First of all, there’s lots of junk out there! The FDA regulates the sale of drugs but not vitamins and nutritional supplements, so there’s little oversight of the industry. Nobody is watching to see that a supplement manufacturer is doing the right things to ensure its products are safe and effective.
One way to check is to see if your company is involved in developing standards to ensure supplement quality. For example, the National Institutes of Supplements and Technology has instituted a Dietary Supplement Quality Assurance Program. Is your company on the list of collaborators? You can check here. There are other groups working to standardize supplement quality. What is your company doing to help improve the supplement industry for everyone? These standards are voluntary but it benefits everyone if safe and effective products are easily available.
Here are a couple of other things to consider:
- Is the company brand-new? It’s best to pick a company that has a proven track record and a large number of happy customers.
- How does the company ensure their products contain what they say they contain? Even the best company has production glitches, the company you choose should be able to tell you how often they run quality tests.
- How does the company ensure the products DON’T contain chemicals, pesticides, toxins, etc? This is particularly important in products like St. John’s Wort, black cohosh, ginseng, and other supplements that rely heavily on raw plant material. For high-performance athletes you must choose a company that doesn’t allow additives that may show up on urine tests as performance-enhancing drugs.
- How does the company ensure that the products are well-absorbed? Have they tested their delivery system to make sure the pill you swallow actually dissolves and is absorbed? I have seen X-ray pictures of vitamin tablets in the large intestine, ready to go out the other end. They never dissolved and did that consumer no good at all. What a waste of money!
One last thing to consider is whether a supplement you take will interact with other medications you are taking for medical problem. For instance, green tea extract interferes with some chemo drugs and also has blood-thinning properties. Almost everything interacts with Coumadin. Calcium supplements may interfere with some heart and blood pressure medications. Make sure your doctor knows what supplements you’re taking and ask about interactions before starting something new.