If you are taking a supplement or considering taking one to improve your health, reduce symptoms of a condition, or prevent the progression of an existing condition, you aren’t alone. Many Americans take supplements, from those intended to boost the immune system to those intended to stave off osteoporosis from aging. There are important things that those taking supplements should be aware of to protect themselves and their families.
1. There are no federal testing regulations for supplements.
Millions of Americans take supplements to help treat medical conditions or make up for something that they know is lacking from their diet. Those supplements, however, have not been tested for safety, purity, or whether or not they live up to the claims on their labels.
2. Many supplements are imported.
A substantial portion of supplements sold in the United States of America are actually manufactured abroad and then imported. They are labeled and marketed by domestic companies, often creating the impression that they were manufactured in the United States. It’s also common for the pills that are manufactured domestically to import their various ingredients, leading to the same issues with lack of testing and regulation in the countries where the ingredients are made.
3. Imported supplements may have actual prescription drugs in them.
In order to boost performance, some manufacturers, particularly those located in other counties, may intentionally spike their supplements with the active ingredients of prescription medication. Some Chinese virility supplements have been found to contain Viagra. Accidentally consuming a prescription medication can cause a lot of issues, including a dangerous drug interaction.
4. Content of supplements may vary substantially compared to what’s on their label.
In some cases, a single capsule or pill could contain twice as much of the active components as they claim. In others, it may contain a ridiculously lower dose. Testing by the attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, in 2015 showed that common supplements sold by major retailers varied from the content indicated on their labels a staggering 79 percent of the time.
5. It is possible to overdose on certain supplements.
This may confuse some people, but to paraphrase what the father of modern pharmacology, Paracelsus said, the poison is in the dose. In normal doses, Vitamin C can prevent scurvy and maintain health. In high doses, it can cause illness and even miscarriage in pregnant women. It’s important to know what the risks are for taking too much of any of the constituent ingredients in a supplement or vitamin and to monitor yourself for any concerning symptoms.
6. Vitamins and supplements are very different.
There are only 13 vitamins. While all vitamins, from A, C, D, E, and K to the eight B Vitamins, can be taken as supplements, not all supplements are vitamins. In fact, many contain herbs, minerals, or other compounds such as fish oil. Any pill, capsule, or liquid suspension ingested with intent to increase intake is a supplement. Neither vitamins nor supplements are subject to federally mandated quality control testing.
7. Finding quality supplements is difficult.
As mentioned above, nearly four out of five supplements sold at popular retailers did not contain the amount of ingredients advertised on their labels. Many companies import supplements of questionable quality, which may or may not be tainted with anything from dangerous chemical compounds to prescription drugs. Finding a supplement supplier that engages in regular quality control testing is important to safely taking supplements.
8. The FDA doesn’t check the effectiveness of supplements.
When you read online that certain kinds of fish oil, for example, are correlated with improved neurological function, those claims are almost always accompanied by an asterisk. Why? Because the claim of benefit has not been tested or evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. That means that those who make and package supplements can make any kind of claim as to their performance, provided there’s that asterisk or legal disclaimer.
9. Supplements can cause serious side effects.
Whether it’s because of a massive dose of a powerful herb, like Saint John’s Wort, which can reduce the effectiveness of both birth control and prescription antidepressants, or due to the presence of a contaminant, like a prescription drug compound, poorly made supplements can have serious, lasting impacts on the health of those taking them. Always familiarize yourself with the potential side effects of a supplement before starting it.
10. Many foods already contain supplements.
If you don’t eat red meat and can’t stomach leafy greens, you may think you need to supplement your iron intake. However, many foods, including breads, dairy products, and even processed food snacks, already contain supplemental amounts of important vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, like calcium. Be sure to factor this in when determining what dosage you think is appropriate.
All of these are prime reasons why it makes sense to source your supplements through trusted, professional sources. Buying the cheapest brand at a big box store is probably not doing you any favors. Work with professionals who are dedicated to your health and the safety of their supplements, like Supplement Finders!
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