8 Important Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Supplements

Because you don’t want to fall for the next snake oil

How can you possibly choose a multivitamin or supplement when there are 20 others just like it on the shelf? The obvious answer would be to read the label, and honestly, that’s a great place to start.

Shopping for supplements can be an overwhelming task, but if you do your homework and know what to look for you’ll find your trip to the drugstore won’t end in a fit of anxiety and distress. Supplements have the ability to step in where your diet falls short, but it’s important to note that they are not a replacement for a healthy diet.

Certain products have the power to lower your risk for disease, increase your energy, aid in weight loss, boost your mental capacity and may help cut back on your annual trips to the doctor. Before you stock up your medicine cabinet, here’s what you may not know—but should—about supplements as a whole.

1. A MULTIVITAMIN ACTS AS AN INSURANCE POLICY

 Whether you’re the healthiest eater you know or you’ve come to terms with your weekly indulgences, taking a multivitamin is a great step towards general health.“Any multivitamin is better than none, although it’s not a replacement for a healthy diet—it’s merely a supplement to a healthy diet,” says Heather Mangieri, Registered Dietitian, Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Author of Fueling Young Athletes.

Simply put, a multivitamin acts as an insurance policy. If you have a vitamin deficiency then the supplement can help you manage it. If you’re generally healthy, then taking a multivitamin can be a good backup in case you are missing out on key nutrients you’re unaware of.

2. MORE IS NOT BETTER

 Though society has led us all to believe otherwise, more is not always better. But if you stick to the recommended dosage on the label, you should be in good shape.“The main point is that dietary supplements are intended to supplement the diet, not to replace the balance of the variety of foods that are important to health and nourishing the body,” Mangieri says. “So while your body needs to have key nutrients, too much of some can cause problems.”

3. THE VITAMIN BREAKDOWN IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE BRAND NAME
 When picking out a supplement, take two of the same type off of the shelf. Turn the bottles around and compare the percentage of certain vitamins in each. Depending on your concern, this is one of the best ways to choose the right supplement for you. The breakdown of vitamins within the product is more important than the brand itself when choosing a supplement that is fit for your needs.

“A lot of the generic brands are private labeled. Some of those generic brands are being manufactured by the brand-name companies, and you just don’t know. You don’t necessarily need to go after the most expensive multivitamin, you just need the one that has the basics and covers you,” says Mangieri.

Doing a comparison like this will not only save you money, but it will also give you peace of mind that you’re taking home an effective product.

4. YOU CAN TRUST THE LABEL FOR CERTAIN INFORMATION

A lot of times we tend to self-diagnose and self-treat with the mindset that we know what’s best for our bodies. While most of us know our bodies better than anyone else, when it comes to supplementing you should turn the bottle and trust the label when it comes to recommendations on dosage and use.

“Stick to the label. Not all but most of the time, hopefully, if you’re choosing a reliable company and you did your homework, the supplement itself should be following the current guidelines to some extent in terms of what’s recommended,” Mangieri says. “Companies are at risk if they suggest you take way more than what is safe or healthy.”

While it’s fine to follow the label, Mangieri also advises that consumers should still do their own homework and know what the FDA is recommending for certain products.

5. OFTEN THIRD PARTIES TEST FOR PURITY
It’s important to consider whether a product could be potentially contaminated, but how do you really know? If you don’t trust yourself to be a good judge of supplement purity, you’re in luck because there are third parties that take on the task for you.

“[To check if a product is potentially contaminated] look at the label for a company that is using third party testing. Companies such as Informed Choice and the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention test supplements on the market to make sure that what the label claims is in the product is actually in the product. This is kind of tricky because not all supplements do third party testing,” says Mangieri.

You’ll know if a supplement has undergone third party testing if they have a stamp somewhere on the label with a symbol or statement from the company that conducted the testing and approved the product.

6. HOW YOU USE PROTEIN POWDER IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE TYPE

While supplementing with protein can be beneficial, rather than focusing on the type it’s more important to pay attention to how you use it.

7. THEY COULD INTERACT WITH EXISTING MEDICATIONS

 Before introducing a new supplement to your routine, it’s important to evaluate your existing diet and any medications you’re currently taking.Dietary supplements may not be risk-free under certain circumstances—for example, those that are pregnant or who have chronic medical conditions such as diabetes or hypertension. It’s really important to make sure that you’re aware of how certain supplements may interact with a medication that you’re on.

The herbs might interact with the medication, not necessarily the vitamins and minerals. While this shouldn’t prevent you from taking a multivitamin,the recommendation is to consult your doctor.

8. SUPPLEMENTS WILL BENEFIT DIFFERENT PEOPLE IN DIFFERENT WAYS

Hate to break it to you, but we’re all different. This means that supplements will work differently with each of our bodies. For instance, if you have a deficiency in a vitamin or mineral it’s very important to reverse that deficiency, and that’s where a supplement can help. However, taking more of a vitamin when you don’t have a deficiency will not give you an added benefit.

B12 is a popular vitamin in the media that promotes energy. If you have a deficiency, you will experience fatigue. However if you don’t have a deficiency, taking more B12 will not give you more energy.

Just because your neighbor got great results from taking a particular supplement, doesn’t mean the same will happen for you. But it is worth doing the research and talking with your physicians to figure out exactly what your body needs to achieve your goals.

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