It seems like all corners of the internet are overflowing with ads for vitamins, herbal medicines, fat loss supplements, muscle building shakes and sleeping pills.
As someone who has worked in the health industry for several years, I know that much, if not most, is just mess. It is charlatans and hustlers who are trying to get a quick sum of your pain points. There are fantastic marketers who know that phrases such as "rapid flash decline in lightning" and "banish cellulite forever" sell products that may or may not be a straight flicker.
In the largely unregulated supplement industry, many products are ineffective, full of fillers or uncovered ingredients. Some are completely dangerous. Who can you trust? How do you know which supplements are best for you? Which products are actually effective ̵1; and safe to take?
I would like to recommend the rest of this article with two very important disclaimers:
First, it is impossible to cover everything you need to know about choosing safe and effective supplements in an article. To learn more, read official information from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), and the US National Library of Medicine. While I cite many primary studies in this article, you can browse the PubMed database for more information on specific supplements., Their use, benefits and risks.
Second, although I have education in diet, anatomy and physiology, I am not a registered dietitian or physician of any kind. If you are interested in taking supplements for a particular symptom or medical condition, please, please please consult a registered dietitian or your doctor before doing so.
Now on what you should know about dietary supplements before wasting your money.
first Supplements are not strictly regulated by the FDA or USDA
At present, the supplement industry is largely unregulated, especially when compared to the food and pharmaceutical industries. The FDA still uses an act that was passed nearly 20 years ago – the Health Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA) – which has only one real provision: "Manufacturers and distributors of dietary supplements and dietary ingredients are prohibited from marketing products that are counterfeit or inaccurate brands. "
This means that the manufacturers themselves are responsible for testing the safety and efficiency of their products, as well as for labeling their own products. The FDA may turn down a supplement after it hits the market if it is incorrectly labeled or uncertain, but at that point it may already be hurt.
You can learn more about what is needed by supplement manufacturers by reading the FDA's Frequently Asked Questions on Supplements. However, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced in a statement in February 2019 that he plans to implement stricter regulations, so things are definitely looking for the supplement industry.
However, here are some examples of what has happened in the past due to the low level:
- Companies have sold highly concentrated caffeine powder and liquid in bulk to consumers. The FDA has decided an illegal and unsafe practice.
- A complementary brand sold products with dangerous hidden ingredients. The FDA has issued warnings to both consumers and businesses.
- Supplemental companies claim to illegally treat opioid use disorder. The FDA published warning letters to the companies.
- Nearly 20 additional brands sold products with illegal claims for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. The FDA sent warning letters to all companies.
2nd You should not take the same supplements as all other
If your diet, lifestyle, fitness routine, sleep habits and health status are not the same as anyone else's, why would it make sense to take the same supplements as everyone else?
For some supplements, this is obvious: You may not feel inclined to take a high-calorie, high-protein and high-carbohydrate cake after exercise if you didn't try to build muscle. You probably wouldn't reach for sleep aids unless you have trouble sleeping at night.
For other additions, the disconnection is not so conspicuous. Everyone needs vitamins, right?
Yes, everyone needs vitamins and minerals and other certain nutrients (here is a very useful PDF chart from the FDA about the key nutrients, their functions and RDA), but not everyone needs the same amount of the same nutrient.
Take vitamin B12 as an example: People who eat a vegan or vegetarian diet may benefit from supplementing with B12 as this vitamin is mainly found in animal products or fortified products. If you eat eggs, dairy products, chicken, seafood or steak, you probably do not need extra vitamin B12.
If you are interested in learning more about the vitamins you actually need, I highly recommend that you read The Vitamin Solution by Dr. Romy Block and Dr. Arielle Levitan, two doctors who founded Vous Vitamin, a personal multivitamin company.
I found this book to put together all the necessary knowledge about vitamins, minerals and other supplements in a way that is easy to understand and can help you decide which supplements are best for you – or at least open up a helpful discussion with your doctor.
3rd Supplements do not replace whole foods
Unfortunately, it is a myth that taking vitamins and supplements can replicate a healthy diet. Just as you cannot "exercise" a bad diet, you also cannot "extend" one. Vitamins can certainly help bridge the gap between what you get from your diet and what you don't, but using supplements as a way to "fix" your diet doesn't work.
There are so many nuances here. For example:
That list is far from comprehensive, but you can see that vitamins and supplements not only magically undo bad eating habits. Scientific conclusions vary widely – from "we don't need vitamins at all" to "the benefits outweigh the risks" – but the general consensus seems to be that vitamins and supplements can help prevent nutritional deficiencies in certain populations and when taken properly and support the health associated with a nutritious diet.
