With so many products on the market, it’s easy to be overwhelmed when choosing supplements. Although everyone has their own opinion on what supplements to take and what not to take, there are several things to look out for when deciding what to take and what brand to purchase. Since dietary supplements are not classified as food, there is very little regulation on supplement products; therefore, it is up to you to do your own research! Whether it be a vitamin, mineral, botanical, sports nutrition supplement, weight management product or specialty supplement, here are a few key things to look out for when choosing supplements.
1. MD/Pharmacy Recommended/Approved
Before you even consider the things to look for when choosing supplements, you first need to ensure that whatever supplement you are looking to take has been recommended and approved by your doctor or pharmacist. Because of all of the drug and nutrient interactions, it is very important that your doctor is well aware of all of the supplements that you are taking. Many supplements and herbs can interfere with medications, causing them to be ineffective or even toxic. Since the internet does not know all of your conditions, it is crucial that you do not let the search bar be your doctor of choice when selecting supplements.
Avoid supplements that provide megadoses, meaning they provide more than 100% of the daily value of any nutrient. This can cause a nutrient toxicity if you are getting the same nutrients in excess through your diet. You want to choose a supplement that provides no more than 100% of the daily value for any particular nutrient.
3. USP Label
When selecting a supplement, look for one with a U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP) label directly on the product’s packaging. This label ensures that the product meets the standards for strength, purity, disintegration and dissolution set by the organization. This is one of the very few trusted seals when it comes to supplements.
4. CL Seal
Sometimes if there is not a USP label on the product or in addition to the product, the bottle will have a CL stamp of approval as well. CL is the seal from ConsumerLab.com, which indicates that the product’s ingredients were tested for quality. These labels ensure that you are getting what you are actually paying for instead of a bunch of cheap fillers.
5. Look out for Scams
When it comes to supplements, since there is no regulating agency, companies can really claim whatever they want. While “natural” vitamins might have a few less chemicals packed into the product, they are no more effective than synthetic vitamins, which many companies claim. Added “super” or “special” ingredients like herbs, enzymes or amino acids really add no value to the product, except a more expensive price tag. While I certainly prefer a more natural product, without a USDA organic label, there are very few other claims on a supplement that you can confidently trust.
6. Drug/nutrient Interaction
Before taking any supplement, you should always discuss with your doctor if any of your medications might interact with any supplements. Different vitamins, herbs, minerals, etc. can adversely interfere with medications and exacerbate medical conditions. Be very wary before just popping any supplement down because of this consequence.
7. Proprietary Blend
When selecting a supplement, be wary of products that use a “proprietary blend” and do not actually list out what is in the blend on the ingredient list. Many companies do this as a cost savings method. For example, let’s say that research suggests that in order for your body to receive the benefits from a particular ingredient then you must consume 2 grams. Most companies know that the majority of their customers will never be aware of this number but instead the consumer will only be aware of if the product contains the ingredient or not. Therefore, all the company has to do is add in a tiny dash of the effective ingredient to claim that their product actually contains it and then they can use a cheap filler to finish out the blend. At that point, the product becomes a complete waste of money for you but a money making scam for them. Save your money and buy individual products instead!
Because of the excessive amounts of products on the market, it is easy to become confused when buying supplements. Keep this list in mind next time you are making a purchase and you will find yourself with a much higher quality product. Do you take supplements or do you try to get everything that you need from your food?