Supplements.
Go Beyond The Label.

Don’t Stop at the Product Label

September 5, 2022
4 Minute Read

When individuals initially step foot into my office and we are in the process of consulting on current lifestyle decisions, a major question I receive from those who take dietary supplements is, “Is Supplement X Good?” Most of these supplements are purchased either online, from a business, or from a manufacturer directly.

As a professional however, I cannot simply give a yes or no answer off the top of my head. Each supplement needs to be researched into to verify its validity. Because of that, often times I would need to get back to the individual asking the question once I’ve completed some further research on the supplement in question.

Often times, this process involves emailing the company directly to request for some specific information. A product label may look good on the surface, however there is a potential problem with stopping at the product label.

Using a data set of 1800 patients, ingesting 375 dietary supplements with subsequent analysis, it was found that only 44% were labeled correctly. The other 56% contained anabolic steroids or other pharmaceutical agents.

Problematic product markets included body building supplements, with a 72% mislabeling rate, weight loss supplements, with a 72% mislabeling rate, energy boosting products, with a 60% mislabeling rate, and general health and wellbeing products, with a 51% mislabeling rate.

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As you can imagine, this is incredibly problematic, and this one problem alone is the reason why, as a health professional, I am extremely critical over my opinions on supplement use.

Now that said, in very specific circumstances I may recommend a supplement, however my recommendations MUST be based in quality, purity, transparency, and backed by current scientific literature. I need the assurance that what is labeled on a bottle, is actually contained within the bottle.

This is why I must be critical of all supplements; these are some of the criteria I look into when assessing a supplement’s quality:

NPN Numbers

Making sure that a supplement has an NPN Number is paramount. I shouldn’t need to say this, because for a natural product to be sold in Canada it needs an NPN and it must be printed on the bottle being sold, without one it is illegal to sell the natural product.

As I said, we shouldn’t worry about this, however, someone once walked into my office with a product which lacked an NPN, which is why this is worth mentioning.

Third Party Testing

Personally, I believe that all supplements should go through Third Party Testing since supplements aren’t regulated like the pharmaceutical industry is. Third Party Testing adds credibility to supplements that what is claimed to be within a supplement label is actually found within the bottle.

Many companies, however, don’t perform said testing as it can be costly. However, this is non negotiable for me, as a professional; all supplements, in my opinion, aren’t approved by my office without Third Party Testing; preferably, said testing should be performed by a lab with zero affiliations to the supplement company (directly or indirectly).

Product Monographs

Another important document, one that not all companies have readily available. The only brands which provide these documents are practitioner-grade brands. These documents give health professionals access to relevant information regarding the product, what it contains and the dosages, and the research performed on the compounds found in the product and on the product itself.

While research on natural compounds, vitamins, and minerals exists and is readily available, for health professionals, research should also be available on the dietary supplement itself to validate its existence.

It’s also important to note that for a Medical Doctor to approve a supplement for use (or at the very least validate that it won’t interfere with any medications), a product monograph must be provided, without one, the answer will always be a no.

Without Third Party Testing, Product Research, and Product Monographs, my office’s recommendation will always be a no.

Certifications

After validating each of these areas, one final verification which can be performed would be to consider the certifications by third party organizations such as from USP, NSF, Informed Choice or Sport, and any other professionally recognized certifying agency.

These certifications validate that products are continuously being tested for purity and label transparency, as an example in order to maintain an Informed Sport certification, each product batch is tested in order to verify purity and label transparency, in order to validate that professional athletes from organizations such as the NFL, NHL, UFC, etc. can safely use the product in question without fear of getting fined or banned by their association because of hidden steroids in their workout supplements. It’s also important to note that should a company decide to discontinue testing, then their Informed Sport certification becomes null and void.

Because of this, some certifications are not only tough to acquire, but are also tough to maintain.

Final Product Validations

Only after all of these criteria have been validated would I consider the product label itself. Because, if a product should fail in any of the areas listed above, I don’t consider the product itself for use because the label itself is really only one cog in the validation of a dietary supplement.

By looking beyond the product label we can validate the purity, label transparency, and overall validity of the dietary supplement.

Final Thoughts

It’s easy to sell a supplement on the market, and it’s easy to make them cost effective or to inflate their price point using sneaky tactics. But is the supplement in question actually beneficial for overall health?

Well that’s a whole other question…

I recognize that as a natural health practitioner, the tone of this article may seem odd, or polarizing. However, I caution against the general use of dietary supplements as many of them are filled with unneeded binders, fillers, lubricants, coatings, not enough of a dose of an active ingredient in order to produce a physiological effect, or, at times, unlabeled compounds.

Not only that, but sometimes the form of the element used is incorrect for human absorption. The form of an element is important because that can tell you if it will be absorbed by the body or pass through it with minimal to zero absorption.

Sneaky supplement brands sometimes use cheap to manufacture forms, non-bioavailable forms, or not enough of a dose of a specific form to produce a physiological effect in order to inflate the retail price point. Because of this, you may be wasting your hard earned money on ineffective products.

Choosing good quality supplement is critically important, don’t buy just anything off of a shelf simply because some internet “expert” told you to or because of something you’ve read online.

Antonio Colasurdo

Antonio Colasurdo
Manual Osteopath
Naturopath

Antonio is a Manual Osteopath; he’s a member of the RITMA Association for Practitioners and Therapists in Alternative Complementary Medicine; and a fellow of the Osteopathy Chronic Pain Clinics of Canada.

Antonio dedicates his time and expertise in helping both men and women decrease acute and chronic pain, improve range of motion, and to help increase overall quality of life, as much as possible, at his practice in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

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