Supplement Labeling 101: Everything You Need to Know
If you get overwhelmed when choosing vitamins, you’re not alone.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to know if you’re getting quality products. Since not all supplements are created equal, how do you know if you’re taking high-quality supplements or just a cheap knockoff in a fancy bottle?
Many supplements have fillers, which reduce their effectiveness and may even be harmful to your health. To safeguard against the dangers of low grade products, many people purchase premium supplements. But even some whole food products have revealed lead contamination when tested.
To increase the chances that the vitamins you purchase will improve your health, make sure: 1. that what the company claims on the label is accurate and reasonable, 2. that the ingredient list is transparent and clearly understandable, and 3. that the company stands behind their products enough to make you feel safe and confident to shop with them.
Here are some important tips and insights on how to read the labels and claims made by supplement companies so that you can identify the best quality supplements with the maximum benefits:
Before you buy a supplement, always read the label. Carefully read the directions for use and for any claims of efficacy and/or safety. Some labels make extravagant claims that may seem hard to believe. Other claims are confusing – many supplement makers are intentionally vague when it comes to the content of their labels.
According to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), supplement companies are legally prohibited from making claims that their products treat, diagnose, prevent or cure diseases. The FDA does allow claims that a product affects the body’s structure and/or function, nutritional status, or general health and well-being, but the product’s maker must have proof to support all the claims they make.
Cautions and Warnings
Despite the negative implications associated with them, cautions or warnings on products can be a good thing because they show that the company understands their ingredients and how they can affect the body. Cautions and warnings also indicate that the company places the health and safety of their customers above making another sale. These warnings serve a dual purpose; they prevent the sale of a product to someone that shouldn’t be taking it and make the product available to consumers who can safely take it.
The Supplement Facts box is the heart of the dietary supplement label. Ideally, a supplement label will accurately list all the active ingredients, in specified order and with precise names for the various nutrients, herbals or other ingredients. Read this very carefully. You may notice, for example, that vitamin A is listed as beta-carotene, which many people don’t efficiently convert to vitamin A. Or that magnesium is listed as magnesium oxide, which is poorly absorbed and is an inferior ingredient compared to magnesium malate, citrate or glycinate.
Sometimes a listed ingredient hasn’t been proven for use in humans. Another factor to be aware of is undesirable additives, especially in the binders or coatings of tablets such as unnecessary sucrose, titanium dioxide, hydrogenated oils, heavy metals including lead and mercury, and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). If you have questions or concerns, contact the supplement maker who, by law, must provide their contact information on the label.
It’s important to know that your supplements are tested for identity, purity, and potency. Testing is most effectively done on the raw material ingredients before they enter the chain of production. However, in-process testing is also necessary, and the finished product must be tested to ensure the integrity of the entire manufacturing process. Both ingredients and finished products must go through identity and potency verification, heavy metal testing, and microbial testing.
All of BrainMD’s products undergo these testing processes, and we employ independent laboratories to do our testing. We also audit our manufacturers, packagers, and testing labs to ensure they have adequate quality control and processing standards in place.
It’s highly recommended that you apply the above criteria to every supplement you purchase. One reason is that the quality of vitamins can widely vary, even among so-called leading brands. A good example of this is fish oil…
3 Key Elements of a High-quality Fish Oil Supplement
When searching for a high-quality fish oil supplement, keep these purity standards in mind:
- Because toxins such as solvents, dioxins, PCBs, furans and more than 250 environmental pollutants can become concentrated in fish, it’s extremely important to choose a fish oil product that is highly purified and analyzed in the laboratory to verify that it is clean.
- Fish oil spoils easily. Look for a product that has added vitamin E, vitamin C, rosemary, or other safe and effective stabilizers. Avoid suppliers that are not reputable, because more and more fish oils are being diluted with oils that do not have omega-3 activity.
- Choose a product that has high amounts of EPA and DHA. Cheap fish oils claim 1000 mg on the label but only provide 300 mg of EPA plus DHA, which is not an adequate daily dose for most people.
BrainMD is proud to offer a fish oil supplement that meets or exceeds all of the above standards…
Most Americans are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, getting barely one-third of the daily amounts needed for optimum brain and body health. Each serving of Omega-3 Power provides 1,600 mg of DHA, EPA and other omega-3s from ultra-purified, high-quality fish oil – roughly 5 times what is found in conventional brands.
The omega-3 fatty acids in Omega-3 Power are critical to building healthy cell membranes, which are essential for our brain cells to make the trillions of connections that enable peak cognitive, mood, and behavioral performance.
Sourced from pelagic, short-lived fish species (anchovies, sardines, and mackerel), the fish oil in Omega-3 Power undergoes the most advanced purification process in the supplement industry.
At BrainMD, we’re dedicated to helping people feel better by creating the highest quality nutritional products for optimizing and balancing brain health. Backed by decades of experience, our clinical research team incorporates the latest scientific findings in creating a wide array of specialized formulas that support brain function, energy, memory, mood, and sleep.
Our ultra-pure, science-based and brain directed vitamins were formulated to give you the nutrients you need to be your best self.
For more information about Omega-3 Power and our full catalog of brain healthy supplements, visit us at BrainMD.
Keith is grateful to have the opportunity to write about supplements since many of them have made a dramatic difference in his life. He is often heard around the office saying, “We have supplements for that.”