How Would You Know If You Are Taking a High Quality Supplement or Not?
Questions about dietary supplements are frequently in the news. Lack of regulation results in improper labeling and discrepancies in the amount of nutrients claimed on labels. ConsumerLab.com is a third party organization that tests supplements for quality. Two common talking points in the news are:
- There exists an inconsistency of quality in multivitamin supplements
- That price does not reflect quality-according to consumerlabs, i.e. some very inexpensive multivitamins meet consumerlab’s qualifications.
Following ConsumerLab.com’s report is only the first step in determining a safe and effective multivitamin. They tested only a fraction of the products that are available in North America. They admitted that they couldn’t test for all the nutrients in all the products, so they tested only a select few nutrients: folic acid, calcium, and vitamin A (retinol and beta-carotene), with a few substitutions. And in their report, ConsumerLab also states that: “There’s no standard formula for multis, so the ingredients will vary dramatically from one brand to another.” I prefer to look further for product verification. And I don’t depend on the FDA, either.
The FDA does not test any supplements for potency and purity
Dietary supplements are regulated under the FDA, however they are not required to prove their effectiveness and safety before going to market as prescription drugs are. Also, the FDA does not routinely test supplements. According to their website, “The manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that the “Supplement Facts” label and ingredient list are accurate, that the dietary ingredients are safe, and that the content matches the amount declared on the label. FDA does not have resources to analyze dietary supplements sent to the agency by consumers who want to know their content. Instead, consumers may contact the manufacturer or a commercial laboratory for an analysis of the content.”
So how do you find out what multivitamin is safe and effective?
Most any supplement company will declare that their product is the best. As a consumer, it is prudent to ask the manufacturer specific questions in order to evaluate their products before you purchase.
- Does the company follow Pharmaceutical model GMPs (Good Manufacturing Practices) ? Only a few select companies have (voluntarily) established all or most of their manufacturing protocols in line with the strict ‘Pharmaceutical’ model GMP’s (Code of Federal Regulations – 21 CFR 210 and 211).
These stringent regulations represent the highest standards possible and focus on safety, efficacy, purity and potency of raw ingredients and finished product, assuring that it actually contains what is stated on the label and is free of contaminants.
- Do they have the results of tests of purity, contamination and safety of the product by more than one third-party laboratories?
Three main testing laboratories in the USA include:
ConsumerLab.com ConsumerLab.com is an independent test laboratory that tests dietary supplement products to determine:
•the amount of ingredient claimed on the container label
•the existence of contaminants such as lead in the product
•the ability of the product to disintegrate properly in order to dissolve and be absorbed in the body.
ConsumerLab.com does not test the efficacy of products. NSF International Certified NSF International develops standards for testing dietary supplements. NSF tests supplements to verify the identity and quantity of dietary ingredients declared on product label and to ensure that the product does not contain undeclared ingredients or unacceptable levels of contaminants. In addition, NSF inspects manufacturing facilities for conformance with Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). Supplements that have received the NSF mark may be found at http://www.nsf.org/Certified/Dietary/
USP Verified The United States Pharmacopeia (USP) is the official public standards-setting authority for all prescription and over-the-counter medicines, dietary supplements, and other healthcare products manufactured and sold in the United States. USP tests the purity, potency, and quality of dietary supplement finished products that are voluntarily entered by their manufacturer in the program. Dietary supplements are not required to be tested or to conform to USP standards in order to be marketed in the US. Only those that meet USP’s criteria are allowed use of the USP Verified Dietary Supplement Mark to display on their product labels and can be found at http://www.usp.org/USPVerified/dietarySupplements/supplements.html
Nutrisearch Using the scientific insights of 12 independent nutritional authorities, an ideal blended standard founded on 18 critical Health Support Criteria was used to analyze multivitamin supplements. These criteria include:
Bio-activity of Vitamin E
Phenolic Compounds Profile
A more complete discussion of each criterion, including scientific references, is available on the Nutrisearch website at http://www.NutriSearch.ca Click on the “rating criteria” link. The Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements™ is also found in print for a complete review including charts and graphs comparing the efficacy of 1500 tested multivitamin supplements. I can guarantee that by investigating the manufacturing practices of your nutritional supplement company, the results of third party quality assurance, and the efficacy of the formula used as seen in NutriSearch’s Comparative Guide™ , you will be able to choose a multivitamin that is suitable for you and your family’s use. I know I did!