How Safe Is Your Supplement?
A few months ago we wrote about vitamin supplements in our post “Supplements, What Do We Need & How Should We Store Them?” But there is more you need to know when making a decision on supplements.
There is a big division between high quality plant-based supplements and the cheaply produced and priced synthetic versions, while certain additives and fillers can be a real problem when taken in large and regular doses.
The statistics show
With more than 50% of the US population taking some form of nutritional supplement each and every day, and spending approximately $27 billion annually, the supplement industry is huge.
And yet, the population is not getting any healthier. Unfortunately, many will think that if they take a daily multi-vitamin pill, they can still continue with their poor lifestyle choices. Sadly, poor diet habits and cheap synthetic vitamins are not going to make a difference in the right way.
When you choose synthetic supplements over whole food supplements
Just as it healthier to change your diet to whole foods and ditch the processed, refined, packaged and convenience “foods”, the same applies to your supplements. Quality supplements are made from concentrated whole foods and plants. They are not the synthetic chemicals produced in a lab that will not give you the same benefits and may even cause harm. The ingredients in whole food supplements combine a variety of enzymes, co-enzymes, antioxidants, trace elements, activators and others that work together in synergy for optimum results.
How can you ensure you are getting good quality supplements?
Dr. Mercola gives these guidelines when checking on manufacturers.
- Ensure your supplement is as close as possible to its natural (whole food) form.
- Use independent third party labs that check the raw materials for contaminants and correct dosage.
- Follow industry standards for quality assurance including ISO 9001, ISO 17025 and Good Manufacturing Processes (GMP) certifications.
- Make sure the utmost care has been taken in all phases of its production, from growing its ingredients, to manufacturing, testing for potency and quality control.
Try to select from companies that have a long track record of providing high quality products that produce good clinical results.
You can check the ingredients list on your supplement packaging.
We set out the top ten ingredients to be wary of in supplements
1. Animal products. Some supplements are packed in gelatin capsules. While these are more easily absorbed in the stomach, gelatin is made from animal by products so immediately become a problem for vegetarians and vegans. Stearic acid is often used in supplements and is also an animal by product, being primarily derived from the rendered fat of farm and domestic animals. But stearic acid has health implications too. Its main drawback being that it may compromise the immune system by suppressing T-cell functioning.
2. Artificial colors and natural flavors. Those artificial colors (including YELLOW 6 LAKE and RED 40 LAKE) are now known through research to lead to hyperactivity, lack of focus, poor concentration and even anxiety. Natural flavors is a term that can legally contain natural occurring “glutamate” bi-products such as MSG (monosodium glutamate). This well known neurotoxin over-stimulates your cells to the point of severe damage. Such toxins can cause nerve disorders resulting in migraines, fatigue and depression.
3. Aspartame often appears in the ingredients lists as a sweetener. Aspartame accounts for over 75% of the adverse reactions to food additives reported to the FDA. Many of these reactions can be serious.
4. BHT or butylated hydroxyanisole has been shown to be toxic to the liver, thyroid, kidney and lungs, and may affect blood coagulation.
5. Fillers and flow agents are popular ingredients in supplements. One potentially hazardous additive commonly used is magnesium stearate. This chalk-like substance (which prevents the supplements from sticking together and allows the machinery to run smoother and faster to save costs) is not a source of magnesium and has no benefits. The opposite in fact, as mentioned in number 1. The filler also stimulates your gut to form a biofilm, which can prevent proper absorption of nutrients in your digestive tract. Silicon dioxide is a cheap flowing and anti-caking agent. It is also known as common sand.
6. Hydrogenated palm oil is a trans-fatty acid that can easily become rancid. Trans fats act as free radicals in the body damaging cells and can lead to heart disease, weight gain and more.
7. Maltodextrin is a starch sweetener that is nearly always made from GMO (genetically modified) corn.
8. Tablets. Some supplements (and particularly the cheaper ones) come in tablet format which are made using high pressure and heat to compress the ingredients. Unfortunately such a process can damage the nutrients, lessening their benefits. And not only that, glues and flowing agents are added while the tablets themselves are very robust making them harder to break down and digest.
9. Talc and corn starch. In the USA, corn starch is almost always derived from GMO corn which as many may know is not the healthiest choice to make while talc (also known as magnesium silicate) is an anti-caking agent. It has the potential to be a carcinogen.
10. Titanium dioxide has been classified as a possible carcinogen to humans with the potential to cause cell damage, genotoxicity, inflammation and a weakened immune response.
Just as you are now being encouraged to read the labels and ingredients on your food, the same applies to your supplements.
Optimize your health by choosing the highest quality food possible and buying good quality plant-based supplements.