MOUNTAIN COMMUNITIES — More than half of Americans take an over-the-counter vitamin or dietary supplement, but many may not realize that the quality of these products can vary greatly. Because supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration like other medicines, not all are quality products.
A recent study in the “Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine” found that the amount of actual melatonin in 71% of supplements is off by a 10% margin, meaning that labels of many melatonin substances do not accurately reflect how much melatonin is in the pill. The study also found the amount of melatonin within pills in a single jar can vary by 465%. This incident illustrates the value of verification, which confirms what is on the label is what is in the bottle.
The following are some of the characteristics to consider when evaluating the quality of a dietary supplement
- Positive Identification: There are products on the market that do not contain the ingredients indicated on the label. Tests by an independent third party can confirm that what is on the label is in the bottle.
- Potency: It is crucial that ingredients are present in the right amount. Too little may have no effect on your health, while too much may be harmful.
- Purity: Unwanted ingredients can have a negative effect on health. Examples may include heavy metals, mold or mildew, and chemicals from pesticides.
- Performance: A pill or tablet must properly dissolve, or else ingredients cannot be absorbed by the body. In that case, it is more likely to pass through your system without any effect on your health.
Another example is saw palmetto extract, a supplement commonly used to support prostate health and help to reduce frequent urination. Studies indicate that not all saw palmetto products are the same. Differences in purity, potency and quality among the various available saw palmetto products are thought to affect the usefulness of these supplements.
“As with any supplement, a consumer should look for the most reliable option,” said Ed Wyszumiala, head of the Dietary Supplement Verification Program at U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), a health industry publication first established in 1820. “Only consistent and quality saw palmetto extracts have been shown to be effective based on clinical research. Tests by an independent third party can confirm that what is on the label is in the bottle.”
How to Make Supplements Part of a Healthy Daily Routine
Following a few simple guidelines can make it easy to include supplements as part of your daily routine.
1. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any supplements, as they may interact with your prescription medications.
2. Do your homework on the manufacturer to make sure it is a reputable company that adheres to good manufacturing practices and does not appear to be the subject of frequent consumer complaints.
3. Avoid companies making questionable claims about curing diseases and do your research on the science behind the products.
4. Carefully follow the directions on the labels, so you take the supplement exactly as intended.