What you should know about nutritional supplements

FEATURE — There have been many studies showing the health benefits and effectiveness of taking nutritional supplements. There are many reasons why most of us should be taking supplements, including poor diet choices, erratic eating habits, food sources, health conditions and even nutrient depletion due to prescription medications.

It is important to understand that all supplements are not created equally.

There are supplements that have good, better and best qualities and companies. We now need to add bad to the list. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, referred to as the FDA, does regulate finished vitamin and herbal products and dietary ingredients, the agency does not require these supplements to go through the same verification processes as “conventional” foods and drug products to ensure that the products are appropriately labeled and safe for consumers.

We have all seen TV infomercials and internet ads about fantastic results and cures for everything from acne to weight loss. These products usually contain a few inexpensive vitamins and an herbal “proprietary formula” with a large price tag and automatic shipments billed to your credit card. At best, these are supplements that are just overpriced, and at worst, they contain dangerous ingredients. There are many reports of sickness and hospitalizations.

Some reports expose brands that do not have what is labeled. The Washington Post reported in February that the New York Attorney General’s office has ordered four major retailers — Wal-Mart, Target, Walgreens and GNC — to stop selling “adulterated” and “mislabeled” herbal supplements that independent lab tests show do not contain labeled ingredients.

“Only 4 percent of Wal-Mart’s supplements (“Spring Valley” brand) actually contained the ingredients listed on the label, while 18 percent did at Walgreens (“Finest Nutrition” brand), 22 percent at GNC (“Herbal Plus” brand) and 41 percent at Target stores (“Up & Up” brand),” the Attorney General’s office said.

When it comes to dietary supplements, we don’t always get what we pay for. Consumer Lab conducts tests and acts as a watchdog for the supplement industry. Their tests have found often wildly fluctuating prices for essentially the same products.

“There are plenty of rip-offs out there,” Dr. Tod Cooperman, Consumer Lab president, said.

About one out of every five products tested fails to pass basic quality standards that include having too much or not enough of the amounts claimed on the package — and sometimes none at all. Others contain dangerous levels of lead or other potentially dangerous ingredients.

The supplements discussed above are all considered “food grade” by the FDA. The other is “pharmaceutical grade,” which means that they are subjected to the same rigorous testing and quality as pharmaceutical medications and the FDA will monitor for proper potency and labeling. These would be considered to be the best supplements on the market.

It is important to purchase supplements from someone who studies and has firsthand knowledge about the manufacturers and products they sell. The price difference may only be a few dollars a month between a good and a great supplement.

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Cliff Holt
Cliff Holt

Written by Cliff Holt for St. George Health and Wellness magazine and St. George News.

Cliff Holt is a pharmacist and the owner of Hurricane Family Pharmacy and Gunnison Family Pharmacy and Floral. He is a graduate of The University of Utah College of Pharmacy and has been practicing for 29 years. He specializes in compounding, diabetes, anti-aging, along with wellness and nutrition.

St. George Health and Wellness website

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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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  • native born new mexican May 17, 2015 at 7:59 pm

    I agree with Mr. Holt that not all supplements are created equal. I have worked in the vitamin and supplement business and the brands mentioned in the above article are known as store brands that don’t give you your money’s worth. You can usually tell by reading some of the poor quality ingredients.. An example is calcium carbonate which is really just chalk and not used well by the body. That being said I do not think we need the FDA/ government getting involved in this. If you want to see your herbs and supplements either go away completely or get so expensive you can not afford them just let the government start bossing people around. The best solution is for the consumer to educate himself about these products and then chose wisely. I have spent a lot of time reading books and talking with people who know the business in order to know what I know. The information is out there. You just have to educate yourself about it. I guess that would be called taking personal responsibility for your choices.

    • izzymuse May 17, 2015 at 9:53 pm

      NBNM, well written comment! Keep the FDA out and each person get educated.

    • fun bag May 17, 2015 at 9:55 pm

      A better solution would just be to ban anything edible that comes from terrible countries like china and india

  • fun bag May 17, 2015 at 9:14 pm

    Yep, everything now comes from corrupt 3rd world countries like china and india, and so much of the product is either garbage or outright poisonous and this includes a lot of generic RX drugs. Oh the joys of “free trade”…

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