There are valid reasons I will only recommend supplements from reputable, well-known suppliers. It’s not just about whether what the bottle lists as ingredients is actually in the product, but it’s also about the SAFETY and efficacy of the product. Let’s look at some important points;
The active ingredient(s): How do you actually know that what the product label touts is actually in the product, what is the form of the active ingredient, and is the dose claimed on the package actually what’s in the product? The simple answer is you don’t- especially if the product is not rigorously tested by independent laboratories who specialize in this. Lots of supplement “manufacturers” don’t actually manufacture their own products at all- they simply “private label” a product they’ve purchased from someone else. Which adds another layer in the ”can you trust this product” chain- where did the product really originate?
Active ingredient is another big factor- is the form of the supplement the best, most absorbable form, or is it a cheap, less effective form of the nutrient? Take Vitamin B-12, for example. We know that there are multiple forms of B-12, and absorption can vary significantly based upon the GI tract of the user. Stated dose of B-12 on product packaging varies wildly, with some products marketing products with extremely high doses only needed in a small number of cases (assuming the dose on the bottle is correct). Magnesium is another great example. There are many forms of magnesium, used in different ways, at different doses, for different things. There are plenty of additional examples of different forms of supplements and differing use, efficacy, and absorbability- speak with your Functional Medicine provider about this to be sure you are using the correct forms and doses for your particular case.
The fillers and binders: Most of us don’t realize that what’s in that capsule, liquid, or powder isn’t just the active ingredient(s). In fact, the active ingredient is only part of the entire product. Fillers and binders make up a significant part of the ingredients. Fillers and binders are used in pharmaceuticals, over the counter medications, and in supplements. They often come from other countries, and contaminants in the product often constitute the reason for product recalls.
Recalls/Contaminants: When pharmaceutical, over the counter, or supplement products are found to have defects (incorrect dosing, added active ingredients not listed on the label, or contaminants), the FDA asks the company that sells the product to voluntarily recall the product from the market. Mandatory recalls can also be used in cases where there is the potential for serious, widespread harm, or when the company selling the product refuses to recall the product voluntarily.
Bear in mind that the FDA relies fairly heavily on the producers themselves to “police” their products, as official FDA inspections are not as common as we would like to think. Scary thought, especially when you consider how many products there are on the market. And some of the less reputable (to put it politely) “manufacturers” have even been found to add illegal drugs to their products to provide more “effect” to the consumer.
So how to protect yourself?
- Ask your Functional Medicine provider or knowledgeable healthcare provider about whether the supplement is even something you should consider taking. ONLY take supplements that are approved by your healthcare provider.
- Only use reputable brands purchased from a reputable site. Note that I hear from my professional grade supplement manufacturers all the time about “knock off” products with their label being sold on Amazon or similar. In fact, most professional grade manufacturers do not allow their products to be sold on Amazon- so where did that “brand name” supplement you purchased from Amazon actually come from? Please note that while even reputable manufacturers do have recall alerts for their products, the multitude of “unknown” brands that pop up in your internet feed promising their supplement can cure cancer is much less likely to be a safe option.
- Periodically check the FDA website for product recalls. https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability
I will periodically post some of the more recent recalls to help you stay safe, but please note buying a product on the internet without sound medical advice from your healthcare provider can be downright dangerous.
Remember, An informed consumer is a safe consumer.
RECENT FDA PRODUCT SAFETY RECALLS/WARNING LETTERS:
FDA Warning Letter to Companies Illegally Selling Adulterated Dietary Supplements (multiple brands):
Milk of Magnesia Recall:
“SnoreStop” Nasal Spray Recall:
Recall of Artri and Ortega Branded Supplements:
CVS Magnesium Citrate Recall:
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As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions for future blog topics.