11 Jan How to Read the Labels on Supplements before Purchasing
Labels on many dietary nutritional supplements are not always accurate because the FDA does not make enough demands on the manufacturers. Their labels can be misleading in terms of the quality of their product, as well as its true nutritional value.
Does USP appear on the label? USP stands for U.S. Pharmacopeia which is a reputable testing organization. Words such as “proven release” or “release assured” on the label mean that the supplements are easily absorbed into the body.
Although labels are still far from perfect, FDA has regulated supplement labels. Manufacturers must list all the ingredients. The label for vitamins and minerals must have the quantity of nutrients per serving, the percentage related to the daily value and the RDA – recommended dietary allowance.
The listings for dietary supplements such as herbs and phytochemicals must have the quantity per serving and the plant parts from which the ingredient comes from (such as roots, leaves, etc). The manufacturer’s blend of two or more botanicals must list the weight of the total blend.
- Phytochemicals, also called phytonutrients, are various bioactive chemical compounds found in plants as antioxidants.
- Always look for the expiration date, as supplements will become less potent as time moves on. Choose products that have a longer “shelf life”. Read the label for storage requirements, such as whether it needs to be refrigerated or stored in a cool, dry place. Never store supplements in heated areas.
- Choose a supplement that is reasonable. Unless a doctor has prescribed a supplement for medicinal purposes, you don’t need a label marked as extra-strength, therapeutic, etc. Choose products that are not higher than the recommended dietary allowance.
- The FDA does not allow supplement manufacturers to make claims that their product will cure or prevent diseases. Any claim in that field would require the product be tested before release. A label is allowed to say “maintains cholesterol” but may not say “lowers cholesterol”.
- Stay away from things such as “all-natural” or “natural vitamins”. Ascorbic acid, or vitamin C, found in oranges is the same as the ascorbic acid cooked up in a chemistry lab! Keep in mind, ascorbic acid found in “natural” vitamin pills may not have additives such as coloring or fillers that are found in regular vitamin pills. So, unless you have an allergy to fillers or dyes, don’t waste your money on the natural vitamin pills.
When reading labels, see what the different ingredients are and whether they have side effects or truly have nutritional properties. It’s easy enough to get information about any ingredient online. Read all the pros and cons before consuming any supplement. There are many ingredients that consumers take for granted because they are in so many dietary supplements, but that doesn’t mean that they are safe. Some have proven to cause serious health issues if consumed for a long period of time.
Stay away from supplements that contain gluten or milk products if you are lactose intolerant. Supplements that contain fructose, which is considered one of the worst sweeteners, can actually cause weight gain. Try and avoid the green tea extract as an ingredient; it will not curb your appetite but it can have side effects if taken for a long period of time. Some of these effects are rapid heart rate, dizziness, rashes, convulsions, and tremors.
Do some research online and list ingredients that are good and those that you should avoid. It will make reading labels a great deal easier and help you choose a good nutritional supplement.