Updated November, 2019
Many Americans naively pop vitamin and mineral supplements and guzzle various types of protein powders, thinking they are helping their health. The reality is that many of these supplements are actually dangerous. In fact, according to a recent newspaper headliner, the 28 billion dollar supplement industry has serious and widespread manufacturing flaws. These flaws are extensive enough to have the potential to harm health. From quality control to formulation issues, the product you’re taking may not be what you think it is. There may be much more or too little of a specific nutrient. Even lead, arsenic, and rodent feces have been known to contaminate supplements. So, being a savvy consumer can indeed protect you from dangerous supplements.
The supplement industry is a self-regulating industry. That means the government does not directly oversee the quality control of a supplement. Under current laws, the FDA does not screen supplements for safety before they hit the consumer market. The FDA only takes action regarding supplements on the market once there is a documented problem with the supplement. In fact, the FDA relies on manufacturers themselves, as well as consumers, to report any adverse effects.
Steps to avoid dangerous supplements
Buy name brand supplements
Well-known brands may have better “in-house” quality control standards because the reputation of the company is at stake. Steer clear of companies you have not heard of.
Look for the USP label
This label means that the supplement has been at least evaluated for ingredients stated on the label. It also means the product will dissolve in your digestive tract rather than passing straight through your body. The symbol does not guarantee any other health or safety advantages of the supplement. With this symbol present, you at least know that product has what it’s advertising, and the product will dissolve in your digestive tract.
Look at the Nutrition Fact Label
Note the percent daily value of the nutrients. If you see values of many nutrients far exceeding 100%, don’t be duped into thinking this is a good thing. Consumers need to understand that too much of a nutrient can be very harmful. We have upper limits of safety for many nutrients, and we should avoid exceeding those upper limits of safety. And, you should be getting a lot of these nutrients from your diet!
Research to avoid dangerous supplements
Consumer Labs is an independent testing lab that evaluates supplemental products and makes the test results available for a small subscription fee. The analyses and data are extensive and informative.
Have a dietitian evaluate your diet
A dietitian can evaluate nutrient shortcomings and make appropriate recommendations to meet those dietary deficits with the correct supplements. Or better yet, a dietitian can help you find the foods you like to eat to give you the nutrients you need! After all, mother nature does the best nutrient packaging of all.
Do you ever think about safety issues regarding supplement use? Hoping this blog post helped you do so.