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In search of the best dietary supplements.

A lot of Americans use dietary supplements, with estimates among adults ranging from 52 percent (per the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2011-2012) to 71 percent (according to a Council for Responsible Nutrition 2016 survey). Common reasons people reach for supplements are to improve or maintain health, enhance energy, and fill nutrition gaps in the diet. Users have a high level of confidence in supplement's effectiveness, quality and safety. Unfortunately, supplement makers aren't required to demonstrate safety, ingredient purity or efficacy before selling products. As a result, adulterated, mislabeled and harmful supplements can make their way onto the market.

Only after a dietary supplement has been made available to the public can the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) take action by issuing warnings or removing products from the market if it finds a product to be unsafe, contaminated, or mislabeled. The FDA has established Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) supplement makers are expected to meet to ensure quality control in the manufacturing, packaging, labeling and storage of products. However, with more than 55.000 different products on the market, the FDA simply doesn't have the capacity to verify they all adhere to GMPs.

Third-Party Quality Control. Three independent organizations offer fee-based quality certification programs for dietary supplements: NSF International., and US Pharmacopeial Convention. As part of these programs, dietary supplements are tested for such things as ingredient quality, potency, and purity from contaminants. Each program issues corresponding marks or "seals of approval" (see Supplement Certification) that can be displayed on participating manufacturers' package labels indicating the product meets the corresponding organization's tests for quality. While these programs provide some assurance to consumers, they do not guarantee a product is sale or effective

Doing Due Diligence. Before deciding to use a dietary supplement, speak to your healthcare provider to determine whether it is safe or necessary to take. When it comes to choosing a product, inspect the label for a mark of approval from one of the three independent organizations with a quality certification program. Consumers can, and ought to, contact manufacturers to inquire about the company's GMP program, and how they test and substantiate safety, quality, and effectiveness of their products.

--Andrea N. Giancoli, MPH, RD

Supplement Certification
Look for these certifications on dietary supplement labels.


US             Dietary
Pharmacopeial  Supplements
Convention     Verification
NSF            NSF Product
International  and Ingredient
Consumer       Quality        Certification
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Title Annotation:You Should Know
Author:Giancoli, Andrea N.
Publication:Environmental Nutrition
Date:May 1, 2017
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