When you decide to take vitamins or other dietary supplements, your goal is better health. That’s why it’s imperative that you do your homework to ensure that the products you use and give your family can be trusted to be pure and free from adulterants.
Quality Is Essential
High-quality nutrients are fragile, like high quality foods.
Each ingredient must be carefully and correctly handled at each stage of harvesting, extraction and processing, under clean and controlled conditions and following an exacting production process that has been proven to yield consistent results. Additionally, nutrients can have different fragilities that must be controlled, such as temperature and humidity.
The finished product must contain the ingredients in the amounts on the label, in a form that is absorbable, without adulterants and with a reasonable and honest shelf life.
Many online sellers, Big Box retailers and pharmacy chains outsource their vitamin manufacture to countries that are without regulation, which means they have little control over the quality of each pill. There are many sophisticated ways an ingredient can be made to look good when in reality, it is of poor quality. The more expensive and “in demand” an ingredient is (such as Co Q 10 and Red Yeast Extract), the more likely it is to be adulterated or even fraudulent.
Responsible supplement manufacturers follow industry regulations that are designed to protect consumers by ensuring product potency, identifying inappropriate or ineffective ingredients such as pesticides, and implementing manufacturing protocols that help keep product quality high. These manufacturers refuse to cut corners by purchasing questionable ingredients as a way of cutting costs and increasing profits.
Purity Is Critical
Another crucial aspect of supplement manufacture involves making sure the products you buy contain no harmful substances such as the solvents used in extraction, melamine (added to pet food made in China), and mercury (found in imported ayurvedic products). Herbal products may contain pesticide residues.
Other forms of adulteration occur through the addition of substances that offer no therapeutic benefit but serve only to make the manufacturing process easier and more convenient, such as adding magnesium stearate (a form of soap to lubricate the powders in the machines) and aluminum (a flow agent).
Some harmful substances can find their way into supplements simply because manufacturers are not conscientious enough to take specific measures to prevent these issues from occurring. Fraud is when a drug is combined with a supplement to give it an added effect; this is seen most often in body building products.
Ensuring Product Safety, Quality and Purity
So, how can you ensure that the dietary supplements you buy are safe, pure and high enough quality to enhance your health and well-being?
One way is to look to your healthcare provider. Another is to use retailers with a lot to lose by being embarrassed. For example, Whole Foods is more fastidious than Walgreens when it comes to ingredient quality.
There are agencies that have dedicated themselves to helping manufacturers and consumers in the areas mentioned above. These industry watchdogs help manufacturers stay compliant, while providing consumers with the confidence they need to purchase the highest-quality products for themselves and their families.
Before buying any supplement, check the reputation of the manufacturer. Many have a seal of approval from one of the organizations that offer official validation of product quality, such as NIST, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and ODS, the Office of Dietary Supplements within the NIH. These organizations use a few different methods for ensuring product quality.
Some organizations, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF), and the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) provide oversight to manufacturers and others involved in the production, processing, or packaging of supplements. They draft regulations, such as the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP), helping to ensure that the manufacturer has followed a prescribed production protocol that meets the standards the organization has set for the product type.
In cases of noncompliance, organizations such as the FDA, which oversees the GMP program, have the power to levy fines, seize or recall products or even order jail time.
Voluntary Product Testing
Other organizations engage in voluntary product testing to help manufacturers identify unknown product components and potential contaminants and verify the safety and efficacy of products and product ingredients. The Emerson Quality Program (EQP) is administered by one such organization, Emerson Ecologics.
What do all these organizations have in common? All engage in an ongoing effort to help protect consumers. They provide this protection by making sure that the supplements and other products we buy that are intended to support our health or enhance our well-being actually contain ingredients that are consistent with that goal. For more information, follow this link to view articles by Vital Nutrients, a quality manufacturer: vitalnutrients.net.
Knowledge is Power at the Supplement Shelf
You can be confident that you have many allies in your effort to find supplements that are safe and effective. The organizations mentioned above are your key to gaining the knowledge – and power – you need to make wise choices at the supplement shelf. They not only certify products to help you find the best quality and value for your supplement dollar, but they also provide valuable information about the supplements themselves and the standards and regulations that govern them.
Here at Naturopathic Physicians Group, we are dedicated to arming patients with the information they need to make informed and healthy choices. We invite you to spend some time looking through the resources on our website, or give us a call at (480) 451-6161.
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