There are so many types and brands of supplements on the market today that it is hard to know which are quality brands and are safe. If you would like a supplement review or help with implementing lifestyle changes, give our office at call, (425) 686-4498 for an initial consultation!
Trouble Choosing Supplements?
There are so many types and brands of supplements on the market today. Many people are left confused and overwhelmed when they try and get supplements at the store.
Which ones do I need?
What brands are “good”?
How much do I take?
That is where a naturopathic doctor steps in! During a Naturopathic Doctor’s 4-5 year doctorate program, they study vitamins, minerals, herbs as well as take several courses learning how to read and analyze research studies. This vast knowledge base, gives naturopaths an advantage when it comes to dietary supplements because we are trained how to look at a supplement bottle (or evaluate a supplement company) and determine if what they put in the supplement is high quality, well researched, and if the ingredients are active and safe for their patients.
Why is it important to know what is in your supplements?
Supplements are meant to produce a desired therapeutic effect in your body. If you are taking supplements that do not contain active ingredients, have potential allergens or toxins in them, or are rancid. You are not only wasting your money but you are compromising your health.
Unfortunately in the United States, supplements are not regulated as closely as pharmaceutical drugs in regard to production and distribution. According to the FDA, the government will intervene and take action against any adulterated or misbranded dietary supplement product after it reaches the market. This gap creates a market where there are tons of supplement companies out there and some are producing supplements that are not well researched, may contain lots of “fillers”, and have inactive ingredients.
A recent article, created quite a buzz regarding the supplement industry. The article from February 2015, stated that New York state attorney’s office accused four national retailers of selling dietary supplements that were fraudulent, showed contamination, and unlisted ingredients. This was quite a shock to most people, as Target, one of the retailer’s listed in the article was found to sell poor quality supplements.
This is why, as a consumer, it is important that you know what you are taking and WHY you should be taking that particular supplement.
What are the components of a “supplement”?
Supplements can be composed of vitamins, minerals, herbs, enzymes, amino acids, and may even be protein powder. Each supplement has to be manufactured in order to be consumed. Depending on the type of supplement being made, possible forms include: a capsule (has a shell with the ingredients inside), a tablet, soft-gels, a powder, liquid mixture, etc. It is each company’s discretion on how they make their supplements and what substances they may add to aid in manufacturing.
Here is a list of common components that are used when making supplements and what to watch out for when looking at a supplement label:
- Synthetic vitamins: was this supplement modified? A good example of this is taking ascorbic acid out of vitamin C and selling the supplement as “vitamin C (ascorbic acid)”.
- Binders: Added to help bind tablets together. A common binder you will see in supplements is cellulose.
- Lubricants: Lubricants are used to assist in the manufacturing of the supplement so the supplement will not be destroyed during processing. A common lubricant you will see is magnesium stearate, silica, or stearic acid. The issue with adding lubricants is that they may lead to lower absorption in the body of the nutrient.
- Coatings: Coatings are used to coat tablets for easier swallowing. Common key words of coating ingredients are: glaze, shellac, “natural vegetable coating”, maize protein.
- Coloring: Typically when you see any “added color” it is just for cosmetic purposes. Common artificial colors used: Yellow #5, Blue #2, Ren No. 40. Some studies have linked food colorings to neurotoxicity and increased risk for cancer.
- Fillers: Fillers add “bulk” to the capsule or tablet. Common key words that signify fillers are: hydrogenated oils, maltodextrin, xylitol, or other sugars (sucrose).
When searching for supplements use this list of supplement “no-no”s:
If you see these key words, put the bottle down
- Artificial colors: examples: Yellow #5, caramel color
- Propylene glycol: its in antifreeze, just stay clear of it!
- Titanium dioxide: used as a pigment in supplements and has been linked to autoimmune disorders. There is a lot of research on the carcinogenic effect of inhaled titanium dioxide and several studies looking at Titanium dioxide’s role in producing reactive oxygen species and inducing DNA damage in in vitro studies.
- Magnesium stearate: not necessarily “toxic” but it may decrease nutrient absorption in the body.
- Lactose and Maltodextrin = not a hypoallergenic supplement. Maltodextrin contains gluten ingredients. Lactose is a component of dairy.
Key words you WANT to see on a label:
- Hypoallergenic: aka this product is “non-allergy” producing, does not contain common allergens such as gluten, dairy, soy.
- In the “Other Ingredients” list: fewer ingredients listed the better
- Contains no “preservatives, artificial flavors, colors”
- The ingredients are listed with amounts (%) of active ingredients in the product
- An expiration date! (especially important for fish oils and probiotics)
- Has it been researched or tested?
To save you TIME and $$$, get high quality supplements from a trusted brand or ones prescribed by your naturopathic doctor. Just to stress a point. The purpose of taking supplements is for them to correct any imbalances in the body as well as prevent dis-ease from occurring. If the supplement, contains inactive ingredients, toxins, and are rancid “went bad”, you are just taking pills that are simply “just passing” through and wasting your time and money.
A good rule to go by: don’t buy your supplements at the same place you buy bleach.
If you would like a supplement review or help with implementing lifestyle changes, give our office at call, (425) 686-4498 for an initial consultation!
Osterberg, R, et al. Toxicity of excipients–a Food and Drug Administration perspective.Int J Toxicol. 2003 Sep-Oct;22(5):377-80.
- Cui, Y., et al. Gene expression in liver injury caused by long-term exposure to titanium dioxide nanoparticles in mice.Toxicol Sci. 2012 Jul;128(1):171-85.
Cunha, TA., et al.Effect of stearic acid on enalapril stability and dissolution from multiparticulate solid dosage forms. PharmSciTech. 2013 Sep;14(3):1150-7.
World Health Organization Quality of Medicines for Everyone, Contaminated magnesium stearate VG EP excipient manufactured by Ferro, supplied by Signet and used in finished pharmaceutical products, December 22, 2011
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Tagged In: fatigue, health, holistic nutrition, natural medicine, naturopathic doctor, nutrition, supplements, vitamins, whole foods
Dr. Ellie Heintze, ND, LAc
- Master’s Degree in Acupuncture
- Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine
- Master’s Degree in Chemistry
Northern Arizona University
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