The supplement market is exploding. In 2016, global supplement sales generated $133.1 billion, and the market is expected to grow by a CAGR of 9.6% through 2024. With so many sales of so many supplements, it can be hard to sift through the brands and types to find the best products.
A trip down the vitamin aisle or across the Internet is often confusing, and could leave you running the other way intent on just getting the nutrients you need from food. But know this: the modern diet doesn’t provide many of the key nutrients we need for vibrant health, which makes quality dietary supplements a must.
Why you need supplements
Today, processed foods make up nearly 70% of the American diet. Even if you do eat your veggies, unsustainable farming practices have left a lot of soil devoid of nutrients. So the fruits and veggies you’re eating often have fewer vitamins and minerals then you realize, which could leave your body at a deficit.
The foods we eat can also inhibit the absorption of nutrients. All things considered, our bodies are often running low on good fuel and key micronutrients. A study showed supplements are an easy, effective way of getting what you need—but only if you take quality products.
Supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA
But a challenge arises because the supplement industry isn’t regulated by the FDA. That means that, unlike pharma companies, supplement manufacturers don’t have to prove the quality or claims of their products. That leaves a lot of guesswork when searching for quality vitamins and protein supplements. And with recent reports about fillers, contaminants and substitute products in supplements, it’s more vital than ever to know if you’re getting a quality product.
Back in 2005, experts found that many supplements contained varying amounts of the vitamin they touted anywhere from 20% to 80%. The World Health Organization (WHO) called the tampering of herbal supplements a threat to consumer safety. A study into the quality of herbal supplements found that 42 of the 44 tested products either used substitute ingredients, contained contaminants or used fillers to save costs. Not only do these adulterations make the product less effective, but they can be downright dangerous depending on how a contaminant or filler might affect individual consumers.
Not all supplements are created equal
Consumers don’t have to stop taking supplements; they simply have to read the labels, reviews and know what they’re actually consuming. Here’s the bottom line on how to make sure the supplements you’re choosing are the highest quality.
Research the company/brand
If you have the choice between a long-respected brand or a cheaper brand with no name recognition, go for the respected one. A product that has stood the test of time is more likely to be clean than something nobody has heard of. Make sure the product has undergone rigorous quality testing by choosing supplements certified by ConsumerLabs, The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention or NSF International.
Don’t base your purchase on fancy wording and outrageous claims. Read ingredient lists, and choose products with the simplest ones. Don’t fall for overblown claims or mega-doses you don’t need. If you are celiac or sensitive to things like gluten, dairy or soy, check the label. These ingredients can be hidden under different names, so choose a product that is verified free of contaminants or such fillers.
Reading about other peoples’ experiences with a supplement can help you determine if the benefits touted are true. Honest, professional reviews of a product’s best and worst qualities can also give you vital insights as you look for the best quality supplements on the market.
Avoid products with artificial colors
Studies show links between artificial colors and behavioral problems in kids. Check labels to make sure your vitamins are as pure as possible, because they really don’t need color to deliver benefits.
Seek out quality manufacturers
Whenever possible, buy from the manufacturer. Or at the very least, know who manufactures the product, and make sure they use Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). GMP-certified facilities are inspected by the FDA to ensure they meet more than 140 operating procedures and maintain the highest quality.
Avoid vitamins that claim to do it all
While multivitamins can have a multitude of benefits, it’s important to choose ones that are specially formulated for you—that is, for men or women. Special formulations and targeted supplements are often indicative of higher quality.
Know the source of supplement ingredients
A manufacturer who has nothing to hide will often include the origin of ambiguous ingredients such as maltodextrin, which could be derived from a number of sources. These are often shown in parentheses after the ingredient. It’s vital to buy products that value such transparency, and your health and peace of mind.
Using genetically modified ingredients shows the manufacturer isn’t intent on keeping you healthy so much as saving costs. GMOs have been linked to cancer and digestive problems. The process is also bad for the environment. If a supplement manufacturer is bold enough to feed you GMO products, there’s no telling what else it might put into its products.
Choose the more expensive brand (unless you’re sure the cheaper option delivers the same quality)
A report showed that a number of herbal supplements sold at stores like Walmart and Target only contained a small amount of the herb, or none at all. We all love a good deal. But when it comes to supplements and your health, the cheaper products typically tend to be a poorer quality.
Still, don’t base your choice on price alone. Incorporate all the tips above in your supplement search for greater peace of mind and improved wellbeing.