Supplement Roulette

Supplement Roulette
Supplement Roulette (image courtesy of Ragesoss – source Wikimedia Commons)

Do you read labels on your supplements?

If not, I recommend that you start. The more you know about the supplements you’re taking the better off you’ll be. And because the pills or capsules you’re taking are just that, pills and capsules, there isn’t any easy way for you to tell what’s really in them. You just have to trust what’s on the label.

That’s why I was so dismayed when I discovered a recent study that found 1 out of 4 supplements did not contain what the label said was in them.

The study, conducted by Consumer Lab, found that fully 25% of labels were misleading. The contents either didn’t contain what the label said, had contaminants such as lead or other toxic metals, or were formulated in a way that prevented absorption.

These weren’t just obscure, small brands either. Included among the offenders were a few major brand names.

What About Rules For Labeling?

Until I did the research I thought, like many people, that the laws about truth in labeling protected us from this sort of thing. And in fact they do, at least on paper.

The problem comes from the fact that having a law is one thing and enforcing it is quite another. Apparently there just isn’t enough budget or manpower to check on the entire 4.7 billion dollar supplement industry.

Understand that I’m generally not in favor of government interference with the free-market, however when we have no way of telling what’s really in the products we’re buying, we need some way of feeling confident that we’re getting what we pay for and nothing more.

What Can We Do To Protect Ourselves?

This is the tricky part. Without adequate testing and follow-up there’s no absolutely sure way to tell what’s in that supplement you’re taking. At the same time, it makes no sense for you to do that sort of testing yourself.

And since modern agricultural techniques mean that most foods you eat, even whole, organically produced ones, travel long distances before they reach your table, supplements are more important than ever to insure that you are getting the nutrients your body needs to function best.

There are resources available to help you if you use some of the popular brands of supplements. Probably the best is the subscription-based Consumer Lab ( They run tests on many vitamins and publish their research online for their subscribers. A subscription costs $29.95 a year with multi-year discounts.

There are also books and magazines that publish information like this. One is Bottom Line’s “Health, Harm or Rip Off” book, which I’ve seen online for $19.95 plus shipping. It’s based on the research of Consumer Lab, mentioned above. You can see the best online link I could find for it by clicking here. Be sure to click on the links at the top right of this page to get more information about the book before buying.

If you don’t want to pay for this information you can always do a Google search for the brand name in question. Probably the best way to do this is to search using “[brand name], review” (no quotes). You probably already know this, but always remember to take things you read on the internet with a grain of salt. Certainly always consider the source and particularly whether or not they are selling you something.

Last, but not least, you can ask your favorite nutritionally knowledgeable healthcare practitioner what they recommend. Practitioners have access to brands not usually carried in stores and those who favor taking supplements usually have experience with what brands are the highest quality.

One Last Thought On Supplements

Since I’m sure some of you may be wondering, yes, I do have my favorite brands and sources for supplements. And I’ll get to that in a minute.

But in the interests of full disclosure, it’s true confession time. I have to confess that over the years I’ve turned into a world-class vitamin snob. By that I mean that I’m extremely picky about what supplements I take.

Partly that’s because of reports like the one I mentioned earlier. It’s also partly because of my experience with Metabolic Typing®. You see, depending on your unique metabolic balance, the exact same nutrient will either help your or harm you.

Think about it this way, if I asked you which direction you would go to get to Mexico City, most readers of this newsletter would say they’d head south. But if, by chance, you live in Peru, going south will only take you further away from your destination.

The point of that silly example is that getting where you want to go always depends on where you’re starting from. Certain nutrients and even certain forms of nutrients have widely different effects on you depending on your current metabolic state. They will either push you towards your goal of healthy balance or away from it.

Hopefully you’ll understand from this explanation why I’m not going to mention my favorite source for supplements. Unless you’ve done a Metabolic Typing® assessment, you wouldn’t know which supplements would be best for you. If you have done a Metabolic Typing assessment you already know the source I’m referring to.

For those of you who want a source for generally high quality supplements aside from the metabolically balanced formulas, please feel free to contact me by phone or by email (link below in the “Feedback” section). I’m happy to tell you those brands that I feel are consistently high quality.

And for those of you who really want to dial-in the best nutrient supplementation based on where your state of balance is right now, feel free to contact me about doing a Metabolic Typing® assessment. This is something that we can do in the office or by phone and email if you live outside of Northern Nevada.

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