This past week the New York State Attorney General’s office released the results of their own investigation into supplement ingredients. In a study of GNC, Target, Walgreen’s and Walmart, four out of five tested products showed no evidence of the herbs listed on the label. Even worse was the discovery of unlisted ingredients, a dangerous development for users with allergies.
And yet, Americans love supplements. According to the National Center for Health Statistics 53% of American adults used some type of supplement in the years 2003 to 2006, and in 2010 spent a whopping $28 billion. However, our reliance on these substances and the monetary outlays may not be bringing us the results we are expecting.
How is this possible? Vitamins and supplements are exempt from FDA regulation, so manufacturers are legally allowed to go to market products without revealing purity or ingredient levels.
So what should you do? Do your research and check with your practitioner before using a supplement. For years, independent research has shown that almost all supplements are ineffective in treating or preventing chronic disease.
If you do require a supplement because you are deficient in a nutrient, or because you have a specific health condition that requires supplementation, look for “USP,” “NSF,” or “Consumer Lab” on the bottle. These are third party certifications that indicate that the products have undergone a review to make sure their ingredients meet defined quality standards.
Finally, be just as vigilant about ingredients in the food you eat. Food is better regulated than supplements, but that doesn’t mean every ingredient is good for you. Choose foods that are whole, real and minimally processed, and that contain ingredients you understand.