What do vitamins, supplements and natural beauty products all have in common? They are, by and large, widely unregulated, meaning the claims that we see on promotional and marketing materials may not always be accurate. In a world where almost anyone can sell a product online, utilize software to formulate before and afters, hire copywriters to create reviews and purchase ad space on social media, we as consumers should be very aware of what we pour our money and health into.

Supplements are very much an area to exercise curiosity in what is actually in the products, how they are tested and the truth behind the supplement’s claims. 

Most vitamins and supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and do not undergo rigorous testing for safety and efficacy. A 2018 study showed that unapproved pharmaceutical ingredients were identified in 776 dietary supplements, and thousands of people wind up in the hospital due to use of unregulated supplements every year. Many of the hospital visits are a result of combining over-the-counter supplements with medication (both prescription and over-the-counter); however, many are also a result of supplement contamination. Contaminants can include, but are not limited to, heavy metals, bacteria, fungi and pharmaceutically active ingredients. Reactions to supplements can include cardiovascular issues, allergic reactions, choking and more. 

According to its website, the FDA "does not have authority to review dietary supplement products for safety and effectiveness before they are marketed." Consumers can report problems after the fact, but that means we are our own frontline protection from potentially harmful products. 

Take heart, though! There are several ways we can protect ourselves and our families from potentially harmful supplements.

  1. Make sure the company you’re purchasing from has testing done by a third party, and that they are forthcoming with the results. 

  2. When purchasing from Amazon, be sure you are purchasing from the company’s Amazon store and not from a third party company. 

  3. Labdoor.com is a resource that verifies supplement claims, detects contaminants and publishes their findings for free. Other resources are USP and NSF.

  4. In that same vein, when researching supplements, be sure to turn to the above listed organizations in lieu of relying on the manufacturer/distributor’s claims and reviews. 

  5. Ask your healthcare provider for help determining the best dietary and lifestyle guidelines for you, as well as recommending trustworthy supplements. 

It is a wonderful thing to be empowered to choose the best products you can for yourself and your family. Never stop being curious; the results will be worth it!

 

Heather Disarro is the author and creator of Heather’s Dish, a clean beauty educator, a health coach and social media boss. She loves spending time with her family doing almost anything outdoors, eating great food, reading and enjoying everything Arkansas has to offer.