysis showed that a large percentage of the supplements had less vitamin E than stated on the label. A few of the products had no vitamin E in them at all! In addition, there are various forms of vitamin E: alpha, beta, delta and gamma. Most supplements have only the alpha form because that is the least expensive. The alpha form is beneficial, but not nearly as beneficial as all the forms together. All the forms together are called "mixed tocopherols". They have more health benefits but are also more expensive. This example illustrates the difficulty in selecting supplements merely by looking at the label.

Fortunately, we relieve you of the burden of trying to figure out whether a supplement is the best quality or not.

Supplements Are Carefully Evaluated

Every supplement in our online store has been carefully reviewed for efficacy and safety. We have extensive knowledge of the supplement industry and how supplements are manufactured. We know of suppliers that have quality products.

Independent Lab Assay Is a Key to Quality

Some supplement manufacturers hire independent laboratories to verify what their products contain. This is the only way to know for certain what is in a supplement. To the greatest extent possible, our online store carries products that have been authenticated by an independent laboratory.

Listed below are some of the benchmarks that we look for in a lab assessment of a dietary supplement.

  • No microbial contamination - bacteria, yeast, or mold.
  • No heavy metals - lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic or aluminum.
  • Free of chemical solvent residue, pesticides and herbicides.
  • No rancidity.
  • Label claim potency - the product contains what the label claims.
  • Stability - the product maintains potency until the expiration date.
  • No dioxins, mercury, or PCBs in fish oil products.

Additional Quality Considerations

1)  Product manufactured according to standards. A top-quality supplement is manufactured according to the strict standards of United States Pharmacopeia, and the Food and Drug Administration's Current Good Manufacturing Practice Guidelines.

2)  Non-allergenic. Supplements with food colorings such as tartrazine are a common source of allergy problems. Many "natural" supplements come from food sources such as corn, soy, yeast, dairy, or egg, which may cause allergy problems. We stock only the most allergy-free products available.

3)  Highest purity. Some supplement manufacturers try to save money by adding cheap fillers, including lactose, sucrose, hydrated aluminum silicate, modified corn starch, sodium chloride, or sand. Binders, lubricants, and disintegrators might include talc, soap, rancid oils, shellac, tree sap, polyethylene glycol, waxes, or corn starch. If a product does not have a lab analysis to prove its purity, we utilize our extensive knowledge of the supplement industry to determine whether these impurities may be present.

4)  Correct potency. Labeling can be deceptive. For example, it is legal to say "100 mg of citrus bioflavonoid complex" when in fact the "complex" you are getting is 30 mg of bioflavonoid and 70 mg of lactose (milk sugar). In addition, some manufacturers cut costs by simply not including the full amount of the nutrient. This is why we ask our suppliers for authentication from an independent laboratory.

5)  Standardized herb potency. The potency of herbs in a supplement can vary wildly, depending on what part of the plant is used, the time of year it was harvested, how long it was stored, or how it was processed. By potency, we're referring to the components of the plant that are biologically active in your body. The most reputable supplement manufacturers used herbs with a "standardized" potency, so that you will know exactly how much of the biologically active part of the herb you are getting. All of the herbs in our dispensary are standardized.

6)  Effective potency. Formulations are clinical strength and developed in partnership with medical consultants or registered pharmacists.

7)  Label transparency. Supplements provide full disclosure of ingredients.

Quality Does Matter

When it comes to buying dietary supplements, you essentially have two choices: buy according to price, or buy according to quality.

If you buy the cheapest supplement, you'll end up with an inferior product that may not improve your health. Therefore buying the cheapest is a waste of your money. In fact, the lowest-price products may contain impurities or additives that could actually make you worse.

Our experience indicates that you're definitely better off buying the highest quality supplements. By doing so, you maximize the probability of improving your health and thus minimizing future medical expenses. So, not only will you be healthier by taking the highest quality supplements, you will also save money in the long run.

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