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Tales from the Texan!

Should I trust my supplements?

Travis Burkybile

Hello again,

This past weekend, I was debating which topic I was going to write on among several I have lined up. Then this story conveniently made headlines in the last couple of days. Now I have my post! 

Edit: The study in the article is being reviewed, as questions have been raised if the procedure and theory for testing is valid. The following recommendations are not affected by any future reversals or conclusions.

Many people swear by supplements, claiming everything from improved energy to curing cancer. Others say they are harmful and to be avoided at all costs. So who do we believe? 

Supplements are often purchased based on cost consideration. While more expensive doesn't always mean better, cheapest always reminds us, "You get what you pay for." Quality ingredients come at a cost. You may ask how can you know what the quality of ingredients are? Here is a quick breakdown.

  • Pharmaceutical grade- Highest quality available. They can be available without a prescription, but they are usually sold by healthcare practitioners and verified by an outside party. 
  • Medical grade- High grade, but fall below pharmaceutical grade standards.
  • Cosmetic or nutritional grade- Typically found in health food stores (like those in the linked article above). May not be tested for purity or that they contain the active ingredient listed on the bottle.
  • Veterinary grade- Only for animal use.
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The higher the quality of the supplement the better the outcome will be on your health. In addition to the information in the categories above, here are some things you don't want to factor in to your supplement purchases.

  • Overly extravagant claims, packaging, and marketing hype. Quality speaks for itself. Don't fall prey to the outrageous claims and slick marketing or celebrity endorsements.
  • Stay away from proprietary blends. This is a term that is normally used to hide filler and worthless ingredients, or play into the marketing hype. 
  • Multi level marketing as the business model. Nothing sells like a personal testimonial right? Many of these companies exist, and have thousands of devoted "distributors." MLM may be appealing if you are the one making money, but in most cases it is a model used to disguise a subpar product.

So what do you want in a supplement? What type of results will you get? Here are a few things that you should look for.

  • The bottle has a GMP label. This stands for good manufacturing processes. It ensures that ingredients and amounts are consistent with the labeling. This certification is developed from guidelines set forth by the FDA.
  • The supplements are sold through healthcare providers. You would rather trust what a health professional uses, rather than take the word of the guy at the local Vitamin shoppe. Med school vs 2 weeks training. Enough said. 
  • There is a tangible marker of change that can be tracked. Blood tests measuring Vitamin D levels are an example. If the product is worthwhile you should have improved markers the next time you test.

Supplements can be a wonderful added component to a healthy lifestyle. Insist on hight quality products. I hope this post gives you a few things to keep in mind for your next purchase!