The truth about supplements

The truth about supplements

With a global net worth of $140 billion, the supplement industry shows no signs of slowing down. Vitamin supplements are widely sold and consumed around the world, yet the industry isn't actually well regulated. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that organizations like the FDA and MHRA don't even inspect supplements the same way they do food and medicines. It's nearly impossible to get the whole truth about vitamins and supplements from manufactures and online retailers, unless the company pays for additional testing and advertises the results.

Inadequate Testing

Vitamins and minerals aren't subject to the same testing as clinical drugs such as those manufactured by "Big Pharma". In the United States, for example the FDA tests only 1% of approximately 65,000 supplements currently on the market. In short, you are likely taking a risk when consuming these products. It may seem like there isn't much you can do about this, but should you become ill or injured due to taking a supplement, you can speak to the best defective drugs and devices attorneys in your area. My expert advice is to purchase vitamins and minerals from a highly reputable manufacturer and retailer. Look for 'USP certified' on the bottle or on the company's website. This indicates independent oversight from an independent third-party not associated with the manufacturer, and has the necessary expertise to assess quality. The USP Dietary Supplement Verification Program is a voluntary program open to manufacturers of dietary supplement finished products from around the world.

Unsubstantiated Claims

Most supplements claim health benefits that are attractive to almost all of us at one point or another. For example, nootropic brain boosters typically state better concentration, increased neurological activity, and heightened awareness. These claims are usually backed up by "doctors" on a product landing page or testimonials on the product's website and eCommerce sites. Yet anyone can write a testimonial, and it's estimated that between 40% to 50% of web testimonials are fake. Typically, you will see many positive comments and one negative from an actual consumer.

Possible Allergens

Because of lax testing and inspection by regulators like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it is a possibility that allergens are contained within a product. This is because supplement manufacturers are not required to list allergens. This is of great concern since there are over 1,500 anaphylactic deaths per year in the United States alone. 

Probably Not Needed

Here's an unpopular opinion: you probably don't need all of the supplements that you currently take. We are constantly told that supplements are to be used as part of a healthy and active lifestyle with a varied diet. Unless you are on a restricted diet, subject to a medical condition that affects absorption, etc. you may be unnecessarily over-consuming. Eating a varied diet of colorful fruits, vegetables, and a range of whole grains, and plant foods will offer an excellent baseline.

May Cause More Harm than Good

As tempting as it is to think you require more vitamin intake via supplements, you probably don't since you get what you need from your diet. Common supplements like vitamin C, A, and B6 are widely consumed. Yet, these are dangerous when taken in large or excessive doses. Too much vitamin C can cause problems like kidney stones. Excessive Vitamin A can be toxic and can trigger headaches, seizures, and blurred vision when consumed in large doses. Vitamin B6 is one of the most widely consumed supplements because of its benefits, yet it can cause nerve damage when taken in excess amounts.

Bottom line? Be choosy and don't opt for cheap supplements just because you think you need them. Work with a dietitian to determine which vitamins and minerals you actually need to be supplementing with. I use micronutrient testing to help advise my clients on the supplements that their individual body's are needing. This helps avoid overspending, but also prevents unnecessary supplementation, which as we talked about already, can be dangerous.