Tips on Becoming an Armed and Informed Consumer of Dietary Supplements
Note from Rebecca: I am so grateful for Dr. Megan Holt’s wisdom, experience and insight on all things nutrition and wellness. There are A LOT of offerings out there that make claims to better our health but many are lacking in solid research and/or regulation. We are all about helping those in our community be better informed consumers of time and resources. Below, Megan will share some important information about dietary supplements – looking forward to your thoughts and questions!
Many of us regard dietary supplements as ‘harmless’, but did you know that supplements vary tremendously in terms of potency and purity?
We need to be concerned with not only the supplement’s effectiveness, but also with whether or not the supplement actually contains the stated ingredients in the stated amounts. Adulteration is common, as manufacturers, as well as suppliers of the raw ingredients, often try to cut costs by cutting corners.
Manufacturers may have the best intentions in terms of adhering to ethical standards, but perhaps suppliers of the raw ingredients are more concerned with profit.
Have manufacturers’ done their homework? The industry is ‘regulated’, but loosely at best.
Dietary supplements can be a wonderful resource for those of us who need them, and many of the claims regarding their benefits are supported by sound evidence. Asking the following questions of your provider may be helpful upon receiving recommendations to begin taking a supplement.
Questions to Ask Regarding Dietary Supplements
- What is the optimal daily dosage for my condition?
- Can you offer any reliable brand recommendations?
- Are there any supplement-drug or supplement-food interactions that I should be aware of?
- Can I instead meet these needs through the diet? How? Which foods and in what amounts?
- Where can I find evidence-based information on the safety and efficacy of dietary supplements?
- What are the known side effects?
- Has the supplement been tested by an independent lab? Is it USP (United States Pharmacopeial Convention) verified?
- How much do they cost?
Other Resources for Those Looking To Become Armed & Informed Consumers of Dietary Supplements
This fabulous documentary (free to watch) “Supplements and Safety” is a great place to start.
The NIH Office of Dietary Supplements offers a number of helpful fact sheets on individual vitamins and minerals.
Further, PubMed Dietary Supplement Subset provides a rich database should you be interested in reading the literature on specific dietary supplements.
Your provider may not have all of the answers to these questions, but it’s important that they be able to speak to most of them. Advocate and ask – use your voice!