3 Part Series: How to Identify the Best Quality Supplements
In the previous article (Part 1), we promised that we were going to teach you everything you need to know to buy the best quality supplements.
In that first post, we explained some of the most important tips and insights on how to look at labels and claims made by supplement companies including ingredients, cautions and warnings, even marketing messages.
In this post, Part 2, we discuss the science of how supplements are formulated and developed and what you should look for.
Science-Based vs Fad Supplements
If you want safety, efficacy, and reliability in your supplements, it’s important to know who created them — whether expert doctors, scientists, lab formulators or other individuals — and are they reputable? It’s also important (and legally required) that they have the data to back up the products they make. What studies have been done on the ingredients and formulation? Are they real human clinical studies, especially controlled clinical trials, or are they just animal or cell culture studies? If clinical trials were done, were they actually published in reputable, peer-reviewed scientific journals? Does the company use the ingredients that were actually researched in the clinical trials, or just cheap substitutes?
Also, it’s important to know how the ingredients in a supplement work together because certain combinations can have positive or negative effects on digestion, absorption, and effectiveness. For instance, studies have shown that betaine (trimethylglycine) can increase the effectiveness of SAMe (s-adenosylmethionine). Look for references to studies done on the specific ingredient combinations.
Then there are the fad supplements. Unfortunately you often see them on TV, claiming to have trials, though no such trials have been published. The makers of fad supplements can even stoop to adding drugs (pharmaceuticals) into their products labeled dietary supplements, even though this is expressly prohibited by the FDA and can cause serious harm. If the supplement maker can’t show you controlled clinical trials published in peer-reviewed journals, proceed with great caution.
Just because a product has a certain ingredient in it, doesn’t mean there is enough of that ingredient in each dose to feel the benefits. If you’re interested in a product for some particular need you have, or even if you’ve already been using it, get yourself educated about its active ingredients and the minimum doses that are recommended by informed experts. These will be – should be – the doses that were effective and safe in the clinical trials.
It’s an open secret in the dietary supplement industry that many products have smaller-than-recommended amounts of ingredients, especially with ingredients that are expensive; to make it seem like the consumer is getting more for their money than some competing product. Some in the industry call this “dusting” with “Fairy Dust.” Take fish oil supplements, for example. Many if not most of them don’t provide sufficient omega-3 EPA and DHA for the consumer ever to get to levels in their cells that are going to be truly protective. Good dietary supplements provide safe and clinically effective ingredients in doses that have reasonable probability of creating benefits for people who take them.
Online reviews can be extremely beneficial. When they’re honestly done they can help you find out the good and bad experiences of actual customers who have already tried the product. Look for high numbers of reviews that seem to reiterate the claims on the product. This can give you great insight on the efficacy of the product. But do be aware that some websites, including well-regarded ones, pay people to create positive reviews. It can be a good sign to see some average or negative reviews, since one supplement won’t have the same effect for every person. Be aware when looking for independent reviews that there are also many blog sites that pretend to be impartial or even critical of supplements, but sometimes they just make veiled endorsements of supplements for which they get kickbacks.
When you’re shopping for supplements, knowing how they are developed is a key factor in knowing if they are quality products and if they will make a difference in your health.
Be sure to look out for Part 3 of this blog series, where we will discuss supplement manufacturing programs to help you determine which products have the best quality.
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