What makes a Premium Quality Supplement: The Facts you Need to Know
Nothing can be more overwhelming than deciding firstly, if you need to supplement your diet and then, choosing what brand of supplements to purchase. There’s so much noise in this space with literally hundreds of brands to chose from. As you can imagine, like all things, all supplements are NOT created equal. AND QUALITY MATTERS. Most countries have poor or non-existent regulation when it comes to supplements and it’s super important, as health conscious consumers, that we educate ourselves on what to look for when purchasing a dietary supplement. I’m sharing my expert advice on safer shopping selections and also some of my favorite, top quality supplement brands to help you shop like a Pro!
Firstly, it’s important we define what a supplement is. Supplements or dietary supplements are products that people consume to have additional amount of nutrients or other compounds in their bodies. They’re used mostly for maintaining or boosting the health and/or performance of your body or to fill a gap for a vitamin or mineral like iron, magnesium, etc.
When looking for supplements there are some specific factors that you should keep in mind to make sure their high grade. The quality of the supplement serves as a deciding factor in its efficiency and safety in your body. To make sure your supplement is professional-grade there are a few things that you should absolutely steer clear of. I created this check list to help you shop smarter.
1. Lab verified/third party quality certifications, certified organic and good manufacturing practices (GMP’s)
This is one of the most important aspects of purchasing a quality supplement. I would take a supplement that wasn’t quality controlled. With limited regulation in this industry it’s important that you do your due-diligence and check your labels carefully and look for confirmation or lab verified/third party quality certifications, certified organic and good manufacturing practices (GMP’s). High quality supplements will have been through the following process:
- Ingredient Review and Verification Testing
Our toxicologists and analytical chemists verify what’s on the label is in the bottle in the amount shown.
- Contaminant Review and Testing
Our analytical chemists and microbiologists test the product to ensure there are no unacceptable levels of contaminants, such as the toxic heavy metals.
- Facility Inspection
Our highly trained auditors scrutinize manufacturing facilities’ processes annually to ensure they follow Good Manufacturing Practices when making dietary supplements. This ensures those manufacturers have quality controls in place to make products safe for us to use.
2. Certain synthetic vitamin forms
The back of every vitamin label consists of what compounds are present in the bottle. My general rule of thumb is, the longer the line and more complex the name of compounds present inside the bottle, the lower quality the supplement is. I chose as close to single-ingredient formulas as possible. Sometimes when you are lucky you can find these chemicals line by line with their vitamin name on the supplement fact panel. But other times, these vitamins are listed in one line and the forms of their nutrients are written under the ingredients, this makes it really hard to decipher which nutrient belongs to which chemical name.
Based on the nutrient form, you can easily tell if they are of superior or inferior quality as these forms tend to have varying degrees of absorption. You can check which form of a specific nutrient is of superior quality and then draw your judgment from there if the supplement is high quality. We know that dietary supplements offer a wide range of health benefits, but some can also include potential risks, such as heavy metals, which are commonly found in supplements.
3. Heavy metals
Lead, the most well-known toxic heavy metal, can harm the brain development of infants and children. The U.S. FDA, European Union and other regulatory bodies have paid close attention to lead in children’s foods and set policies to reduce its presence. Cadmium is another toxic heavy metal that may cause kidney damage, and arsenic is known to cause cancer and can be absorbed by rice from contaminated fields. Finally, mercury is a neurotoxin and consumed in the fish we eat.
While many elements — like iron, calcium and magnesium — are essential, others — like heavy metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium and hexavalent chromium — are highly toxic to humans. Arsenic, a metalloid per the strict technical definition, is sometimes also referred to as a heavy metal. Like other contaminants, safe levels of these heavy metals in food and dietary supplements have been identified to ensure those products are safe for people to take or eat. The best way to protect yourself from getting too much of a toxic heavy metal is to purchase supplements, performance protein powders and other products that have been evaluated (as I outlined in point 1 above) to confirm that the ingredients listed are what is actually in the package or bottle and that they do not contain heavy metals at unsafe levels.
2. The 4-1-1 on Gummies and tablets
Supplements are available in various forms – gummies, capsules, tablets, liquids, etc. and each has a different effect on your body.
Gummies: Gummies are a part of a genius marketing strategy. However, they are loaded with sugar, artificial flavors, and colors. Moreover, they are not entirely effective or contain a therapeutic amount of the supplement.
Tablets: Tablets make it difficult to pack high doses of nutrients and potency inside them and are typically glued together using glues, fillers, and binders. They are also harder to dissolve and absorb.
Powder-filled capsules or liquids: Supplements in both these forms are most effective. They are very easily digested and accommodate high potency formulas.
3. Unnecessary allergens, coatings, binders, excipients, or preservatives
To create a supplement successfully manufacturers should make sure that the integrity of the nutrient is not compromised during the production process. However, the supplement also comprises some other additives that help in delivering the active substance. These additives are binders, preservatives, excipients, or coating.
These are some of the additives that you may see and want to avoid in your supplement:
Polyethylene glycol: It has a laxative effect on the body and is often used as a pill coating.
Magnesium stearate: This compound helps in the manufacturing of the product and it interferes with the dissolving of supplements in your body.
Lactose, Caesin or Milk Sugar: May upset your digestive system.
It’s not uncommon to see milk or the following allergens in supplements: shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, gluten, soybeans, corn or yeast.
4. Artificial sweeteners, flavors, and dyes
It is always in your best interest to avoid all the colors, flavors, and sweeteners in your supplement as they are responsible for imbalanced gut health and blood sugar regulation. Some studies also suggested that the consumption of these compounds may be linked with ADHD, behavioral changes, and even carcinogenic activity.
These are some of the artificial ingredients that you must avoid:
- Artificial flavors
- Aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame, and other artificial sweetner
- Synthetic colors like brilliant blue, Red 40, FD&C, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6
5. Presence of mineral oxides, carbonates, and salts
Taking mineral supplements is pretty tricky since you can only obtain them from external sources such as food or supplements due to your body’s inability to create them. Moreover, when you are taking more than one at a time, then they will compete against each other for absorption. The absorption of these minerals gets harder with age because some of the minerals require stomach acid to be broken down effectively and as we get older, we are prone to decreasing digestive enzymes and stomach acid.
Lower quality mineral supplements are generally harder to break down by our body and they have difficulty passing through the digestive lining. Minerals such as oxide forms, carbonates, mineral salts, etc. can be made of inferior quality. Check the label to see if it contains zinc oxide or magnesium oxide as both of those have poor absorbability in our bodies and will impact how your body uptakes the supplement.
How to make sure a supplement is of good quality?
- Always remember that natural doesn’t translate to safe.
- Look for labels such as certified organic and lab verified.
- Make sure the bottle is sealed securely when first opened.
- Ask a certified nutritionist, your physician or a healthcare provider to check if the supplement you are considering would be beneficial or safe for you.
- Always make safety a priority by applying the above principles in deciding whether to purchase a consume a supplement.
In closing, it’s so important to always remember that you can’t out-supplement a poor diet and a ‘food-first’ and then filling your individual gaps with quality supplements is always the best approach to achieving optimal wellness.
If you need help refining your supplement regime, or you’re unsure of whether you need to be taking supplements schedule a 1×1 e-consult with me here
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