Manufacturers of supplements are responsible for ensuring that the claims they make about their products aren’t false or misleading, and that they’re backed up by adequate evidence. However, savvy consumers know they should not just rely on a product’s marketing. All it takes is a little homework to ensure that a supplement does what it claims, and that it poses no threat to your health.
Begin by looking to credible sources for objective, research-based information to evaluate a product’s claims. For reliable information about a particular supplement, two of the best online sources are the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) http://nccam.nih.gov and the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) http://ods.od.nih.gov. Both organizations provide comprehensive information for helping you make informed choices on dietary supplements.
Once you begin your research, be sure to follow these four important steps.
(1) Determine that the form of the nutrient is well-absorbed by the body.
Is the nutrient in an “active” or an “inactive” form? While active nutrients are more easily absorbed and used by your body, they do cost more to make, which is why many manufacturers tend to use inactive nutrients. Other factors, as well, will determine how well different nutrients are absorbed.
(2) Confirm that the supplement contains no additives, colors, fillers or allergens.
Supplement manufacturers may add a variety of fillers in order to: produce the pills faster and easier; make the pills look more appealing (colorants); make the pills easier to swallow (coatings). However, the problem lies in how these fillers will impact your body and health. And, they may even block the absorption of the nutrients.
(3) Verify that the raw materials (especially herbs) have been tested for toxins.
This is to ensure that toxins, such as mercury or lead, are being monitored by the manufacturer during the production process.
(4) Know you’re getting the same thing every time.
It’s important to know that you’ll be getting the exact same pill every time, from bottle to bottle. Check the manufacturer’s track record with the NCCAM or the ODS.