When it comes to buying supplements, you want to rest assured you’re getting a good product. Because the FDA does not regulate vitamins and supplements the way it regulates other products, as a consumer you will want to do a bit of extra research when buying all-natural products to make sure what you are buying is safe, effective, and worth your money.
One of the biggest differences between the FDA’s approach to drugs vs. all natural supplements is that they do not investigate an all natural product’s quality or efficacy or place warning labels on them until after the product is being sold - aka, after consumers complain!
Manufacturers of all natural products are expected to follow a set of FDA standards called the CGMP - Current Good Manufacturing Practices. These guidelines are meant to ensure that all natural products are safe and contain good-quality ingredients. While most companies adhere to these standards of their own volition, there is very little FDA oversight of the process, which means companies who do not follow the CGMP rarely face backlash. The good news is there are plenty of ways to ensure the supplements you're taking are in fact good supplements - here's how:
Step One: Verify whether the supplements have been tested by a third party company. The most reputable supplement producers will voluntarily undergo product testing to demonstrate to their customers that their products are good products. Choosing supplements that have been tested by a third party company like NSF, USP, ConsumerLab, or the BSCG (Banned Substances Control Group) is a great way to ensure you're choosing safe, pure, high quality products. Third party companies will also verify that the supplement contains precisely what the label says it does, and they will test enough of the seller’s products to make sure the ingredients and amounts are uniform bottle-to-bottle.
Step Two: Look for supplements that have been awarded a Certificate of Analysis (COA). COAs are documents put together by third party companies detailing the results of their testing of the seller's product. The COA will declare whether the seller is following safety regulations, whether any chemicals/contaminants were found in the supplements, and helps to ensure the overall quality of the product.
Step Three: Work with a healthcare practitioner you trust. Whether you see a naturopathic doctor, medical practitioner, or both, it's important to have a good working relationship with your provider. Your healthcare provider can give you a lot of valuable knowledge when it comes to choosing supplements and can point you to good resources to learn about the vitamins, supplements, and/or medications you are taking. At Elements of Health, we take our commitment to high-quality products very seriously, and work closely with a third party company to source our vitamins and supplements from the most reputable companies.
McGrane, Kelly. 2020. How to Choose High Quality Vitamins & Supplements. Healthline.
Mast, Ferozan. 2022. How to Tell If Your Supplements Have Low Quality Ingredients. Eat This, Not That.
Various authors. 2022. FDA 101: Dietary Supplements. Federal Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/fda-101-dietary-supplements