Your Dietary Supplements May Be Harming You

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by Carol Ann Donnelly

It is no secret that dietary supplements, which include vitamins, minerals, and medicinal herbs are not regulated by the FDA, but we are often fooled into thinking a product is good for us because its package reads “all natural” or “organic”. How can we recognize this deception?

Or, maybe we want to incorporate ancient practices like Ayurveda into our lives, but Ayurvedic supplements can be laced with heavy metals. How can we know if these supplements are safe or it they are filled with mercury, lead, or arsenic?

The best way to steer clear of bad supplements is to be an educated consumer, which means doing your homework before you buy. It seems like a daunting task, but your health could depend on it.

Unfortunately, a safe supplement list doesn’t exit. Perhaps that is because new supplements guaranteeing everything from weight loss to more energy to improved brain function pop up regularly. The FDA has very little authority when it comes to these dietary supplements. The best it can do, under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994, is pull the product from the market if the manufacturer claims the product can prevent or cure a disease. But, the FDA can only do that if it establishes the product’s labeling is misleading.

“The best way to steer clear of bad supplements is to be an educated consumer, which means doing your homework before you buy.”

However, not all is bleak in the world of vitamins and dietary supplements. There is a scientific nonprofit organization that sets standards for the quality and purity of medicines. The U.S. Pharmacopeial (USP) began in 1820 by eleven physicians who saw the need for quality control with the drugs and medicinals being manufactured at that time. Today, this organization’s focus expands into medicine, pharmacology, patient care, dietary supplements, and food. Its work also extends into other countries.

USP has a program that vets dietary supplements. Manufacturers must meet very demanding criteria set forth by USP, in order to receive the USP Verified Mark on their products. The bad news is this program is voluntary. The good news is companies that undergo this scrutiny have a strong commitment to good quality. Some companies that have been USP Verified include, Nature Made®, TruNature®, Kirkland™, and Berkley & Jensen™. For a complete list of manufacturers who have taken part in this program, visit www.usp.org.

Not all dietary supplement manufacturers are bad nor should they be accused of hiding toxic ingredients inside their chewable vitamins, just because they have not been USP Verified. It means investigating the quality of the product falls to the consumer. A simple Google search can reveal plenty of information, including news stories on a particular manufacturer and reviews from other consumers regarding their products.

It’s your health, and being an educated consumer could save your life.

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