You try to put only healthy things in your body. Good for you! Whole foods, deep breaths when you exercise, and let’s not forget your supplements. According to the latest CRN Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements, a whopping 76 percent of you are using dietary supplements. That’s up 5 percent from last year.
You want to make sure your supplements match your healthy way of living. First and foremost, you want to make sure they don’t interfere with any prescription or over-the-counter drugs you may be taking, so consult your doctor before beginning any new supplement regimen.
Once you’ve got the go-ahead, you want to make sure you get the most out of your supplements. Here are some suggestions:
Inspect the ingredients
While you may think it’s only vitamins and minerals that go into dietary supplements, there are also inactive ingredients that help supplements deliver on their promise of nutrient potency, whether it’s a tablet, capsule or softgel. These are called excipients. Some excipients, such as artificial colors, are often added simply to make a supplement more eye-catching. Add these to your list of excipients to avoid. For example:
- FD&C Blue #1 (Blue 1 Lake)
- FD&C Blue #2 (Blue 2 Lake)
- FD&C Red #40 (Red 40 Lake)
Look with a critical eye
The FDA requires certain things be clear on the bottle … no wiggle room here. Make sure you can read the name of the product, the name, address, and phone number of the manufacturer, a complete list of active ingredients (the Supplement Facts box) and excipients (the Ingredient list), and the serving size. If not, it’s a good sign something else may be wiggly, like product quality.
Do a “gut check” on product claims
Dietary supplements have limits on what they can and cannot say. Claims must be truthful, not misleading, and backed by sound research. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t companies out there that will promise something they can’t deliver. If the label or commercial sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t true. Cures cancer can’t possibly be a valid claim. Lose 10 pounds in a day, no way. Targets the special nutritional needs of those with diabetes, now there’s a valid claim.
Check the expiration date
Choose a supplement that has an expiration date. Why? The manufacturer must complete the necessary stability tests to back up the date and ensure full nutrient potency for as long as the product stays on the shelf. Supplements lose their potency over time. No matter how good the supplement may be, once it’s expired, the ingredients may no longer be at full potency.
Get your questions answered
You can get detailed information about the nutrients in a supplement by talking to your doctor or pharmacist. For questions about a formula and manufacturing process, it’s best to contact the manufacturer. Is it free of gluten? Does it contain any allergens? Is it suitable for vegans? Is it made using the FDA’s current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs)? You will find⎯or should find⎯all the information you need to contact the manufacturer on every single label, making it easy to write, call, or email your questions.
That’s it, five simple ways to help you choose a quality supplement that can deliver the value you deserve.