You may not know this, but many nutritional supplements — often marketed to give you an extra boost of vitamins, minerals, herbs and other “good” ingredients — are not always as healthy as they’re cut out to be. While putting stuff into your body that you think is nutritional, you may also be ingesting toxins like heavy metals that don’t make the fine print! Check out this investigative article by The Washington Post.
You see, the billion-dollar supplement industry is more loosely regulated than the drug industry. It’s rumored to be “unregulated,” which isn’t entirely true, according to this blog article by the Trust Transparency Center.
What is true is that while regulated by the Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994, there appears to be no third-party testing requirement for supplement manufacturers. Any nicely packaged dietary supplement can be put on the shelf without independent review or testing. Prior to going to market, product claims are reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and manufacturers have to submit a pre-market report to the FDA. But beyond that, the safety and effectiveness of any supplement and its specific ingredients remain at the sole discretion of the manufacturer.
You might be wondering, how can an industry that prides itself on health and wellness get by without more rigorous testing and oversight? We don’t know! But as consumers, we need to fight harder for truth and transparency.
So at Fuel 4 Ever, here’s what we’d advise before adding any more dietary supplements to your routine:
- Consult with a functional medicine doctor. Functional medicine practitioners focus on trying to find the root cause of any health issue. Though not synonymous, it’s worth noting that some holistic and naturopathic doctors also practice functional medicine. The Institute for Functional Medicine has an easy-to-use tool for finding functional medicine doctors by zip code.
- Do your research. Don’t ingest pills or powders you haven’t fully vetted. Visit manufacturer websites to get to know the makers of supplements you’re considering, their core values and the quality of products. Look for evidence of third-party testing of their products, which may carry the seal of USP, ConsumerLab or NSF International. Read product reviews and take note of bad press.
- Scrutinize nutrition labels. Labels that include ingredients you can’t pronounce or a lengthy “Other Ingredients” list, are probably indicative that the supplement isn’t worth trying. Check out this exhaustive list of supplement fact sheets on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) website for reference. Avoid artificial flavors and dyes; preservatives like sucralose, sodium benzoate and maltodextrin; titanium dioxide; and magnesium stearate. Know what you’re putting into your body — every single ingredient. And remember, what’s NOT included on a label — possibly heavy metals or other toxins — is really what you should worry about.
- Hold supplement manufacturers accountable. Advocate for higher standards in the U.S. supplement industry. Call any manufacturer to request a “Certificate of Analysis” (COA) which will tell you every source (country of origin) of a supplement’s ingredients, purity levels and composition. And if you should try a new supplement and have an adverse reaction, make sure to report it promptly.
Not all dietary supplements are bad.* But there still isn’t enough regulation of these products to deem them all safe either. It’s important to scrutinize labels and other marketing information, and do your due diligence. Don’t let misinformation blind you to what harmful toxins may lie within any available supplement.