Being An Informed Supplement Shopper

Multivitamins are a part of American culture that they are even promoted as a great option for children and adults. Often, multivitamins (MVI) are specialized for adults to target male and female-specific needs and seniors and children. Available in pill, gummy, and chewable form, supplements can be a great way to fill in potential gaps that might arise from a diet lacking specific nutrients. But supplements aren’t as well regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) compared to prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Understanding how to shop for quality supplements is essential to gaining the most benefit from taking a multivitamin.

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Prioritize food over pills

While many quality supplements do exist, experts continue to agree that the best way to get all the daily recommended nutrients is through a healthy and varied diet. Studies continue to show that prioritizing healthy food is the best way for adults to ensure proper nutritional intake. A study that observed over 30,000 American adults found that relying on food sources for nutrients helped reduce the risk of death associated with heart disease or other conditions. In contrast, depending on supplements for the same nutrient intake does not reduce the risk of death.

Look for third-party testing certification

Because supplements aren’t well regulated, any manufacturer can begin selling multivitamins, even if the contents aren’t effective or provide any actual beneficial results. While the FDA states that supplements are not allowed to make unfounded claims regarding efficacy or health outcomes, poor regulation means that some products will violate those guidelines. When in doubt, look for supplements that have been tested by neutral third-party sources such as ConsumerLab, NSF, or USP. Third-party organizations will test to confirm that the product contains ingredients in the amounts listed on the label, that batches are standardized, contaminants are not present, and that the product contains no undeclared ingredients.

Consider the brand

While product quality is critical, consider the brand or manufacturer behind the supplement. Because of minimal regulation on the brand category, third-party testing isn’t required for sale approval. Many questionable organizations and even multi-level-marketing (MLM) firms offer multivitamins and supplements, often making unfounded claims regarding efficacy. Always check to make sure that an oversight group has tested the supplement.

Check for contraindications

Contraindications mean that a medication or supplement might not be safe for a consumer due to underlying health conditions or allergies. People taking medications should always speak with a physician before adding a supplement to a daily routine. Similarly, check for potential side effects that might arise from consuming a multivitamin on an empty stomach, with food, or with specific foods.

Shopping responsibly for supplements

Even though a healthy diet is the best way to get the daily recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals, there are times when people should add a supplement. For example, pregnant and breastfeeding women need larger concentrations of some nutrients to support the health of the mom and a developing baby. Before grabbing the first bottle on the shelf, check for third-party certification. And if a person is currently on medications, always check for potential drug interactions. When in doubt, speak with a physician or pharmacist to confirm that a supplement is safe to consume and won’t create issues based on patient history.


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