A recent article published by the Washington Post shed light on dietary supplements for diet, weight loss and sexual vitality being tainted with unapproved drugs. The California Department of Food and Agriculture reported that between 2007-2016,776  FDA tested supplements were contaminated with pharmaceuticals such as sildenafil, sibutramine, phenolphthalein, and steroids. Nearly 90% of these tainted supplements fell into the sports, sex and weight loss categories. Besides the obvious health risks this can pose, negligent and irresponsible manufacturing like this casts a dark cloud over an industry constantly fighting for clinical validation and legitimacy.

Having personally been exposed to the nutritional supplement industry for the better part of 25 years, findings like this make my heart break for the companies and manufacturers who have put their blood, sweat, and tears into creating potent, pure and effective products. I have seen first-hand on many occasions, how lives can be transformed by the benefits of quality supplements used properly. Findings like this only further validate the importance of doing due-diligence as either a consumer or practitioner when it comes to choosing vitamins and supplements.

When companies are trying to get their piece of the $35 billion supplement market, it is inevitable that corners will be cut and products will be pushed to market with the bottom line and only the bottom line in mind. Studies on the actual composition of many supplements (retail especially) prove that you’re better off eating cardboard. The long-term effects of this are two-fold: it proliferates an idea that supplements aren’t effective and creates a lack of credibility for the entire industry, even to those who are experts at developing and manufacturing quality nutritional supplements.

While finding superior manufacturing and formulations will continue to be an uphill battle for the growing dietary supplement industry, you have to keep your personal health at the forefront. At the end of the day, some people take supplements because they want to lose some weight or have better looking skin, and then there are those who are fighting life-threatening illness or recovering from serious injury. Whatever your goals may be, investigating manufacturers in today’s climate is just plain good sense. Here are some tips that can help you in your search:

  1. Talk to a licensed health care practitioner about all the medications and supplements you are taking or may want to take.
  2. Your health is an investment, chances are that the cheapest possible options aren’t the best, not even close.
  3. Research your chosen brands- Look for GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) certified facilities, batch testing, responsibly sourced raw ingredients, independent party formula testing, and Organic certifications
  4. Watch for fillers and excipients. Here’s an article to help you identify common ones: https://enzymedica.com/blogs/naturaldigestivehealth/common-fillers-and-excipients-in-supplements
  5. Ask for valid 3rd party testing. Formulations should have published studies on effectiveness.

Seeing growth in the supplement industry is a good thing, it means people are starting to identify their health as a priority. Similar to other industries like food, skincare, and even pet food, manufacturers and marketing can be dishonest and misleading. The good news is, consumers and practitioners have power. Educate yourself, seek out the best products from an informed perspective and hopefully the inferior products simply won’t survive in a competitive climate. It’s up to you!  

By Dr. Holly Lucille, ND, RN