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Supplements - How to Get your Money’s Worth

Susanna Sisson's picture
Supplements for Health

I started taking supplements when I was 18. I’m not counting the Flintstone or Chock’s chewable vitamins my mother gave me as a kid which was a probably a colossal waste of money as are most supplements. Yet the supplement industry is estimated at approximately 27 billion dollars in revenue.


The truth is, it’s difficult to find high-quality supplements. In addition, not all supplements are created equal. The old adage “you get what you pay for” is something to keep in mind.
What to look for in a supplement.

• Natural versus synthetic – Man-made synthetic vitamins are manufactured in a test tube. They are not recognized by the body because they are isolated and made to mimic naturally occurring molecules. These supplements don’t contain cofactors and enzymes that support absorption and utilization in the body. They are also a different form of the vitamin. Synthetic supplements may contain fillers like yeast or wheat or chemicals the body doesn’t recognize. Let’s face it; even if scientists could exactly duplicate a molecule a natural God-given source is still superior.

• Liquid rather than pill form – Liquid vitamins are definitely a better choice over tablets or capsules. Liquids begin to absorb as soon as they are in the mouth, and it’s a good idea to swish them for 15-20 seconds before swallowing. But the same rule of thumb goes for liquid as pill form vitamins – buy those extracted from whole foods. Pill form vitamins have to undergo digestion. They have an absorption rate of between 3 and 20 percent which means you’re throwing away your money.

• Natural versus whole food - Unfortunately, vitamins can be labeled as “natural” even if if they contain as little as 10% of the natural form of the vitamin. Look for whole food sources which are made from plants that contain the nutrient, cofactors, enzymes and minerals that are needed for the nutrients to not only be absorbed but for the body to use them in metabolic activities. Good whole food supplements are those such as kelp, chorella, algae, seaweed, broccoli, and greens which contain a wide variety of nutrients. Vitamin C may be derived from rose hips or acerola.

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In 2015, the New York Attorney General accused four major retailers: GNC, Target, Walgreen’s and Walmart of selling fraudulent and potentially dangerous herbal supplements some of which contained none of the labeled ingredient, and demanded that they remove the products from their shelves.

While deaths due to supplements are very rare as compared to the 106,000 that occur yearly due to prescription drugs, they do occur.

In 2013, 72 people in 16 states acquired hepatitis which was traced to a tainted supplement and of those, three people required liver transplants and one woman died.

Consumers who want to check for standards and organic status can go to the website www.NOSG.org for a list of companies that are leading the way in Naturally Occurring Standards Group (NOSG) certification.