Not All Supplements Are Created Equal

By Nicole Gould, RDN, CLT

5 things to consider when buying vitamins and supplements

The supplement industry has grown to a $40 billion industry with over 50,000 different products in recent years. It’s easy to purchase supplements just about everywhere you shop these days. Though no supplement is a magic bullet, they can be helpful at filling in dietary gaps and offering therapeutic support. But not all supplements are created equal. Some fall short of meeting label claims and others have downright dangerous ingredients included. For these reasons, Kemper Cognitive Wellness is selective about the supplements we recommend and where to purchase them.

Some of the most common places supplements are purchased are at discount/drug stores like Walmart and third-party websites like Amazon. It might be tempting to go for a deeper discount or order online for convenience, but a supplement is only as good as the ingredients it contains.

Here are 5 things to consider when sourcing supplements:

  1. Product Testing. Oftentimes, when an independent lab report shows a supplement contain little to none of the active ingredients they claim, the brands are typically generic or from discount stores. Better supplement brands will not only conduct their own testing, but also require an unbiased third party to test their raw materials and finished product. This will guarantee that the manufacturer is meeting label claims.
  2. Ingredients Details. Simply stating the active ingredient and the milligram amount is not enough to ensure you are getting a product that has therapeutic benefit. Many manufacturers cut costs by adding the inactive parts of specific herbs and botanicals, or use synthetic vitamins and minerals. Ideally, the manufacturer not only identifies the active ingredients, but also the type of extraction, the potency per serving (not just a milligram amount), the parts used, and sourcing information for an herb or botanical.
  3. ‘Other’ Ingredients. When choosing a supplement, don’t forget to look for the “other ingredients” list. Many supplement manufacturers add fillers and artificial ingredients like talc, BHT, polyethylene glycol, modified corn starch and artificial coloring and preservatives. For example, the popular multivitamin brand Centrum contains around 20 of these “junk” ingredients, and they certainly aren’t the only brand. Not only are these ingredients unnecessary, but they can also be harmful. Furthermore, if a company is adding these ingredients, it calls into question the purity of the active ingredient itself.
  4. When you purchase a product from a third-party website (think Amazon or Ebay) you have no idea where it’s been kept, how long it’s been there, or if it’s been tampered with. If you are concerned about a supplement you have purchased, call the supplement manufacturer and give them the lot number. Though they won’t be able to give insights on how the product was stored, the manufacturer can identify the batch, verify the products seal is intact and let you know if a product is old or expired.
  5. The world of supplements can be quite overwhelming, and you will most likely need assistance in choosing the best active ingredients as well as a trustworthy brand. Most discount stores and third-party websites don’t have anyone available to answer your questions and help direct you to the best possible option.

Where to source quality supplements:

Fullscript – Fullscript is an online dispensary containing professional-grade supplements with no expiring stock. Kemper Cognitive Wellness provides clients access to Fullscript along with guidance on supplements specific to your needs and offers clients a 10% discount to its Fullscript online storefront.  Fullscript accepts HSA and FSA credit cards.

Practitioner-direct – A health practitioner has your health and wellbeing in mind and will be familiar with better brands on the market. They often suggest practitioner brands that have more rigorous quality control.

Local health stores – These small businesses that specialize in dietary supplements tend to be more particular about what they stock. In addition, they typically have well-educated staff members to answer questions, give product details and many offer a money-back guarantee so you won’t be “stuck” with a product that isn’t helping or causing an adverse reaction.