There has been and continues to be a lot of confusing information out there about nutritional supplements. Some say they are a must in our modern world where we can’t get the nutrition our bodies need from the foods we generally eat and that they are highly beneficial in ways that modern medicine isn’t (specifically in the area of preventing illness and disease). Others say they are a waste of money and we don’t need them at all. Setting that particular argument aside for another time, let’s say you want to take nutritional supplements and you want to know which ones would be best.
Perhaps you have gone to a natural health practitioner such as a Chiropractor, Certified Clinical Nutritionist, or Naturopath and they recommended some specific supplements for you. You may have been surprised that they seem to cost a bit more than the ones you find at your corner drug-store or big box store. You may wonder if they really are better than the cheap ones you can get online with a “buy 4 get one free” discount. The quick answer to that is; yes, they are. Here’s some information that will help you understand exactly why you often get what you pay for when it comes to supplements.
A fact some people find surprising is that there is no specific governing body that oversees the production of nutritional supplements and makes the companies comply with truth in labeling or quality control. The FDA inspects and investigates companies but there are thousands of companies out there making millions of supplements and they aren’t responsible for keeping up with all of it. That means a company can make a supplement and as long as it passes bare minimum standards, they can sell it. Let’s take an herbal supplement like Echinacea for example. There are certain parts of the plant that contain the beneficial properties you want to have and other parts that are benign. A non-reputable company can just take the whole plant, grind it up, put it in capsules and sell it as an Echinacea supplement. Sure it contains what it claims to but it’s not going to be as effective as a company who has done the research to isolate the effective substances, harvest and manufacture them with high quality standards and test it for potency before they sell it. Worst case scenario, the non-reputable company can also put in numerous fillers, additives and other substances and they may contain allergens that aren’t listed on the label. There have even been cases where supplements taken off of the shelves of places like Walgreens, Target, Wal-Mart and GNC were found to contain little to none of the substance they claimed and even contain things like common houseplants (view full article).
Natural health practitioners carry supplements from companies that will only sell to licensed professionals. Companies like Metagenics, Allergy Research Group, Pure Encapsulations, Vital Nutrients and Douglas Labs, among others, have products that are considered pharmaceutical grade and are only sold to licensed practitioners. They put millions dollars each year into research and development and hold themselves to the highest standards in quality control. The kind of supplements you should look for come from companies that are GMP certified (Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) is a system for ensuring that products are consistently produced and controlled according to quality standards), certified to be free of common allergens like gluten, nuts or corn and have science backed products. You want your supplements to not only have it in what they say is in it but be free from harmful substances. You want the product to deliver what it claims to deliver as you would with any product.
Another upside to purchasing products from these kinds of companies is that you know they have put extensive research into each one, that they are specifically designed to help certain health concerns and that the companies are committed to providing the highest level of purity and potency in their products. Since they only sell to licensed practitioners you also know that even the online sites where you can buy them are owned by someone who is informed and is also committed to quality in the products they offer.
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The most expensive supplement is the one that doesn’t work. Make sure you are buying quality products from reputable companies. Do your research. It will pay off in the end.
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Dr. Ron Ledoux is a licensed Chiropractor from the midwest who has been practicing since 2001. He’s also certified in clinical nutrition and has extensive training in nutritional therapies and is enthusiastic about educating and offering natural health care to his patients and the community.