Because supplements are treated as food and not medicine they are not being as strictly regulated, so there is no foolproof assurance for quality of supplements.
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If you are considering buying nutritional supplements, there are some things you should keep in mind. As more and more brands get into the market, it's becoming difficult for the lay person to understand what works and what doesn't. Because the FDA doesn't regulate the nutritional supplement industry, it's up to you to look for the best quality money can buy.
When buying nutritional supplements, the first thing you need to look for is special wording. The label should read something like "quality guaranteed, independently tested and analyzed, meets standards for potency and uniformity." This labeling alone will disqualify many vitamins of substandard quality. Another option is to look for a label that reads "USP Verified," which means the nonprofit organization U.S. Pharmacopeia has tested and approved the product. Finally, look for the words "natural" and "bioavailable," which means the ingredients are easily absorbed by the body rather than wasted. Always look for an expiration date when you're buying nutritional supplements. If the product doesn't have a date, choose another one.
Another thing to consider when buying nutritional supplements is your needs. Most people will benefit from a complete multivitamin rather than from taking different pills throughout the day. The exceptions may be if you have a condition where you cannot take iron, or where you need to take calcium separately. If you have doubts, always ask for doctor.
When buying nutritional supplements, check labels. Look for serving size and ingredient potency. While a more expensive product does not necessarily guarantee quality, you may find that it requires you to take only a pill a day to meet your requirements, while a cheaper product may require four or five. If you're considering buying nutritional supplements other than a multivitamin, do your research. Kava, a popular supplement used for insomnia, can cause liver damage in people with a family history of the disease. Others, like ginger and ginkgo are not recommended for people with high-blood pressure. Some supplements also interfere with drug absorption, like in the case of St. John's Wort, which can lower the effectiveness of birth control pills. Always exercise caution when buying nutritional supplements you know little about or have never tried before.
If you need more information before buying nutritional supplements, consult the National Institutes of Health's website, which contains up-to-date information on supplements.