A couple weeks back I discussed how to choose the right Canadian Natural Health Product (NHP). Today's article is for our friends to the south as we discuss how to choose the right dietary supplement in the United States. Dietary supplement regulations in the United States differs from those in Canada as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) conduct post-market enforcement. As a consumer, this can you leave you somewhat vulnerable when trying to choose which products are right for you, so when doing your shopping, you want to choose your products with care.
Things to Consider When Shopping for Dietary Supplements:
In the US, dietary supplements are regulated as foods and as such are permitted to make certain statements pertaining to your health. These claims can include structure-function claims, health and nutrient content claims. Just to keep you up to speed, structure function claims are those which speak to the ingredient/product effects towards supporting a normal body function (e.g. Helps promote digestion). Health claims are those which describe a relationship between a product/ingredient and the reduction of risk of an associated health condition (e.g. May reduce the risk of coronary heart disease). Finally, nutrient content claims are those which speak to the level of the nutrient in the product (e.g. good source of fibre.) It's important to note that dietary supplements are not permitted to make "disease claims" which link the product/ingredient to the treatment, diagnosis, cure or management of a disease. The FDA works to ensure companies are not making disease claims and the FTC works to ensure advertised health claims are substantiated, but since the enforcement of these 2 parties occurs after the products are on the market, there is the risk that you could be exposed to potentially dangerous or ineffective products before they are on the government's radar. So the take home message here is if your product of interest claims to help treat a disease, such as the management your blood pressure (i.e. helps to treat your hypertension), then it is not making an acceptable health claim and you should avoid using it.
Also, when choosing your dietary supplements, you want to consider ingredient quantities. When taking supplements, you want to ensure you are not exceeding acceptable levels of vitamins and minerals. Compliant dietary supplement labels show a Supplement Facts table outlining the quantities of each nutrient and the % Daily Value (Note: 100% Daily Value is the quantity recommended by the FDA to be consumed in a day). This information is useful to you because some nutrients such as vitamin D and vitamin A can pose harm when regularly consumed in high quantities. Dietary supplements may also contain herbal ingredients, but with these ingredients you may want to beware of the newest trending superfood. While the herb may have been featured on the Dr. Oz Show, it does not mean that the ingredient has been shown to be safe and effective in a clinical setting. As a scientific evaluator, I have completed countless reviews of ingredients recommended by Dr. Oz which just do not have the scientific evidence to back them.
In summary, the onus is on the manufacturer to ensure the product is safe, effective and of high quality before going to market. If you have any doubts regarding this, the FDA recommends you contact the manufacturer. I don't know about you, but that seems like a lot of work to me especially when Vitarock ships to the US. So next time you are shopping for a vitamin or herbal product and you want to be sure you choose one that is safe, effective and pure, just go to Vitarock.com. When you shop on Vitarock, you don't have any work to do because Vitarock only sells products which will meet these standards.