Over half of Americans take vitamins, dietary supplements or herbs. Can you trust what you’re putting into your body? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) leaves it up to the manufacturer of supplements to test for safety and effectiveness. The FDA does not have the authority to approve (or even inspect) vitamins and supplements sold in the United States.
There are labeling guidelines that manufacturers have to follow, but policing the industry is a challenge. The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), the federal law that governs the supplement industry, essentially operates on the honor system.
Here are three tips to verify what you’re putting into your body.
1. Do Your Own Research
You may have to do some digging to find out more information about the supplement and its ingredients. The first place to go is fda.gov. Type in the name of the supplement into the search box. You’ll be able to see if the ingredient is subject to warnings or recalls.
Next, find out who currently owns the company that is making the supplement. Independently owned supplement companies are usually a safe bet because they know that their reputation is on the line. Brands that fall under a corporate umbrella often cut corners by making small changes to the formula that increase the profit margin.
Research the ingredient list. Don’t just go to the most obvious websites but look for research and studies about the products and what is in it. Some supplements contain similar active ingredients to prescription medication.
2. Look for Independent Certification
Third-party organizations test products to ensure quality. These laboratories do not test for the effectiveness of a product, but that the product contains the ingredients listed on the label and do not include any undeclared products. However, the testing is only on particular batches in most cases. There’s no guarantee that every batch will be the same unless the manufacturer requests testing for each batch.
USP, ConsumerLab and NSF’s Certified for Sport® are just a few of the third-party organizations that offer certification process for supplements and vitamins.
3. Talk to Your Healthcare Provider
You can overdose on vitamins for women. You should always discuss your situation with your doctor or pharmacist, or both. Your doctor needs to know any supplements you’re taking to ensure you’re getting the best care.
Just because a supplement is labeled as natural, doesn’t mean that it may not have adverse effects associated with it. For example, St. John’s wort reduces the effectiveness of blood thinners, but many products with St. John’s wort don’t contain that warning. Many supplements have unspecified drug interactions or should not be used if you have certain medical conditions, but most supplement labels are not that specific. St. John’s wort also inhibits the effectiveness of birth control pills.
Most vitamins and minerals have a Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA). Mega-doses of certain vitamins can cause liver or kidney damage. Large doses of iron can be fatal in children. The RDA for vitamin C is just 60 mg. The best Vitamin C supplement in a tablet form as reviewed on Reviews.com contains 1,000 mg. At that level, you might experience nausea and vomiting.
Many joint supplements and vitamins for men on the market are safe and effective. Don’t let these warnings scare you from taking a product that could be beneficial. Just make sure that what you are taking is a high-quality product, manufactured to the specifications being advertised.
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