- Maddy Belaustegui
WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH SUPPLEMENTS?
Did you know that unlike food, dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA? These include all the herbs, vitamins, minerals, protein, and other products you see available at stores everywhere. They come in tablets, capsules, powders, and liquid forms. Manufacturers of supplements are responsible for making sure their products are safe before they go to the public. But of course there is big money in this industry, so consumers cannot really be sure what is really inside these products. Some may be contaminated with other ingredients that are not listed, and others may not contain the actual amounts of nutrients advertised on the bottle. What is even scarier, is the use of supplements continues to rise in the U.S., despite these concerns over their safety and effectiveness.
So what can you do to stay safe?
Always aim to get your nutrients through food first. Choose a variety of all the food groups, eat lots of different colors, and look for fortified milk and cereal to get vitamins and minerals. Nutrients in food are always more balanced, so the risk of eating too much of one vitamin or mineral is really low. Whereas with supplements, it is much easier to take excessive amounts, which can cause harm. This is because many supplements contain doses far above the recommended daily amount.
Consult with your doctor and a Registered Dietitian if you think a supplement may be necessary. Your doctor will take bloodwork to see if any of your levels are off, which could indicate a nutritional deficiency and possibly a need for a supplement.
If you do choose to take a supplement after consulting with a professional, such as a multivitamin, calcium, or vitamin D, look for ones that are 3rd party certified. This means a trustworthy group evaluated the product separately, since the FDA is not doing it. The following are examples of these 3rd party organizations. Check out their websites for a list of safe products or look for their logos on supplement bottles:
> NSF International, including NSF Contents Certified and NSF Certified for Sport
> U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP)
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics | Dietary Supplements
Consumer Reports | How to Choose Supplements Wisely
National Institutes of Health | Office of Dietary Supplements