A whopping 77 percent of Americans have tried dietary supplements, according to the Council for Responsible Nutrition. Whether you are a regular supplement user, recommend supplements to patients or are considering dietary supplements and seeking out more information, it is important to separate fact from fiction. We’ve rounded up the top five supplement myths.
Myth: The dietary supplement industry is not FDA regulated.
Fact: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act in 1994. The legislation established strict standards for the safety and labeling of dietary supplements and penalties for failing to adhere to the guidelines. In 2011, the Food Safety Modernization Act further regulated the industry.
The laws require all supplement manufacturers and ingredient suppliers to register with the FDA. As part of their registration, manufacturers must undergo regular inspections of their facilities and get third-party certifications to ensure their supplements meet strict quality control guidelines. Supplement manufacturers must also report any consumer complaints about unexpected side effects so the FDA can track potential issues with supplements.
These strict regulations ensure that dietary supplements are manufactured to the highest standards and safe for everyone who takes them.
Myth: Dietary supplements are not safe.
Fact: Dietary supplements were associated with fewer than 23,000 ER visits over a 10-year period, according to research published in the journal Integrative Medicine. The data led the researchers to claim, “supplements are actually one of the safer product categories on the market.”
Look for products that are Current Good Manufacturing Practices or cGMP certified. This is an FDA regulation that ensures that you are purchasing high quality products from a company committed to the safety and effectiveness of their dietary supplements.
Myth: All supplements are the same.
Fact: Supplement manufacturers take different approaches to developing their formulations. A study published in the Journal of Nutritionfound that consumers taking multivitamins were using products with 1,246 different formulas.
Since there are no legal definitions for what constitutes dietary supplements such as multivitamins, flax oil, ginko extract or feverfew supplements, practitioners and consumers must take a closer look at supplement labels and seek out reputable supplement manufacturers to choose the best formulations.
Myth: The best supplements are “all natural.”
Fact: No one wants dietary supplements made with unnatural ingredients but that doesn’t mean “all natural” supplements are the best choice.
The FDA has never issued formal rules about the use of “all natural” on labels. Their policy reads, in part, “we do not restrict the use of the term ‘natural’ except on products that contain added color, synthetic substances and flavors…” and the federal agency rejected petitions requesting clarification on the term due to concerns that manufacturers were using “natural” or “all natural” on their labels despite adding artificial ingredients.
Look beyond the “all natural” claims. The nutrition facts panel on the label, which is regulated, includes all of the nutrients contained in a supplement and is much more important than marketing claims.
Myth: Certified organic supplements are guaranteed to be free of contaminants.
Fact: The Organic Foods Production Act, established in 1990, established strict criteria for using the “organic” label on raw or processed agricultural products, including ingredients used in dietary supplements.
Certified organic may still contain naturally occurring environmental toxins, such as heavy metals and aflatoxins. To avoid these toxins, look beyond organic labeling for supplement manufacturers that provide testing results. Vital Nutrients tests every plant-based material for 51 chemical solvents, 310 herbicides/pesticides/fungicides, four heavy metals and four aflatoxins, ensuring their products are safe.
Organic certification ensures that products are free of synthetic herbicides, pesticides and fungicides. The National Organic Program allows residues from prohibited pesticides as long as they do not exceed the Maximum Residue Limit.
The problem: Many ingredients used in dietary supplements do not have established Maximum Residue Limits, which means laboratories cannot analyze the components, according to the American Herbal Products Association.
Understanding the facts behind popular supplement myths ensures that you are making the best decisions about which supplements and supplement manufacturers to choose to source products for your health and wellbeing.
The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.