We’ve all heard the famous words, “your body is a temple”. If we believe this to be true however, we should treat it as our permanent home. When looking to build a physical house, it seems obvious that one would seek out the highest quality building materials in order to create a strong, stable foundation to achieve long-term value. Essentially, this is the same concept that applies to the nutrients we give our bodies as building blocks. While diet and natural supplementation choices are important keys to good health, we need to assess the quality of these things to ensure they are providing for us what we need from them.
There are thousands of different nutritional supplements on the market, ranging from low cost, minimal dosage formulas to “high end” premium supplements. How do consumers determine which are effective and which ones are nothing more than “expensive urine”? Essentially, the old saying, “you get what you pay for” is especially true in the supplement area. Here are a few factors to consider when selecting ones for yourself and your family members.
- The Formula– Is it what the budget needs or what the body needs?
Different companies will use different reasoning to attain the nutritional formula they use in their supplements. There are 2 ways to go about this.
TOP-DOWN LOGIC/(BUDGET NEEDS) – With a set retail price point in mind, a company can work its way down and choose the formula, source of raw materials and type of manufacturing based on the budget that is left after others factors like freight and packaging have been accounted for. Also, it is possible that small, but ineffective amounts of a certain ingredient are added to a product in order to make the claim on the label and make it appear more impressive, even if it does not contain enough to provide a therapeutic benefit.
BOTTOM-UP LOGIC/(BODY NEEDS) – With no set price in mind, a company will choose its formula, type & source of raw materials and manufacturing practices based on peer-reviewed nutritional and biochemical science research studies. A nutrition supplement should provide all the essential nutrients in amounts that are significant and necessary for good health. Many supplements are missing many essential ingredients, or they include only minimal amounts of some of those nutrients. Extra ingredients can be beneficial in a multivitamin, just ensure that you are getting them in a worthwhile dosage and that they are something you want in your diet.
2. Raw Materials – Where do they come from and what form are they in?
Raw materials may all have the same technical name on the bottle. However, there are many nutritional grades & forms of each varying in price and effectiveness. It is difficult to tell if we are consuming a product with industrial or pharmaceutical grade ingredients based on the label alone.
3. Extra Ingredients– Is that tiny tablet packed with insignificant or important ingredients?
There are several other ingredients (excipients) that are commonly used in supplements such as binders, flow agents, preservatives and fillers. While this is common in all supplements, higher quality products will use high quality ingredients, the minimum amount needed and for the correct purposes, not to replace the therapeutic raw materials in the capsule/tablet.
4. Manufacturing – Does the way it’s processed retain nutrients and make it digestible?
The manufacturing technology used to make the tablets or capsules will affect how well the formula will dissolve and be absorbed. Ideally, you want a product made without the use of heat or solvents that will produce a batch of supplements with an even distribution. For example, the process of chilsonation is the use of high pressure to manufacture tablets with increased absorption and preservation of ingredients.
5. Quality Control & Safety – Can I be sure that what I am consuming isn’t contaminated?
Companies that ensure quality will have an independent third party test each batch of raw materials and final products to ensure there are no traces of heavy metals, hormones, chemical residues or other toxic compounds at all stages of manufacturing.
Another safety feature has to do with coating and packaging. High quality supplements are often coated and/or filled with special compounds to prevent oxidation. In addition to this, premium products will be in PETE or glass bottle to ensure a superior oxygen and moisture barrier between plastic and the product. Cheaper plastic bottles can leach petrochemicals into the finished product once it is on the shelf. These letters can be found by looking on the bottom of the container.
Superior quality supplements can only compete on the shelf next to lower-priced alternatives if there are knowledgeable staff available who can explain the difference in price and why it matters to the consumer. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about where your supplements come from, look for certification and properly research brands. If you are going to put the effort into attaining optimal health, it’s worth doing it right. Sometimes choosing the cheaper option ends up costing more in the end!
This column is sponsored by Good 'n' Natural in Steinbach.