Choosing Dietary Supplements

With so many varieties of dietary supplements on the market, how do you choose a good one? The laws governing dietary supplements make it a buyer-beware market. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not test dietary supplements for safety or effectiveness, and manufacturers are responsible for providing a good product. Use these tips when picking a supplement:

Buy from a reputable supplement maker. Beware of Internet sales of supplements or bargain-basement prices; with supplements you get what you pay for.

Read labels closely. Packaging may look similar on the outside, but the nutrients in the bottle can differ in purity and potency. One way to know if a supplement delivers quality ingredients and proper potency and contains no contaminants is to look for the “USP-verified” symbol. The U.S. Pharmacopeia is a nonprofit scientific organization that has been setting pharmaceutical quality standards since 1820 (USP 2014). It is the gold standard for supplements.

Know what you really need, and take only enough to supplement your diet. Rarely do you need the recommended serving size as listed by the manufacturer on the supplements fact panel to meet the entire Recommended Dietary Allowance from supplements. For example, I take 500 mg of omega-3 fatty acids per day because I don’t eat fatty fish— but I don’t take more, whatever the label says. I choose a variety that is “burpless” to eliminate an often-complained-about side effect (“fish burps”).

Be realistic about claims. If a supplement sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

To read the full article that ran in the September 2014 issue of the IDEA Fitness Journal click here.

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Christine Rosenbloom, PhD, RD/LD

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