- Alternative & Natural Medicine
How to Choose a Safe Health Supplement
The bottles, pills, nutritional powders, and chews in the supplement aisles can make you anxious, there’s so many choices and so many fantastic claims about various health products. How do you determine what’s best for you? How do you know what to believe? Seeking instruction from your doctor and using this guide will make the nutritional supplement and vitamin selection process much easier.
Dietary supplement manufacturers and distributors are not required to obtain approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before marketing supplements. The FDA doesn’t require dietary supplement makers to substantiate efficacy, purity or potency. Prior testing or notification to the FDA is not required before a supplement is put on the store shelves. Therefore, the dietary supplement manufacturers and distributors are largely self-regulated. This is an important point to understand when reading the claims of dietary supplement manufacturers.
A consumer must never forget that supplements should be used to augment your diet not take the place of eating in a healthy manner. Also, take supplements in moderation. Too much of any nutritional supplement could prove toxic to your body, not all of it is water-soluble and will wash out in your urine. Avoiding any supplement that claims to contain 175% of the RDA for any given nutrient is a good rule of thumb. Actually,reading the back of the box or bottle for the ingredient list and the percentages of each nutrient is a prudent move.
Having an open and honest discourse with your primary care physician about every supplement you are taking or even thinking about taking is important. No matter how benign you think a supplement is, it is a good idea to inform your doctor. Supplements may have dangerous interactions with certain medications. For instance, certain antidepressants are less effective when mixed with ginkgo biloba. Your doctor can start looking for particular symptoms and side effects associated with the supplements you take.
Make sure the U.S. Pharmacopeia Convention USP seal is on the supplement. USP conducts verification programs for dietary supplement products and ingredients. Products that meet the requirements of the program can display the USP Verified Dietary Supplement Mark on their labels. You can find a list of verified supplements at usp.org.
The FDA keeps a page of tainted products marketed as dietary supplements, you can access it here. You can go to consumerlab.com to read reports and independent tests on health and nutritional products. Another organization that conducts independent tests on nutritional supplements is NSF International. NSF ensures that dietary supplements in fact contain the ingredients they display on their labels. Go to nsf.org/certified/dietary for more information.
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