Like more and more individuals you recognize that our food supply is increasingly deficient in nutrients – the result of over farming leading to nutrient depleted soils, and the ubiquitous use of herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers.
Though you eat well, or at least think you eat well, you want the added assurance that you are in fact obtaining optimal levels of nutrients through nutritional supplements, or nutriceuticals. You place a premium on quality. What should look for in high quality vitamins and supplements?
You Get What You Pay For
First, high quality vitamins and supplements are going to cost more than the typical store brand vitamins and supplements that you see, but there’s no reason to pay an arm and a leg for a high quality product, either. Shop around and check prices online of those companies that offer high quality products.
The additional cost for high quality vitamins and supplements, in part is related to higher quality raw ingredients, which many times come from overseas countries, technology that makes the supplements more bioavailable (able to actually be used by the body), more expensive manufacturing processes and, more rigid quality control. Also, some high quality supplements contain patented formulations that add to the cost.
Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP)
Some people talk about pharmaceutical versus food grade supplements. Though it’s hard to find a strict or pure definition of “pharmaceutical” and “food” grade, pharmaceutical grade products are more pure and higher quality than food grade. But more importantly, look for manufacturers that are GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) certified.
GMP are guidelines enforced by the FDA and essentially outline all aspects regarding the manufacturing, packaging, labeling, and storage of dietary supplements (see Current Good Manufacturing Practices). Several independent or third parties exist to certify vitamins and supplement products.
Some of these include the National Products Association, NSF International, US Pharmacopoeia, ConsumerLab, and Therapeutic Goods Administration. These certification programs are voluntary. Look for one or more of these organizations certification seal on the supplement label.
Reputable manufacturers of high quality vitamins and supplements periodically review their products and modify their formulations (either adding or subtracting nutrients or adjusting doses) based on the most recent scientific and medical evidence. Some manufacturers even engage in their own research, but be careful simply relying on a company’ own research. Research from an independent or third-party is generally more reliable.
Word About Supplement Regulation
Those who say supplements are not regulated are incorrect. Both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission are given authority to regulate supplements. The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA) ensures that supplement products are safe while meeting high quality standards.
The DSHEA regulates health claims manufacturers can make about their products, establishes good manufacturing practices, addresses safety issues, and encourages dietary supplement research.
Read the labels of vitamins and supplements carefully. Look for an expiration date. There many times will be inactive ingredients used as fillers. Make sure you’re not allergic to any of the active on inactive ingredients. Some supplements can interact with prescribed and over the counter medications. So if you have any concerns for the potential for interaction from your supplement with your medications ask your physician or pharmacist.
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