Are Supplements Really What They Say They are?
When you purchase, or have a prescription filled for a drug, that drug has to be exactly what it is meant to be. Are there the same rules and regulations for supplements? Do you know if there are ten milligrams of zinc and five of copper, et cetera, et cetera, that it says is in the capsules? How do you know you are actually buying what you think you're buying?
In the United States, we have the FDA, which requires drug manufacturers to test their products routinely and adhere to certain standards of manufacturing, to produce the exact same milligram dose of what's in the capsule or pill that is on the label. That's the difference between things like prescription drugs or synthetic manufactured drugs and biologics versus nutraceuticals or dietary supplements.
There was a law passed in the mid-1980’s that forbade the FDA from getting involved in oversight of the nutraceutical industry. They felt if that was the case and the nutraceutical supplements had to go through the same rigorous protocol to advance a drug to be FDA-approved, that the dietary supplement would not be cost-effective. In other words, it would be too expensive for the average person to purchase. So, the federal government passed statutory laws allowing the supplement companies to be free of that sort of oversight overreach.
The downside to that is that you don't know when you go to the local health store, or the supermarket, or the drugstore, and reach for a bottle of Ginkgo Biloba, what is actually in it. It's all up in the air, unless you use some resources like Emerson Ecologics or Fullscript or a couple of others that do all the vetting out. What they do is, they go after companies to be in their formulary. They, do independent laboratory tests voluntarily using a third-party lab, because they have a reputation to uphold, like Metagenics, or Integrative Therapeutics or Vital Nutrients. These are brand name pharmaceutical grade products, and if they fall short, trust me, the word will get out and they'll lose business. For them to stay at the top of the game, considered like the top ten supplement companies, they have to do a very good analysis of their products, companies like Emerson and Fullscript will take on those products and put them in the formulary.
So, if you're getting supplements from these companies, you're probably assured of high-quality supplements versus getting them just willy-nilly off of the shelf somewhere or off of Amazon. Make sure if you're acquiring it from your clinicians, that they're sending you to these sites for the best possible supplement.
I don't know what the rules and regulations are in other countries, but again, if you're using the FDA as the gold standard, that's how it is in the United States.
One way to know what you're getting in your supplements is to subscribe to Consumer Lab, which independently tests many supplements. That's one of them that does some independent laboratory analysis. They don't take any advertising dollars from anybody, so they're not biased and they will conduct analysis. Not on everything. There's lots of stuff they do test, but there's a lot of stuff they don't get the chance to test. If you want to use them as a resource to identify pharmaceutical grade dietary supplements, because it's an unregulated industry, that's one way to do it. Companies like Fullscript will vet out those dietary supplement companies. If they don't muster up, they don't make their formulary.
I cannot take every single patient of mine by the hand down to the local health food store and pick out stuff for them. I tell them, go to Fullscript, look up the stuff that I'm recommending and if you want to get it somewhere else, get the exact same thing elsewhere for less if they want, but at least use Fullscript as a good resource to kind of identify the good stuff.