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Do vitamins and supplements work?

Updated on May 23, 2013

Common multivitamin

Which vitamins work and where to buy them

It is difficult not to get confused when shopping around for a vitamin or other supplement. Every company has their own angle on how to sell you on their vitamin. Ours uses nano science! No ours is the most easily absorbed! No our formulation is based on the latest research! But which one is actually the best?

The wellness industry is booming. People are becoming more health conscious and looking for ways to stay healthy and avoid disease. One of the main ways people look to do this is to take their daily vitamins, minerals, herbs, anti oxidants, and other pills. People who have joint pain take chondroitin and msm, people take red rice yeast for high blood pressure, people take calcium/magnesium to maintain strong bones, and the list goes on and on.

But do the claims that these supplements make hold true, or are you wasting your money? This is a tricky question to answer. Here is why. Lets say that a discovery is made that green tea extract contains a high amount of anti oxidants. Every supplement manufacturer around decides to use this knowledge to manufacture green tea extract pills. The label on the bottle reads (Green tea extract) 100mg. Okay, so why is one priced at $4.99 while the other is $9.99? The cheaper one is a better deal right?

The problem with health supplements is that not all companies use standardized methods to manufacture them. This means that while the supplement contains the green tea extract and the amount is 100mg, it doesn't say (active ingredient green tea catechins standardized to 20%.) When you buy a drug for example, it says this is the pill and here is the active ingredient and the exact percentage or dosage of that active ingredient. But most health supplements don't say this and it is because they are just hoping that the green tea or whatever it is they are selling has some of the beneficial ingredients. But there is no guarantee of it. So while the bargain brand may look attractive, it might actually contain less of the stuff that is beneficial.

Vitamins are the same way. There is a lot of debate about whether synthetic vitamins or natural forms of the vitamin are better. The synthetic forms can be manufactured cheaply and offer some benefits. But what if the synthetic forms aren't utilized in the same way by the body and end up simply coming out the other end. A lot of people believe that many vitamins, because they aren't in forms that aren't easily absorbed by our bodies, simply end up in the sewer system. What a waste of money, right?

My recommendation

I am a health care provider which enables me to register with certain companies that sell their supplements through a network of doctors, acupuncturists, naturopaths, chiropractors, massage therapists, nutritionists, etc. But what can you do if you can't register to get the wholesale rate when buying supplements for yourself? Even though you could buy supplements from your doctor if they sell them, you will pay a premium price. The markup is usually 100%, so if I sold you a supplement that I paid $10 for, you would buy it from me for $20. I personally don't resell supplements, but rather recommend them and point people in the right direction.

I have found that the same supplements I buy, sold "exclusively" through health care providers can be found on Amazon or Ebay and the markup is only about 15-20%. So you are still getting a good price on the supplement, and it makes buying your supplements more convenient since your doctors office might not have everything you need in stock.

Another route to take would be to purchase the supplement from your pharmacy or doctors office the first time to try it out, and then do a search for it online and compare the pricing to see if you can save money buying it online. Don't worry about your doctor not making $10 off selling you a bottle of pills, they make plenty of money other ways.


So I have explained some of the differences between store bought supplements and those sold through your health care providers and how to find the better supplements online. But I want to add that the world of supplements is always changing. But do your research and make sure you purchase supplements from a reputable company that values research and science before making a quick buck.

If you don't have time to do the research yourself, it's okay. While many primary care physicians have lacked training in nutrition in the past, more and more are beginning to take more time with patients regarding their diet and supplementation to promote optimal health. Ask your doctor or alternative health care provider for some recommendations, and go from there. Remember that if you want to find affordable supplements, you can often buy them cheaper online.

My goal is to promote good health for my clients and help people. I believe nutrition is a key to maintaining good health and can prevent many diseases that arise from lack of good diet and nutrients that we simply can't get any other way aside from a standardized health supplement.

So take some time to discover which supplements are easily absorbed, high quality, and based on science. Then you can feel confident that your money is well spent as you swallow those pills everyday.


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