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5 Things to Look for in Buying Supplements

Posted 7/26/2016 by UHBlog

How do you know if the vitamin and/or mineral supplements you’re buying are right for you? Talk to us.

5 Things to Look for in Buying Supplements

If you take supplements, you’re not alone. An estimated two-thirds of adults and a third of children take at least one vitamin and/or mineral supplement every day.

But did you know that quality control is an issue in supplements? A recent study showed that almost 40 percent of supplements don’t contain the ingredients listed on the label, says naturopathic doctor and licensed acupuncturist Lina Sbrocco, ND, MSOM, NCCAOM, LAc.

“There’s a common misunderstanding regarding supplements that just because it’s natural, it’s safe,” she says.

Besides the issue of quality, Sbrocco says there can be interactions with prescription drugs and OTCs (over-the-counter) medicines. That's why she recommends always consulting a health care practitioner before starting any new supplements.

When shopping for supplements, Sbrocco recommends that you look for these five things before you buy supplements:

  1. Read the label. “It’s back to the basics,” she says. “Reading the label is the first thing you want to do. It will give you an idea of the quality of the supplement.”
  2. Look for certification. “First check for USP (which stands for United States Pharmacopeia),” Sbrocco says. “Under the USP certification, look for GNP – or Good Manufacturing Practices. These indicate strength, purity, potency and how the product will dissolve in your body.”
    According to Sbrocco, USP and GNP-certified products meet the FDA regulations for dietary supplements, which indicates they’re tested for consistency between each bottle.
  3. Check the price tag. USP and GNP certifications cost companies money, so not every supplement company invests in third-party certification.
    “A lot of the times, cost and quality correlate,” she says. “The cheapest is not always the best. Sometimes a higher-quality supplement will cost more than its competitor due to the company’s high quality control.”
  4. Review the other ingredients. She advises you read the other ingredients listed to make sure there aren't more than five items. Additionally, stay away from added sugars, colors, dyes and artificial flavors and colors.
  5. Check for possible allergens. “Many people have allergies to foods such as peanuts, dairy, seafood and wheat,” she says. “A high-quality supplement will list what allergens it is free from on the bottle.”

In addition to checking these five things before buying supplements, consider the source when you buy the products.

“A natural health food store or integrative health care practitioner will typically carry higher-quality ingredients,” she says.

“I recommend consulting an integrative health care practitioner before starting any new supplements," Sbrocco says. "Discussing your interest in adding supplements with your health care practitioner will help ensure coordinated and safe care. It’s important to educate yourself on the facts and issues surrounding herbal and other dietary supplements. Do your homework and invest in your health.”

If you need help, consider a naturopathic wellness consultation. A naturopathic doctor takes your complete health history with special attention paid to medications and possible herb-drug interactions. This doctor evaluates your dosage and quality of the product and creates an individualized plan for wellness based on your specific needs and goals. To learn more, visit University Hospitals Connor Integrative Health Network online or call 216-285-4070.

Lina Sbrocco, ND, MSOM, NCCAOM, LAc is a naturopathic doctor and a licensed acupuncturist with UH Connor Integrative Health Network. You can request an appointment with Sbrocco or any other UH Connor Integrative Health Network provider online.

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