One of the most common questions I receive as a dietitian is “do I need to take supplements?”
People ask this because every day, we’re surrounded by advertisements for supplements that guarantee taking them will change your life or your health. I’m here to bust these myths, and here’s why:
Most Supplement Companies Aren’t Telling the Truth.
Supplements are not strictly regulated by the FDA—that is, the Food and Drug Administration, which is the organization responsible for reviewing and approving products like pharmaceutical drugs and medical devices.
Dietary supplement manufacturers are not required to get FDA approval before producing or selling supplements. So, the scary truth is that if you purchase from any old supplement company, you may be swallowing mystery ingredients and literally flushing your money down the toilet.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at this article that discusses a study that was conducted in 2015 that found 4 out of 5 of the supplements tested didn’t contain any of the ingredients that were listed on their labels. Instead, they contained cheap fillers and other substances that you probably shouldn’t be putting in your body.
Despite this concerning information, it isn’t to say that there’s not a time and place for supplementation. You just need to make sure the supplements you take are safe, which brings me to the next question you might be asking:
How Do I know if My Supplements Are Safe?
The safest supplements are pharmaceutical grade, which means they have been verified by a third party to ensure they contain what’s listed on the label. Examples of these are those that have been produced by a company that follows good manufacturing practices (GMP), which means the supplements must:
-Be produced in a quality manner.
-Not contain any contaminants or impurities.
-Be labeled with the ingredients that are actually in the product.
Supplements that meet these standards will have the ‘GMP’ label. You can also contact supplement companies directly to find out specific details about their practices.
Metagenics is one of my favorite companies that produces high-quality supplements. Nutrikey is another trustworthy one. Sure, they are pricier than supplements you may find at your local Target or GNC…but don’t you want your supplements to be effective? Do you want to put mystery ingredients in your body? I think not.
Do I Even Need to Supplement?
My quick answer to that is probably not. But everyone’s needs are different. There are some circumstances when a dietary supplement is warranted, like when you are truly deficient in a vitamin or mineral, you’re extremely stressed or you can’t meet your nutrition needs with food for whatever reason. I recommend that you work with a healthcare provider, like a dietitian (hello!) or doctor, to figure out if supplements are right for you.
I think it’s important for everyone to get their nutrients from food first, and when that isn’t enough, a high-quality supplement may be exactly what you need!
Xoxo, RD Bri