Dietary supplements have a host of benefits associated with them.
They fill in the critical nutritional gap that is sometimes left by our regular diets. They also serve as boosters, helping the body fight off illnesses and infections.
It is little wonder, therefore, that the supplements industry has seen tremendous growth over the years since its inception.
However, with more than 29,000 types of supplements on the market today, picking the most effective batch for your needs can feel overwhelming. What are the most critical factors to consider when going for a supplement?
How can we be sure that the supplements we choose are not counterproductive and help our bodies as we intend?
Below, we look at the five most paramount considerations you should have when choosing your nutritional supplements.
These elements will help you determine whether a particular supplement is likely to benefit you, whether it is safe for you, and whether it is worth its hype and your money.
1. Health warnings
Checking whether a given product has had any health warnings issued against it in the past should be the first step.
Unlike pharmaceutical drugs, which are strictly regulated and monitored by the government, the manufacturers of nutritional supplements tend to enjoy lesser restrictions.
That is, however, not to be taken to mean that their products are unsafe.
One of the ways through which you can ascertain whether a particular supplement has had adverse warnings and complaints issued against it is by visiting the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website.
Once there, you may check whether the product has had sanctions or bans issued against it. From that information, you can make a more informed decision regarding the supplement.
As mentioned earlier, supplements are designed to complement or add to the nutrition offered by our regular diet. It is thus also essential to check out the composition of a particular product to ensure it aligns with our nutritional needs.
Since some supplements may interfere with the proper functioning of some medications, it is also pertinent to seek your doctor’s advice on what effects (if any) your proposed supplement might have. That is particularly important in cases where you are embarking on a supplements journey not necessarily prescribed by the doctor.
2. Consider the product’s benefits
Beware of products that seem to offer cures to incurable ailments. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
While it is perfectly normal and valid to hear of a supplement that boosts your immunity, energy, and performance, a product that purports to be a cure for all ailments or cancer is most likely a hoax.
A visit to the FDA website is a good starting point if you wish to know more about fraudulent supplements.
Being on the lookout for health scams is especially critical for individuals who seek a supplement to boost vital nutritional deficits or who suffer from chronic health conditions.
It is also crucial for those exhibiting undiagnosed symptoms as relying on the wrong cure may keep you from procuring the proper diagnosis in time.
Any product that has been flagged for fraudulent misrepresentation is mentioned on the FDA database.
3. It is independently tested and verified
Going for products that have been independently tested and approved by reputable labs assures you of getting the best deal in so far as the promised nutritional benefits are concerned.
Independent labs provide objective, unbiased, yet professional feedback regarding a specific supplement.
In most cases, that independent testing is done by organizations such as the NSF. The verifications done include ascertaining whether the product has what it is claimed (by the manufacturer) to have.
Some supplement producers may claim that a particular product is herbal or organic, yet may unscrupulously slip inorganic substitutes into the item—such product manufacturers bank on the assumption that consumers will not bother to verify.
Independent testing is designed to arrest and alert you of such issues.
You can always tell a verified product from the stamp of approval and certification issued to signify it underwent testing. The NSF certification covers an ingredient review, a toxicology report, and a contaminant review.
4. Is it medically accurate?
Sometimes you may not even be searching for a supplement. Nonetheless, you suddenly stumble upon a dietary supplement suggesting solutions to problems you never even knew you had!
In most such instances, manufacturers may use some medical jargon to explain the workings of the wonder drug. But how can you tell if these medical phrases and arguments are accurate or authentic?
A report done by Time magazine revealed that taking medically unsubstantiated supplements can lead to dire consequences.
Thankfully, the National Institute of Health has laid out the most common mainstream dietary supplements you will likely encounter in the market today.
Not only that, but the institute also takes time to explain the roles played by different vitamins and minerals in the human body.
The institute’s fact sheets tell what impact a particular product is likely to have on your health based on the product’s ingredients.
5. The necessity for the supplement
Lastly, consider your nutritional needs before embarking on a dietary supplement program.
Understanding your dietary needs will inform you of which supplement supplier is likely to carry the products you need.
Doctors, particularly nutritionists and dietitians, are the best professionals to help you determine your nutritional deficits and the best way to resolve them.
Examples of minerals and vitamins critical to the body include iron, vitamin C, and calcium.
Where a person is unable to get these from their regular diet, intervention in the form of dietary supplements is necessary.
A professional’s input on the matter is vital as it helps you avoid overconsumption or under-consumption of particular nutrients.