Vitamins and Supplements 101
Monday, August 24, 2015

Summary

Four important things to consider when purchasing or using vitamins and supplements.

Vitamins and supplements in pill box

After the February 2015 announcement that the FDA and NY attorney general were investigating the fraudulent and even dangerous supplements at major retailers, many people became concerned about the quality and content of vitamins we purchase. Consumers were left with questions like: Is what I purchase safe? Is it effective? Is it a good use of money?  

Here are some tips to help you, as a conscientious vitamin and supplement user, tackle some of these questions.

1) Always consult a professional for supplement and vitamin advice. If you don’t have a naturopathic doctor as part of your health team, consider asking a health food or supplement store employee for advice -- but beware that the education and training of these employees is not as extensive as your naturopathic doctor’s.

2) Learn to scrutinize labels for content and quality:

  • Gummy vitamins taste great, but may have a lot of sugar, chemicals or food coloring additives, and contain fewer and lower doses of vitamins and minerals. Compare labels of gummy products and pill products.
  • Look for companies with good manufacturing practices. These companies will report submitting their products to third party quality assurance and batch testing, will be able to provide you with lot information, and may even advertise being GMO-free. For example when you buy fish oil, consider whether they test for heavy metal contamination, like mercury.
  • Look for food-based vitamins which are likely easier for your body to absorb.

3) Be wary of supplements which promise outlandish results without effort. Consider the motivation of the source of these promises. Even well educated professionals may offer bad advice to boost television show ratings, or try to make money by selling supplements that don’t perform as advertised to trusting individuals.

4) Interactions exist between supplements and medications. Most common interactions increase your metabolism of the drug, leaving it to be less effective or decrease the metabolism of the drug, allowing it to become more toxic.

  • A few supplements which interact with many medications are St John’s Wort and Grapefruit seed extract. Ask your doctor if you take medications and are considering using these supplements. 

 By Meghan Kemnec, ND, resident at Bastyr Center for Natural Health

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Vitamins and Supplements 101 | Bastyr University