If you have not read part 1 of this series to learn WHY you may benefit from using nutritional supplements, please check that out before reading further. This article will start to tackle WHAT to look for in a great nutritional supplement product.
[To prevent this blog series from being overly complicated, I am going to specifically address the multivitamin/mineral (MVI) supplement, rather than addressing all types of supplements. I need to save some material for later posts after all!]
So now that you know you probably need and may greatly benefit from taking a MVI, you head to the local CVS or Walgreens, browse through the endless shelves, and end up picking up a product that either you’ve heard of before, has an affordable price tag, or has “nice” packaging. FYI- these are not appropriate characteristics to assess products!
First, I recommend doing some research before even stepping foot inside of a store. Go in with a plan. Ask yourself some of these key questions to assess the quality of the product you plan to purchase.
Is the product certified for Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP)?
- This is a certification designed by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for the nutritional industry to ensure supplements are not contaminated, contain ingredients actually listed on the label, and are consistent with industry-wide standards.
- This certification does NOT necessarily ensure the quality, safety, or efficacy of the product. It is about the best the FDA can do at this point to regulate the ever-growing supplement industry. If the product does not have this symbol then you may want to avoid it.
Has the product been tested by consumerlab.com?
- This is a service that independently reviews supplements to assess their quality, purity, and efficacy. I hate to break it to you, but all supplements are not equal—some contain contaminants such as lead or other heavy metals, many do not contain the amount of an ingredient listed on the label, and most do not have proof of efficacy or safety. Buyer beware.
- You should check out this site, consumerlab.com, to figure out how your product of interest measures up. There is a minimal fee to access these reports.
Does the product contain any voluntary certifications?
- Check the label for a voluntary certification such as National Sanitation Foundation (NSF), United States Pharmacopeia (USP), and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
- These certifications do not necessarily correlate with superior products, but it can provide an extra layer of safety for the consumer.
What does the product cost?
- Most major brands selling a basic MVI go for <$10 for a one-month supply. Unfortunately, most high-end MVIs go for about $20 to $60 for a one-month supply. There is no need to spend half of your paycheck on a nutritional supplement, but you still want quality.
- For a manufacturer to attain high quality ingredients and get third party voluntary certifications, it costs them a pretty penny. Keep this in mind when you’re trying to save…you often get what you pay for.
Is there any additional information on the product manufacturer?
- Typically you can check out the manufacturer’s website to find out more information. Sometimes these companies have their own research-arm that provide efficacy testing on some of their formulations.
- You can also read testimonials and reviews about the product. And, if you’re lucky, there may be a coupon to help you save!
Is there an expiration date on the product?
- When you buy a product, it is vital to check the date the product was bottled as well as the date the product expires. If the product is past its expiration, it probably is not harmful but it probably is less potent.
- If a product label does not even contain an expiration date, this is a huge red flag! The product label could have been hampered with and you may not be getting what you paid for. Consider returning it immediately.
Phew…that was quite a lot to consider before buying a high quality MVI! But wait, there’s more. The next part of this series will address the ingredients in your product. You’ll find out specific nutrients to look for and how to know if they’re provided in an ideal form. You’ll also find out the difference between capsules, tablets, gummies, and liquid versions of MVIs. I’ll even fill you in on my favorite product that I use on myself, my family, and many of my clients with great success.