Not all vitamin, mineral and herbal supplements are created equal. This is due in part to the fact that there are not yet good regulations on supplement manufacturers. Because the health sector is a lucrative business, some companies take advantage of consumers, most of whom cannot differentiate when it comes to supplement quality. Some of these companies use cheap or contaminated ingredients in their products.
Price can be an initial indicator of the quality of the supplement. In general, the cheaper the supplement, the worse quality it will be. Good quality ingredients are more costly, and the price of the supplement will reflect this. That said, you do not need to purchase the most expensive supplements. Just avoid the ones that seem way too cheap.
Here are a few other things to keep in mind when deciding what to buy.
Know your ingredients
Read the label to see what is listed under “other ingredients.” There should only be a few listed. If there are five or more other ingredients listed, this is a big clue that this is a low-quality supplement. Also, if the other ingredients have unrecognizable names, you should purchase a different brand. Ingredients to avoid in supplements include any artificial dyes, aspartame, MSG, corn starch and preservatives like BHT and sodium benzoate.
Look for testing
A good company will test its products for contaminants, such as heavy metals, to ensure purity. If it does testing, it will be mentioned somewhere on the label. If it is not mentioned, then assume that no testing was done. This is especially important for fish oil and products containing Omega 3.
Look for the GMP
Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) are a set of guidelines to ensure that the manufacturing and packaging of dietary ingredients or supplements is done to prevent adulteration, contamination or misbranding. GMP requires pre- and post-production batch testing. However, GMP certification is optional, and this may or may not be mentioned on the label. The quality of a supplement coming from a company that is not GMP-certified cannot be guaranteed.
Consult a professional
Keep in mind that it is always best to have an expert who is trained in the use of vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements to consult regarding your personal health and make recommendations that are specific to your body and your needs. We are all individuals and require different supplements at different times. If you are not properly informed about what you should be taking, you can waste a lot of money taking unnecessary supplements. Some may cause harm if they are taken unnecessarily.
Size and shape
Powders, capsules and liquids are preferable. Tablets can be very difficult to digest and absorb, especially if you have digestive health concerns.
Consider food-based vitamins
If you experience any adverse reactions to synthetic vitamins, there are food-based vitamins that can be used instead. Most people react well to whole food supplements. However, the downside is that you get a much lesser amount than you do with the synthetic vitamins.
Look for active ingredients
Make sure when deciding between supplements that you are comparing how much of the active ingredient – the primary, biological substance – is contained in all products. The higher is better.
Where to shop
The online shop iherb, Organic Foods and Cafe and Good Health Nutrition Store all have good selections.
Dr Robin Tauzin
A naturopathic doctor who trained in both conventional and alternative medicine in the United States, Robin is the chief wellness officer at Al Mansoori Specialized Engineering in Abu Dhabi. There she oversees the health monitoring management system, conducts individual consultations with employees for disease prevention using diet and lifestyle modifications and organizes wellness events.