4th Yes, you can overdose on vitamins and supplements
A common vitamin myth is this: "If I take too many vitamins it is fine, because my body will only retain what it needs and get rid of the rest as waste."
This is a pervasive way of thinking but a dangerous one. You can actually overdose on vitamins. The term is "vitamin toxicity" and it can happen to any vitamin. For almost every vitamin, there is an established recommended daily allowance (RDA) or adequate intake (AI), as well as a tolerable upper intake level (UL).
RDA or AI means an ideal daily intake while UL indicates the high end of what is safe to consume. RDAs, AIs and ULs are all values under Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs), the set of reference values assigned to foods and dietary supplements for consumption.
Recently, experts have seen an increase in vitamin D toxicity, probably related to education vitamin D's benefits of immune function, bone health and mood.
It is not just vitamins that can be toxic either: Minerals taken in high doses can be toxic, as are electrolytes, herbs and sports supplements. Zinc, for example, a mineral known and loved for its immune-boosting properties, can actually cause immunosuppression in extremely high doses.
High caffeine supplements can cause abnormal heart rhythms and severe overdoses can be fatal. Potassium, a well-known electrolyte found in foods such as bananas and spinach and in sports drinks, can also cause toxicity. This is called hypercalcaemia, and this condition can lead to muscle weakness, fatigue, nausea and, in severe cases, life-threatening heart rhythm.
Exceeding UL for any vitamin, mineral, electrolyte or other supplement can cause injury, so be sure to examine any dietary supplements you intend to take.
5th Supplements can dangerously interact with medicines you take
If you are currently taking prescription or non-prescription medications regularly, you should talk to your doctor about drug-nutrient interactions.
A drug-nutrient interaction is any reaction that occurs between a vitamin, mineral, antioxidant, electrolyte or other nutrient and a drug. A drug-drug interaction is any reaction that occurs between a supplement and a drug.
Good intentions to supplement your diet with vitamins, minerals and herbs can backfire and cause complications. Take these examples:
How to choose the right supplement for you
If you are generally healthy and want to take supplements for general health, I think the best way is to use a personal multivitamin service, such as Vous Vitamin, Baze or Persona Nutrition. This is not as good as going to a doctor or dietician, but it is much better than just pulling the first multivitamin bottle you see in your shopping cart.
Some of these companies have more thorough personalization processes than others, but in general, with a personal multivitamin, you can feel confident that you are not getting too much of a specific vitamin or consuming a vitamin that may be necessary or actually harmful to you .
If you do not go that route (and even if you do) you should always (always!) Look for signs that a supplement is legitimate. By legitimate I mean that it has undergone third party testing and / or evaluation, and it is certified to contain no other ingredients than what is on the label (even if it has no shady fillers). These signs are:
- National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) certification. NSF is a third party evaluation agency for food and dietary supplements. When an add-on sports the NSF-certified label, it means that it has undergone a thorough safety and risk assessment and is continuously undergoing "regular on-site inspections of manufacturing facilities and periodic re-testing of products to ensure they continue to meet the same high standards required. to maintain certification over time. "
- US Pharmacopeia (USP) Verified Mark. The USP is a non-profit, independent organization that evaluates medications, foods and supplements to determine their safety and efficacy. The USP verified mark on an add-on means that the add-on fulfills four critical components, which you can read about on the USP add-on standards.
- Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) certification. This is the FDA-related supplementation certification. The FDA has established good manufacturing practices for supplementary production, and supplements that have this certification meet the FDA's guidelines for production.
Even better, look for a nutrition facts label versus an additional facts label. A nutrition facts label means that the product is sold as a food product, not a supplement, which means that it has been evaluated and approved by the FDA for human consumption. A complementary food supplement with a nutritional fact label, an NSF certification, a USP-certified brand and GMP certification is the best of the best.
To avoid vitamin toxicity, check the labels of each supplement you take. If you take several supplements every day and also get vitamins from food, you can put yourself at risk for vitamin toxicity – for example, if your protein shake is fortified with vitamin B12 and your multivitamin contains 250% of vitamin B12 DRI, you may want to replace it them or choose another protein shake that is not enhanced.
Finally, I end with the same feelings I opened with: Contact your doctor or a registered dietitian if you are interested in taking vitamins or supplements for a specific symptom or medical condition.
Not only can supplements dangerously interact with medications you are already taking, it is important to exclude any medical conditions that may need to be treated with prescription drugs.
The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified healthcare provider for any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objective.