Wouldn’t it be nice if we could get all of our daily nutrients simply from the food we eat?
Sure, cutting out processed, packaged, and preservative-filled foods is a good start. But even if you only ate fresh fruits, veggies, and other whole foods… it wouldn’t be enough.
Sadly, the soil our foods grow in has been slowly but steadily depleted of nutrients. This depletion carries over into the foods it produces. As the saying goes, you can’t give what you don’t have.
Health experts began realizing this and decided to take action. The world of dietary supplements came on the scene in the early 1900s (1), and since then a vast selection of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids, botanicals, herbs, and more began filling the shelves.
Not only that, supplement companies realized health is not a “one-size-fits-all” endeavor. To make it easier on the consumer, supplements began to come in many forms, like:
- Energy Bars
A large majority of people want to be healthy, and some of the most popular supplements on the market include fish oils, Vitamin D, the Vitamin B family, folate, multivitamins, fiber supplements, selenium, and more (3).
But what makes a supplement the “best of the best”?
It can be hard to determine, and here’s why. The FDA actually doesn’t regulate the supplement world, which makes it a bit of a Wild West out there.
Shady ingredients, fillers, and who-knows-what can run rampant.
Here we’re sharing some of the criteria, concerns, and challenges supplements go through in order to be considered expert recommendations.
Do your supplements make the cut? Read on to learn more.
One of the biggest potential risks when it comes to supplements is the presence of heavy metals, bacteria, or pesticides.
While the FDA doesn’t regulate these issues, third party companies have stepped up to the plate to take on the role.
Some of these groups include organizations like U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), ConsumerLab.com, and NSF International. Some of these groups, such as the UPS, are nonprofits that help set the standard as far as what’s acceptable in supplements, and in what amounts (4).
Other groups are not-for-profit, such as the NSF. This group offer two types of certifications (2) to ensure products uphold a certain standard of quality. These certifications are:
- NSF Contents Certified
- NSF Certified for Sport
Bottom line: Always make sure your supplements are third-party tested. You should be able to verify this by the label, or information on the manufacturer’s website.
How do you know if your supplements are actually doing what they claim to do? Testing the effectiveness of a supplement can be tricky, as manufacturers are not required to submit extensive documentation and monitor adverse reactions, like most medication manufacturers (3).
So if evidence is something people want, where do you look? Studies are a good place to start, and more are coming out as time goes on. These studies range in size, time durations, and goals, with a variety of outcomes.
Peer review can also be a place to formulate an opinion. Keep in mind that some reviewers may have bene incentivized, which can result in a misleading or exaggerated opinion.
Even so, if a supplement has a majority of positive reviews, it can help you establish whether you want to try it or not.
Bottom line: Clinical studies on supplement effectiveness are on the rise. Peer review can also an area of consideration if you’re looking for more information.
Safety & Risk
When it comes to supplements, how do you know if it’s safe?
Here are a few things to keep in mind (5) when considering a new supplement:
- Pregnancy/Nursing: Due to the limited data available, many supplements aren’t considered safe to take while pregnant. That said, there are many herbal remedies that have been used for centuries without negative consequences
- Medications: Some supplements may interact with medications. One example is St. John’s wort. This supplement has been shown to reduce the effectiveness of some antidepressants, HIV medication, and some heart medications (6).
- Allergies: If you have a history of allergies, some supplements might not be the best option. This can include allergies to ragweed or other pollinating plants.
Many companies also “enrich” foods like cereals and drinks. This can give you more nutrients than your body actually needs. This might not sound like a bad thing, but your body processes vitamins and minerals differently. Some vitamins, like Vitamin D and Vitamin K, are stored in your fat tissues, and too much can be harmful.
Taking more than the recommended dose is the most common culprit.
If you take a supplement and notice symptoms of an allergic reaction, stop immediately.
You should also consult your medical professional before beginning any new supplement or product to ensure that it is right for you and your specific health goals or needs.
Bottom line: Anyone who takes a dietary supplement runs the risk of having an adverse reaction. Make sure supplements list some type of warning on their products or on their website.
Most people want to live healthier lives, but don’t always know what steps to take. Eating nutritious, whole foods is a good first step, but it’s only just part of the puzzle.
Because the soil isn’t what it used to be, dietary supplements are helping to fill nutrition gaps in many American’s diets. But not all supplements are created equal.
With quality, safety, and effectiveness, and you in mind, KaraMD offers an array of natural supplements that help people feel better and live happier.
Check out what we have in store here (7).
††This noted statement is based on independent research and is not necessarily the opinion of the author