Safe supplementing part one: Choosing a dietary supplement

More than two-thirds of North Americans take dietary supplements. Most of us now consider these supplements as complementary to a mainstream approach to health. We may take some for prevention, or use others in conjunction with conventional therapies to help manage a health condition. There is a mounting body of clinical research on dietary supplements, and plenty of examples of products backed by strong science supporting their health benefits.

How to choose the best brand

With literally thousands of products on the market – many with similar-looking labels and names – it may be tempting to make your choice based entirely on the biggest store display. It’s important to take a little time to research brands so that you know which ones to take and which ones you may want to avoid entirely. Here are some tips that I frequently share with people:

●     Do your Internet research. Some companies will “borrow” science from other companies to promote their brand. But their products may not contain the same form or same amount of the active ingredient as was used in the research. Or their brands may contain other compounds that haven’t been tested in conjunction with the active ingredient. Be sure that the brand you choose contains the clinically studied ingredient. For example, did you know that most of the major research studies on the health benefits of L-theanine, a supplement used to manage stress and improve focus) were conducted using Suntheanine? Some companies market generic L-theanine products but do not have the research to back their claims.

●     Don’t choose a supplement based on price. A more expensive product does not necessarily mean it is better. Some vitamins are more expensive because of company’s higher marketing and advertising costs, not because of higher-quality ingredients. Conversely, however, cheaper products may be filled with additives and lower-quality ingredients.

●     Buy from a reputable manufacturer. Ask your pharmacist or health food store adviser for a recommendation, and to explain why it is their preferred choice. You’ll be armed with even more knowledge the next time.

You’ll soon discover that some dietary supplement manufacturers consistently produce better brands. They invest in research conducted by reputable institutions. They also invest in the processes that yield superior ingredients. You’ll grow to trust those manufacturers, and your shopping will become more streamlined.