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Eight Considerations When Selecting Supplements

Choosing the right supplements for you may be overwhelming. Below are some answers to common questions and other consderations to make regarding what to look for in a dietary supplement. 

How do I find the right supplement manufacturer?

It is important to look and find information about how it is that a company produces its supplements. Some key data points to look for on a manufacturer’s website are:

  • Look to see how they harvest their botanicals and herbs. In other words, learn how the company knows they have a good product.
  • Verify how the company does product control. Learning how the company makes the product in plain language is especially beneficial in choosing the right supplement.
  • Learn how the manufacturer of the supplement guarantees that what is labeled on the outside of the bottle is the same as what is inside the bottle. 

What do NSF and USP certifications mean?

On some supplement labels, there can be a certification from a third-party company, such as the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) or United States Pharmacopeia (USP). Generally, this means that the independent organization has reviewed the supplement’s manufacturing process and, independently, has determined that the final product follows standards for safety, performance, and quality.

My physician seems reluctant. 

Physicians, especially those who trained many years ago, may be cautious in recommending supplements because they remember when supplement products were available on store shelves that were not of good quality. However, the market has changed, with the quality of products increasing and good manufacturers coming into the marketplace as well.

It is important to discuss the pros and cons of taking certain supplements with your provider, as they can help figure out if the supplement is right for each individual. While not every provider may have all the answers, increasingly, most medical centers have a physician, pharmacist or someone trained to answer questions on supplements.

Are there prescription medications that cause interactions with supplements?

There are risks for certain herbs and drugs to interact adversely with one another, which highlights the importance of discussing taking supplements with your treating provider prior to consuming them.

Does the FDA play a role?

There may be a perception that the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, does not have much oversight in terms of supplements or that supplements are not well regulated. In turn, this perception may lead some to believe that supplements can cause harm. However, there are a lot of rules and regulations for supplements. In fact, the rules and regulations for supplements are similar to what is expected with drugs. If a drug causes an adverse reaction, it is labeled as either serious or minor. Serious adverse reactions need to be reported to the FDA immediately, and minor adverse reactions are collected, and much is learned about the safety of drugs from these minor adverse reactions.

If a serious adverse reaction occurs from a dietary supplement, this also needs to be reported to the FDA within 15 days. This quick response time allows the FDA to step in to analyze if there is a problematic product in the marketplace.

If a more minor adverse reaction occurs from dietary supplements, the manufacturer has more margin in reporting it; however, the information must be collected and tracked over time. Having this record is a way supplement products can stay safe.

Who monitors adverse events?

The manufacturer is required to collect the information if there is an adverse event. Most companies have an internal service so they can collect the data themselves and report it. One way to determine if a manufacturer is superior could be if they also have an independent, third-party to collect data. Some of the third-party companies may have toxicologist physicians or experts to look at the data to find out if anything with the product is changing or if unexpected adverse events are occurring.

How do I find the right supplement manufacturer?

CGMP stands for Current Good Manufacturing Practice in manufacturing, packaging, labeling, or holding operations for dietary supplements. It was enacted in 2010. It mandates that anybody who sells or manufactures supplements in the United States is supposed to follow these guidelines, which helped bring quality back up to market standards.

CGMP requires manufacturers of dietary supplements to have good control of the quality process from harvest to processing to having the product on store shelves.

Remember to always check the label. 

The label generally tells quite a bit of information about what is inside the product. It is important to verify that there are not ingredients in the supplement that individuals may want to avoid. Some products may contain filler ingredients or magnesium stearate, which really offer no health benefits and may even have some health risks.

*This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be substituted for medical advice. For medical questions and advice, it is always best to consult with your trained physician.

Source: [Thorne]. (2016, March 16). Mayo Clinic - How To Choose the Right Supplement Company [Video]. YouTube.

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