Supplement Safety: How to Pick Vitamin and Mineral Supplements That Work

Supplements and vitamins are not regulated by the FDA.

What’s the best way to get your vitamins? From food. That’s the general consensus among researchers, scientists and doctors. Even so, there may be instances when you need to take a supplement.

Some medications can cause vitamin or mineral deficiencies, and certain illnesses, diseases and treatments may require a boost. Age and diet can also lead to a deficit, which food alone can’t fill.

If you have a vitamin or mineral deficiency, work with your doctor first to determine if you need a supplement and which supplement you should take.

If your doctor says you need a vitamin or mineral, make sure the supplement you’re buying is up to snuff. Many mineral and vitamin supplements don’t do what they claim or may not contain the ingredients advertised. Supplements are not regulated like prescription drugs. Unlike its strict review, approval and regulation of pharmaceutical drugs requiring valid scientific study and clinical trials, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) only sets guidelines for supplement manufacturers. It requires no review and approval process as to a supplement’s ingredients or veracity of its claims before it goes to market.

While there are plenty of respectable supplement brands, the lax oversight of the sector means there are numerous deceptive supplement makers in the market.

So how do you know if a supplement is safe? Look for third-party testing labels from companies like ConsumerLab, USP and NSF. These companies will verify that a supplement contains what is on the label (and nothing else) and in the amounts the label claims. They’ll make sure products are standard and that the vitamin or mineral is free of any harmful contaminants.

Then they’ll issue a quality assurance certificate or certificate of analysis. If you have to take a supplement, this certification can help you know with confidence that the supplement works.

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