The health supplement industry has seen its share of trends over the years, but trying them out may come with a risk. 1973, the FDA began to implement regulations that would moderate what kind of health claims could be made regarding vitamins and mineral supplements, in order to prevent unscrupulous companies from taking advantage of unwitting consumers.

While many believe that they could potentially benefit from taking additional vitamins and supplements, a Pew Charitable Trust survey found that around 57% of the people polled expressed a reluctance to try something because they were worried about the quality of the ingredients.

This is why it is so important to research the brand of supplements that are being considered for purchase, because not all products are equal. In some instances, the ingredients may work poorly or not at all, but in worst case scenarios, a poor quality supplement could potentially cause adverse reactions that leave the user in a worse state than before.

Here is a helpful guide for evaluating vitamins & supplements, as well as how to find legitimate and safe products:

Consider Your Needs

People typically start searching for supplements when they feel they are experiencing bad health. There are some conditions that are caused from lacking a particular nutrient; such as scurvy, which is a disease that was common in sailors due to not having enough vitamin C. English sailors used to remedy this by supplementing their large quantities of lime juice on their ship. This, incidentally, is why they are called “Limeys”.

When choosing a supplement, consider your needs and make sure that it includes ingredients that are designed to actually help alleviate the issue that you are experiencing. This can be done with the help of your doctor, who can suggest what kind of vitamins or additional nutrients could be the most beneficial, and tell you whether combining them with other medications is safe.

Decide What Form You Want

It is helpful to decide what form you want your supplements to take, as many people may just assume capsules are the only method. However, there are also powders, tinctures, gummies, drinks, and even power bars.

Different methods can affect how well the supplement is absorbed into your system. If you swallow a capsule or a gummy, it still has to go through your digestive system, which means that a lot of compounds will be dissolved by enzymes and it will take longer to get into your system. Some work better after eating, and others are more effective on an empty stomach.

By contrast, a tincture will get into your system much faster than a capsule or something that needs to be eaten, because it is able to bypass the digestive process when absorbed through the sublingual gland.

That is why it is beneficial to understand what method of ingestion will work best to help you achieve the results that you want.

Vitamin & Supplement form options

Research the Effectiveness of the Product

While it’s always valuable to get professional advice from your doctor, it’s also helpful to back it up with your own knowledge, which is why it is important to research the effectiveness of the product, so that you know exactly what you are looking for. Doing this can help you to better understand how the product works, in addition to its potential risks and whether it can actually do what the company claims.

Some great resources of information include websites like the National Library of Medicine on PubMed, as well as the Office of Dietary Supplements. The more informed a consumer is, the less likely they are going to be taken advantage of if a company is perpetuating false medical claims.

Learn to Read Labels

One of the most crucial factors with regard to choosing a potential supplement is being able to discern the information that is presented on the label. While a majority of people do look at labels, that doesn’t necessarily mean they fully understand what they are reading.

In order to learn how to read labels on a supplement you must first consider what kind of health claim is being made. This is only legal if the Federal Drug Administration has approved the product to be specifically advertised for that purpose, with a process that requires an extensive series of trials and research to prove the claims being made.

Third party testing is not required for most supplements, but a lot of companies provide them in an effort to prove the quality of their product. For example, many hemp extract and CBD companies will claim to have their oils tested by a third party laboratory. In this case, the credentials of the testing facility should always be considered. Is the laboratory certified and nationally recognized? It helps to look for accredited facilities like ConsumerLab, United States Pharmacopeia, or NSF International.

Another thing to consider is how the company displays their lab testing. Is it available on their website? Does it consist of a picture or PDF of the results? Are they linked directly to the independent laboratory’s website, and updated with each new batch of product? These things would indicate a higher quality product and a company with higher levels of transparency.

Scrutinize Websites for Online Purchases

Consumers should always scrutinize websites for online purchases, because it can be a good indication as to the quality of the products that they offer. What kind of information does it offer? Does the company provide any disclaimers? What kind of content is being utilized? How up to date is the information? Very importantly, how easy is it to contact them?

If the website is messy, unorganized, or filled with spelling errors, then it might be signs of a less than a reputable company.

Online purchase transaction visual

Choose a Reputable Brand

People have enough frustrations to deal with these days without having to worry about whether their product is going to be as high quality as advertised. Bad quality products can potentially lead to unpleasant side effects, which most people are eager to avoid. Unfortunately, the only way to combat this issue is to make sure that you choose a reputable brand when finding the perfect supplement.

A good rule to follow is to shop locally, and buy supplements from companies that manufacture and operate in the United States. Some brands save money by selling products that are made in countries that have more lax regulations, and may allow for cheaper and potentially harmful ingredients to be included. These companies may also be more prone to making false claims if they do not have to comply with federal regulations.

While such thorough research may seem overwhelming, it is absolutely worthwhile and necessary. Finding the perfect health supplement can change your life, but it isn’t a process that should be rushed, and each factor should be carefully considered.