All About Supplements
Everywhere that we look, someone somewhere is touting about how awesome their supplements are. Unfortunately, since supplementation is generally not regulated by the FDA or any other quality control requirement, most of the products on the market are simply revenue generators for the company promoting them, and rarely contain ANY of the nutrients that you are looking for. Before buying a supplement, be sure to research the companies manufacturing, distributing and selling the product.
For manufacturing, the easiest check for you will be to look for a CGMP stamp printed on the bottle. This is an FDA regulated denotation that let's you know that the product is manufactured, processed and labeled in accordance with the highest of quality standards that are expected for pharmaceuticals. The products in this category are usually made in pharmaceutical facilities that are not willing to risk their medicine contracts for impurity in their smaller supplement businesses. Would you risk your 10-20 year multi-billion dollar contracts by not following the rules for much smaller manufacturing contracts only worth a couple of million? I wouldn't either. CGMP facilities stick to the rules because they like money, and it's not worth shutting down their entire operation by skimping on quality of their minor product lines. The next thing to look for in manufacturing is if the company on the bottle is the same as the manufacturer. If so, and they are not a CGMP lab, the company is unlikely to have any purity regulations.
For shipping, there are different considerations that aren't regulated the same as in manufacturing. There are lots of online places that you will see such as supplement reseller websites, eBay, etc. that will have these pharmaceutical-grade supplements available, but BEWARE. If you talk to the manufacturers like I do, you will learn that this is STRICTLY PROHIBITED because the storage practices are not monitored. This is because the product itself is sensitive to extreme changes in temperature. So if the product sits in a storage warehouse, or worse yet someone's garage, before shipping, you will likely get a product that has degraded from the temperature changes. If distributors are found to be partaking in these practices, their accounts are usually revoked so that they do not dilute the brand of the manufacturer. Good to know right?
*Note - Some major re-sellers like Amazon have agreements with credible companies for proper storage and handling of products, but that is not to say that all of their products do. It is variable depending both the legal and manufacturer's regulations.
Pricing of supplements is obviously something to consider. The reason that most high quality products are more expensive is because of the above-mentioned pieces. As the old adage goes, "You get what you pay for", so do not be afraid to spend a little more for something that is doing what the research says it will do. People usually run into problems and lack of results from a supplement because it only references the studies on the ingredient, but doesn't include that much of the substance mentioned in the supplement at all. This is where the term "Proprietary Blend" usually comes in. Mind you, there are some proprietary blends that have patent-protected processes or mixtures and are good, but generally a proprietary blend is a red flag. Always look to see how much of the active ingredient is in the supplement you are paying for. When a product is diluted, it will be cheaper, but it also won't do what you are looking for. The manufacturing sites for your supplements should tell you the retail pricing for the supplement you are looking into, as well as offer product data sheets for the research behind the formulations if you are curious. If your distributor complies with the pricing structure and orders directly from the manufacturer to you in a timely fashion, then it is likely that you are getting the product as advertised. If not, then it is more likely that the product is damaged or expiring and they are trying to clear inventory...or worse yet, they are not legally allowed to distribute them and are just off-loading them somewhere.
Lastly, but not least, I'll talk about potency of pharmaceutical grade supplementation. As far as purity goes, there are no real set standards; however, by choosing companies that are cGMP certified, you can be assured that the purity displayed on the label is correct. Not only that, but every batch of cGMP made product is labeled, so in the event of an isssue the FDA can notify the public of the problem and issue a recall of the batch. This is simply not a common practice outside of cGMP and other international compliance groups. If you want safe and effective, that is the way I would recommend. This is of course not to say that there are not companies out there that are not necessarily cGMP but produce a high quality product...it's just saying that in their case, it comes down to trust. Do they make sure your individual physiology isn't going to adversely respond to the supplement? Do they know the scope of interactions that would or could ever happen in the body? Possibly, but it is usually a good idea to make sure that they've done their homework.
Like all other things in this world, choosing the supplement(s) that you will take for those nutritional components you just can't get into your diet, is your choice and yours alone. Hopefully with this information, you will feel more empowered to make an educated decision about which company or product(s) you will choose to take part.