What's in your supplements?!
I get asked daily what supplements are good to take as I am sure all coaches do. When I was with 24hr Fitness, I flew out to San Ramon, California to attend the GM Leadership Camp. While there, one of the HR area managers made a quip "Oh you're from Texas. Ha! You all are like the Wild Wild West out there." This isn't about 24hr Fitness, but her jab is exactly how the supplement industry is ran. If any of you have seen the Documentary "Bigger, Stronger, Faster" you know what scenes I am referring to. If not, no worries I am going to lay out how the industry is "regulated", so that you can arm yourself confidently in making sound decisions surrounding what supplements are best for you and the ones you love most.
The DSHEA of 1994
The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, is a 1994 statute of United States Federal legislation which defines and regulates dietary supplements. Under the act, supplements are effectively regulated by the FDA for Good Manufacturing Practices under 21 CFR Part 111.
The act has been widely criticized for several reasons. Two of which are
- The deal that DSHEA and NCCAM made with the public was this: Let the supplement industry have free reign to market untested products with unsupported claims, and then we’ll fund reliable studies to arm the public with scientific information so they can make good decisions for themselves. This "experiment" (really just a gift to the supplement industry) has been a dismal failure. The result has been an explosion of the supplement industry flooding the marketplace with useless products and false claims. S. Novella (2014) "Herbs are Drugs"
- Under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA), the dietary supplement manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that a dietary supplement is safe before it is marketed. FDA is responsible for taking action against any unsafe dietary supplement product after it reaches the market. Generally, manufacturers do not need to register their products with FDA nor get FDA approval before producing or selling dietary supplements.* Manufacturers must make sure that product label information is truthful and not misleading.
To paraphrase: “sell whatever you want, just don’t let us catch you.” S. Lipson (2009) Science Based Medicine
To summarize, most nutrition companies don't feel obligated to prove or disclose the exact ingredients in their products and simply skate the ethical line of what feels to be wrong or right. Consumer Reports conducts random analysis' on products and most recently found a major supplement company reported the following: 24 grams of protein and 3 grams of carbohydrates. The CR analysis found it to the the exact opposite. Meaning, it had 3 grams of protein and 24 grams of carbs. Other reports showed trace amounts of pharmaceutical drugs and anabolic in various product lines. There seems to be a large gap between the manufacturer and the brands. Quality control reports indicate the most companies never check to evaluate what is in their product once it has been delivered to them for brand packaging and direct to consumer for purchase.
The medical community has never felt comfortable with this space and honestly I can value why. With that, >60%, both recommend and take dietary supplements themselves. However, have no confidence in the quality of most products nor have the confidence the consumer is able to make sound purchasing decisions.
In 2018, the FDA used the services of Health and Diet Survey. The research discovered the consumer buying behavior in the health space is influenced by several factors. I have listed one main focusing on supplements.
1. How many ingredients are in the product. The more the better indicates "more" health benefits along with perceived value of the word "fortified. This is called window dressing.
This isn't aimed as a fear mongering tactic. I take supplements. A lot of them. I have purchased from various major consumer sources. I have had nothing ever go wrong or know of anyone who has either. With that, I simply more informed on what the true process looks like and have organized some very reputable brands that you can trust. How do we quantify this?
- Proven: research models, either they have conducted or outsourced, on the the efficacy of their products and determined the biological value each provides.
- Quality: every product undergoes an aggressive quality control evaluation to determine down to smallest unit, every ingredient is in fact in their and to the amount stated on the labels. Not to mention, ingredients that are not that could potentially be harmful to your health.
- Supported- a lot of companies claim they are supported by various certifying bodies, when in fact they are not after doing the research. Here are a few consumer quality certification programs- consumerlab.com, US Pharmacopeail Convention (USP), and NSF International Certified for Sport. If they boast these credentials, then you can be rest assured you are getting a quality products. NSF International seems to be the world class approving agency, here is a link to see if your products are approved by them.
Some really strong companies I have personally seen are
Designs For Health
If your trusted healthcare provider has provided you recommendations I would feel confident in trusting their reasoning on why this product best suits your unique health and fitness needs. I hope this helped to bulletproof your confidence in choosing the safest, most beneficial and valued nutrition supplements for you and your family.