“I’ve tried (insert popular natural health supplement here) before, it didn’t work for me”.
“I’ll just pick them up at Costco, I can get them cheaper there”.
These are variations on phrases every naturopathic doctor has heard from a patient at some point in their practice and it can sometimes be hard to explain to patients why our supplements cost more than most brands sold over the counter.
Since there is often little testing required by law in the supplement world, how do you know what you’re getting?
Here are four important reasons why you should go with professional-grade supplements:
1. They contain the exact ingredients in the exact amounts that are listed on the product. There was an article recently on CNN talking about how four major stores selling supplements in the USA were ordered to stop selling certain products in New York State after testing found that they didn’t contain the ingredients or the amounts listed.
Most of the companies that produce professional-grade supplements provide detailed information about the testing and production procedures they have implemented to ensure safety and quality. “Standardized extract” is an important phrase that lets you know the company has taken steps to ensure the product contains the proper amount – not only of the whole plant, but specifically the active constituent.
2. They don’t contain anything that is not listed, such as fillers or other supposedly “inert” substances. Often these can interfere with optimal absorption of the target ingredients, which means you’re not getting everything you paid for.
3. They are free of heavy metals or other harmful impurities. Herbal products originating in China are the most common examples of this. “You are what you eat” doesn’t only apply to us – plants grown in contaminated soil will be contaminated. This isn’t rocket science!
4. They use the safest and most effective methods of extraction or production. One example – fish oils/Omega-3 fatty acids are mostly produced in either the triglyceride form (the form found in nature) or the ethyl ester form. Research indicates that the triglyceride form is both absorbed and metabolized significantly better than the ethyl ester form.
Bottom line: your generic brand probably costs half as much - but it also contains less, is poorly-absorbed, is generally far less effective, and might even be dangerous. Don’t waste your money.
Dr. Reuben Dinsmore, ND
Reuben Dinsmore is a naturopathic physician in Vancouver, BC interested in opening up the lines of dialogue around health.