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Tips How To Choose High-Quality Supplements

Disclaimer: Not medical or professional advice. Always seek the advice of your physician.

How to Choose High-Quality Vitamins and Supplements

You may have more questions than answers with hundreds of different supplements with different prices and dosages in drugstores and over the internet. In this article, we've put together some key indicators to watch for to help you make informed choices when selecting supplements.

Red Flags in Choosing Vitamins

Every person wants to be healthy and live a long life. Vitamins can help us do that, but it can be difficult to choose the right ones. When shopping, always pay attention to the following signs.

Pay Attention to the Ingredients in Supplements

Many brands use terms like 'proprietary blends,' 'proprietary formulas,' and 'complexes' to attract customers' attention. It's not uncommon for these blends to contain a pricey ingredient in minimal amounts so that it can be listed on the label. This often happens with CoQ10 supplements, curcumin-based supplements, and products for weight management, joint support, and memory enhancement.

When choosing a supplement, pay attention to the amount of each component listed. Understanding how to evaluate the ingredient list can be crucial in determining whether a supplement will be effective for your specific health goals.

Supplements Based on Mineral Salts

Minerals must be stabilized to incorporate vitamins into supplements, typically by binding them to another compound, resulting in mineral salts. This process is standard and generally acceptable. However, be cautious: some products contain only a small amount of the mineral and a significant quantity of a filler compound. Take magnesium bisglycinate, for instance, where just 14% may be actual magnesium.

You need to know exactly how much of a mineral you're getting. The label should accurately state the amount of mineral in the supplement. Ideally, they should detail both the quantity of the mineral and its form.  For instance, a label could read, "Magnesium (as magnesium citrate) 110 mg," giving you a precise measure of the magnesium you're receiving. This way, you will know exactly how much magnesium you are getting from a given supplement. Watch out for misleading labels, such as "Magnesium Citrate 1000 mg," which might imply more magnesium than is truly present. The same caution applies to supplements like choline.


Be aware that some companies combine their omega-3 supplement labels with vegetable oil in the formulation to increase the omega-3 fatty acid content. So, when choosing, focus on the amount of omega-3 fatty acids rather than the amount of fish oil on the label. Some supplements contain up to 90% omega-3 acids, while others may contain as little as 25%.

To avoid confusion, focus on the balance of EPA and DHA- or check the amount of each acid in the composition. For example, a supplement with 1,200 mg of fish oil may contain only 300 mg of omega-3 acids, while another supplement with 1,000 mg of fish oil may contain 800 mg of omega-3 acids.

Herbal Supplements

When it comes to herbal supplements, brands often use herbal ingredients in the form of extracts. However, the information on the label can be incomplete and misleading. Take turmeric extract, for instance: 200 mg of turmeric extract may contain only 36 mg of curcumin, which is what is valuable for health. A reliable label should provide detailed information to help you gauge the extract's concentration and the percentage of the active ingredient you're receiving.

Additionally, keep in mind that manufacturers may add vegetable oil to increase the volume and decrease the concentration of active ingredients, so it's important to read the composition and analyze the concentration of the substance you need, not just the overall amount of the extract.

Ignore Meaningless Claims

Supplement labels often promise that the product contains clinically tested ingredients, making it safe and effective. However, you should not rely solely on such claims, as they are not always true.

1. Undergoing clinical trials is a standard requirement for any new ingredient or drug, so such claims don't really set a supplement apart. Moreover, just because a supplement has passed a clinical trial doesn't guarantee its effectiveness. Many clinical studies are limited in scope, and their results can be inconclusive.

2. Even if an ingredient has been proven effective in large clinical trials, it does not mean that the same dosage will be present in the supplement. Some manufacturers may not add enough ingredients to their products to get the desired effect, thus rendering it meaningless.

3. A supplement may contain a combination of several ingredients that have never been tested together. For example, some ingredients may affect each other, leading to undesirable effects that have not been reported in separate studies.

4. Some manufacturers also use marketing tricks, such as using introductory words that can confuse the consumer. For example, "clinically proven," "based on scientific research," "organic," "natural," etc. You should not rely on these claims alone; you should research before choosing a supplement.

Tested by an FDA-approved Laboratory

This claim can be misleading. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not 'approve' laboratories. While a laboratory can register with the FDA, registration alone does not endorse its quality or compliance. It's important to look for laboratories that have earned additional, meaningful accreditations. These credentials offer a more substantial indication of a lab's standards and reliability.

Pharmaceutical Grade

The term 'pharmaceutical grade' often seen on dietary supplement labels can be misleading. For most ingredients in dietary supplements, 'pharmaceutical grade' is not a recognized or meaningful classification. Don't be swayed into paying extra for this claim on a label. However, if such a standard exists, a manufacturer can state that an ingredient meets a standard set by the United States Pharmacopeia (USP).

Do Not Believe that a Supplement Can Cure a Disease

You should not believe that supplements can cure a disease. Legally, they are not classified as drugs. You should avoid manufacturers who write about curing specific diseases on their labels.

That said, there are several scientifically backed claims that certain supplements can reduce the risk of certain diseases.

Risks of Excessive Dosage in Dietary Supplements

Taking overly large doses of dietary supplements can pose significant health risks.  Unfortunately, labels do not specify how much of an ingredient constitutes an overdose. Generally, a vitamin or mineral exceeding 100% of the recommended daily allowance can be a health hazard.

For instance, an excess of vitamin A might lead to symptoms like nausea, headaches, fatigue, and increased sweating. Too much calcium can lead to kidney stones, while an overload of iron may lead to severe cardiovascular and digestive system issues.

If you take supplements, follow the recommended dosage and don't exceed the established limits.

Consult with a healthcare professional to ensure you take the right supplements and dosages for your needs.

Supplements High Price vs. Supplements Quality

When choosing supplements, do not rely on price as it is not a guarantee of quality. More expensive supplements do not always mean higher quality or effectiveness. Sometimes, higher prices are just a marketing strategy to suggest exclusivity or superior quality, which may not be the case.

Some manufacturers inflate prices to create the illusion of exclusivity or high quality of their products.
Also, keep in mind that large sellers can afford to offer quality supplements at lower prices due to high-volume production.

To ensure you're getting a quality supplement, choose well-known brands or trusted manufacturers. Carefully check the labels for any red flags that could signal quality or safety issues. Pay close attention to the listed dosages, ingredients, and any allergen warnings.

Remember, supplements are not a cure-all. They should complement, not replace, the pillars of a healthy lifestyle: regular physical activity, balanced nutrition, and adequate sleep. Supplements are tools to support your health goals, not substitutes for healthy living habits.

Learn More about Vitamins and Supplements

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