How to Choose a Supplement?

As I mentioned previously, dietary supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and there are no strict labeling standards. In addition, there are hundreds of brands available for any given category . So how do you choose a supplement that is safe, free of contaminants and has the ingredients the label indicates?

First, discuss any supplement needs with your healthcare provider and pharmacist.  They can best guide you regarding the need for any supplement and monitor for any side effects or interactions with your current medications. Ask for their suggestions on brands they trust and would recommend.  They have years of experience and their own expertise on which brands are safe and effective.

There are several independent testing organizations in the US for dietary supplements:

  1. USP

USP is an independent, scientific body which has strict testing standards of quality and purity requirements for products to receive their seal. If a product has the USP seal, you can be sure the product is of good quality, made under controlled and protected good manufacturing environment which is free from harmful contaminants and it contains the strength and amount of product listed on the label.

To learn more about USP, read about them here: http://www.usp.org/usp-verification-services/usp-verified-dietary-supplements

2) NSF

You can also look for an NSF seal. This is another independent testing organization that certifies the quality, purity and potency of supplements. Companies– from manufacturers of raw materials to finished supplement manufacturers can go through the NSF good manufacturing practice (GMP) testing standards to apply for the NSF seal. The seal  proves the ingredients are free of contaminants, made under GMP standards and have the strength, potency and accurate labeling as listed.

To learn more about NSF, read about them here: http://www.nsf.org/about-nsf/

3) CL

Consumer Labs is another independent testing body that tests brands of products for purity, accuracy of strength, and is free of contaminants. Consumerlab.com is a membership paid access site. You can learn about specific brands they have tested and the results. This site is helpful if you are already taking a particular brand of supplement and want to know where it stands for quality and purity standards.

Learn more about them here:  http://www.consumerlab.com/

Choosing a supplement with a USP or NSF seal helps give assurance that the product has the ingredients it states on the label and that it was made under quality manufacturing standards.

Now does this mean the brands without a seal are not good? Not necessarily…it is possible they are good products, however it is certainly safer to go with products with the seal since you know they have met standards.

If a brand is expensive and has lots of customer testimonials, does that mean it is a safe brand? Perhaps, but without testing the ingredients it would be impossible to say.  You can also email the company and ask about their good manufacturing practice standards or any certification or testing they perform on their products.

Remember, just because it says “natural” doesn’t mean it is safe and won’t have side effects or interactions. Check with your healthcare team before your buy.