(StatePoint) The supplement industry is booming, with more than four in five Americans taking vitamins or supplements, according to a recent Harris Poll on behalf of the American Osteopathic Association. Despite their popularity, the FDA doesn’t test the effectiveness, safety or quality of supplements or their ingredients.
To help you navigate this largely unregulated industry, NovaFerrum, a leading manufacturer of iron supplements for children and adults whose products have been clinically proven safe, effective and well tolerated, offers the following primer:
• Good sourcing. Where it comes from is almost as important as what’s in it. Manufacturers can cut corners by working with lower-quality global suppliers or operating in places that require little oversight. Look for products sourced and manufactured in the United States.
• Proper dosage. There is wide variation in the amount of active ingredients in each supplement. Some iron supplements, for example, contain only slightly more iron than a glass of tap water. Make sure you get what you’re paying for. On the other hand, taking too high a dosage can be dangerous. Know the Tolerable Upper Intake Level or UL (the maximum amount you can ingest without negative side effects) of each supplement you take.
• Truthful product claims. Don’t be fooled by product claims not backed by third parties. The “certified gluten-free” symbol on food packaging means stringent steps were followed to prevent gluten cross-contamination and that the food has been independently tested by a third party. Similarly, many products are listed as vegan, kosher and halal, but smart consumers know to look for those that are vegan-verified and Etimad Halal or Kosher certified.
• The right ingredients. While organic is a good thing when you buy vegetables, when it comes to products that require a shelf-life, this might not be the best approach. Some popular “all-natural” supplements have been recalled due to bacterial contamination. Without some level of preservative, harmful bacteria can grow in liquid supplements and make users seriously ill.
• Trustworthy brands. The supplement industry has experienced a number of lawsuits and recalls for issues related to ineffectiveness and adverse reactions. Do your homework.
• Science-backed products. Don’t trust your family’s health to a formula cooked up in a kitchen sink. Seek scientifically proven solutions based on years of pharmaceutical and health care experience and recommended by licensed medical professionals. Choose only supplements that have voluntarily undergone full-scale, multi-year clinical trials to prove that they’re safe, effective and well-tolerated.
• Easy ingestion. Look for infant and children’s products that actually taste good enough that they’ll take them. Also, when it comes to iron supplements, stick with formulations that reduce iron-related gastrointestinal side effects often experienced by people of all ages.
• Doctor-approved solutions. What you put into your body impacts your health in myriad ways, so choosing a supplement is essentially making a medical decision. Don’t rely on slick advertising. Always get your doctor’s counsel.
“Whether you’re taking supplements for athletic performance, to fill nutritional gaps or to boost wellness, it’s essential to make smart choices,” says Patrick Monsivais, CEO of NovaFerrum. “The good news is that with a little research, you can determine which are effective and made from high-quality ingredients, and which are a waste of money or, worse, potentially harmful.”