The Truth about Supplements
Many adults and children in the United States take one or more vitamins or other dietary supplements. Dietary supplements come in a variety of forms, including tablets, capsules, gummies, and powders, as well as drinks and energy bars. In addition to vitamins, dietary supplements can contain minerals, herbs or other botanicals, amino acids, enzymes, and many other ingredients. Now half of those may have sounded like gibberish so what if I were to tell you that there are supplements in pharmacies and on the grocery store shelves that aren't what they claim to be?
Who Verifies Supplements?
Products sold as dietary supplements come with a Supplement Facts label that lists the active ingredients, the amount per serving (dose), as well as other ingredients, such as fillers, binders, and flavorings. However, those ingredients ARE NOT verified by the Food and Drug Administration that the supplement truly contains what they say or even do whether they're contaminated with heavy metals, bacteria, or pesticides before they are sold. You may think that is bad but the FDA also doesn't verify that the supplements actually do what they say they are supposed to do!
This is why there are third party groups that have taken on the role of verifying supplements and their ingredients/product claims. These third-party testing groups include: ConsumerLab.com, NSF International, and U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP). Below is a more in depth chart (taken from consumer reports) of what each of these groups do!
These companies are using certain logos on products to make it easy for you to know if they were verified! Look for the following:
You can also download the NSF Certified for Sports app to check for 3rd party tested products so you know on the stop if you are looking at a verified product!
Supplements and Nutrition:
Some dietary supplements can help you get adequate amounts of essential nutritents if you don’t eat a nutritious variety of foods. However, supplements can’t take the place of the variety of foods that are important to a healthy diet.
Some dietary supplements can improve overall health and help manage some health conditions. For example:
Calcium and Vitamin D: can help keep bones strong and reduce bone loss
Folic Acid decreases the risk of certain birth defects
Omega 3 Fatty Acids might help some people with heart disease
These are just a few examples, however, all of these vitamins and minerals can be found in food. If you have the food sources available, try those first before referring to a supplement. If taking a supplement/vitamin means you're less likely to eat your vegetables or actual food sources, you should probably put the pills/powders down. While you can get the same amount of vitamins and minerals from pills, we know that food has other healthy things going for it (like antioxidants, fiber and a lot more)!
Supplements can not take place of our food sources! Continue to eat a variety of foods and you may never need a supplement or vitamin!
Be sure to consult with a dietitian if you feel you are lacking certain macronutrients/vitamins in your diet and are considering supplements! Also, consult with your healthcare provider before taking supplements to TREAT a health condition and make sure to get their approval before taking the supplement!