Are supplements safe? With 76% of American adults taking nutrition supplements, this is an important question. Headlines have been swirling about supplement quality and safety, giving the impression that the industry is unregulated. That’s not the case! Here’s what you need to know about choosing supplements that are high quality and safe.
This post is a collaboration with my client, NOW, a natural products manufacturer. As always, I only write about brands I enjoy myself and recommend. All opinions are 100% my own.
Does the FDA Regulate Supplements?
There’s plenty of confusion out there about what the FDA does and doesn’t do for regulating dietary supplements. Let’s set the record straight.
What the FDA Does to Regulate Supplements:
- Requires manufacturers to test ingredients in their supplements to make sure they are what is listed in the Ingredients List.
- Requires that current good manufacturing practice (cGMP) is established and followed by those who make, package, label or hold a dietary supplement. This includes inspection of facilities that manufacture dietary supplements.
- Regulates what supplement labels need to include.
- Regulates what the label can and can’t say in terms of health claims.
- Responds to reports of issues or complaints about dietary supplements – this system is called Adverse Event Reporting (AER).
- Responsible for taking action against manufacturers and distributers of dietary ingredient and supplement with regards to adulterated or misbranded products on the market.
What the FDA Doesn’t Do:
- Test the effectiveness of supplements before they’re sold.
Beyond the FDA’s oversight of dietary supplements, there are other programs in place that ensure dietary supplement quality and safety. Here are the key ones to know about and look for when you’re shopping for supplements.
How to Spot a High Quality Supplement: What to Look for on Supplement Labels
The GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) logo on your supplement means it not only meets the FDA’s current good manufacturing practices (cGMPs) but has also undergone certification from the Natural Products Association (NPA).
The NPA is a third party organization that inspects and provides certification for supplements that follow good manufacturing practices to ensure quality. The NPA’s GMP certification program set standards based on best practices around the world and from other industries, such as the pharmaceutical industry and the food industry.The GMP Logo, and other signs of a quality #nutrition #supplement. Click To Tweet
When a supplement has the GMP logo on the bottle, that means it underwent extensive auditing and received an “A” rating from a third-party auditor. For example, NOW® was one of the first manufacturers to apply for GMP certification in 2000. They received an “A” rating and maintain it with re-certification each year.
Before you buy a supplement, look for scientific research findings from human studies rather than just animal or cell studies. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) are great places to search for information on supplements and the evidence for their effectiveness.
Then if you’re interested in trying the supplement, check with your doctor first to make sure there aren’t any potential interactions with medications or other supplements you’re taking. Know that natural doesn’t always mean safe.
Another step is to look for supplements from manufacturers that participate in the Natural Products Association’s TruLabel Program. This means that the manufacturer’s products are randomly tested to make sure that the product is consistent and is exactly what the label says. It also ensures that the supplement label is registered in a dietary supplement database. This extra layer of oversight means you can be confident that you’re getting the supplement quality you expect.Does your #supplement make the grade? 6 tips for choosing the best quality Click To Tweet
NOW®’s founder was involved in the development of the NPA’s TruLabel program, and its products undergo this random testing every year. This shows that quality has always been important and continues to be a priority.
It’s important to find out whether your supplement manufacturer does any additional testing to make sure that ingredients are tested not only for identity, but also for potency and purity. NOW® does all of the above.
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Non-Active Ingredient Listing
When you buy a supplement, you want it to be mostly active ingredients with fewer fillers and binders added. These “Non-Active Ingredients”, also called “Other Ingredients”, need to be listed so you know what you’re getting.
In NOW® products, non-active ingredients are used in minimal amounts and all of them are listed on the label. You can rest assured that there aren’t any hidden ingredients.
If you’re concerned about some of the additives that are used in some supplements, you’re not alone. NOW® has a comprehensive list of ingredients they won’t use in their products and why.
Allergens are Clearly Labelled
I recently worked with a client who was newly diagnosed with Celiac disease. She was taking quite a few dietary supplements, so we went through each of them to make sure they were 100% gluten free. In several cases I had to call the supplement company to find out whether there was any trace gluten in their products. I was shocked that many of them said they weren’t sure or couldn’t guarantee they were gluten free.
That’s why any potential allergens need to be clearly labeled on supplement bottles. NOW® not only makes it clear whether there is a possibility of cross-contamination with allergens, but they also manufacture their allergy-friendly, Certified Gluten-Free line of food products in a facility that doesn’t handles the most common food allergens.Do you have a #foodallergy? Take a closer look at your #supplements! Click To Tweet
Organic and Non-GMO Third-Party Certification
If you are looking for organic and non-GMO products, check the label for symbols showing certification.
Quality Assurance International is a US Department of Agriculture-accredited certifying agency for organic products. As part of the National Organic Certification Program, manufacturers are audited every year to make sure they are meeting all of the requirements.
When you see the Non-GMO Project verified symbol on a label, that means the product contains ingredients that are verified to be free of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). This certification requires auditing of manufacturing facilities and more.
Supplement Quality: Other Things to Look For
Beyond the certifications above, do some digging and find out how much analytical testing your supplement manufacturer does on their products. If the information isn’t clearly laid out on their website, call and ask.
NOW® does extensive testing throughout the manufacturing process. Every month, they perform as many as 16,000 individual tests on their raw ingredients and finished products to assure their quality.
50 Years of Quality
NOW® has been a leader in the supplement industry since they started 50 years ago, and they’re celebrating their 50th anniversary in a big way – by giving away $500,000!
NOW® is producing 1,000,000 gold-cap supplement bottles across 50 of their select supplements and giving away 50 prizes of $10,000 each! If you find a golden ticket in a gold-cap bottle, you could instantly win $10,000!
What are your questions or concerns about finding quality supplements? Would love to hear your thoughts!