How do I choose the right brand of supplements?
The first thing to understand is that there are three categories of nutritional supplements: Feed Grade, Food Grade, and Pharmaceutical Grade.
Although the FDA does not regulate or oversee the production or sale of nutritional supplements, it has created guidelines by which to evaluate their quality, known as GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) regulations. The National Science Foundation (NSF) has added recommendations to GMP which has led to the creation in the United States of a set of standards which can be used to categorize supplements:
Feed Grade supplements meet the scientific standards for safe animal consumption.
Food Grade supplements meet the scientific standards for safe human consumption.
Pharmaceutical Grade supplements meet the same scientific standards for efficacy, purity, safety, and reliability as drugs.
Pharmaceutical Grade (PG) supplements must be a minimum of 99% pure, contain no binders, fillers, excipients, dyes, flavor enhancers, or undisclosed substances. They are standardized such that each pill, capsule, or metered dose of the substance contains the correct amount(s) of active ingredient(s) as is indicated on the label. In addition, PG supplements are formulated to yield a higher degree of bioavailability (the ability of the body to absorb and utilize the substance) than are Food Grade (FG) supplements. In this way, smaller doses of PG supplements may in fact carry more benefit than higher doses of FG supplements commonly carried by supermarkets and pharmacies in the United States. Most PG supplements are available only through doctors, although recently some manufacturers have begun offering these products in specialty retail stores and online.
Because PG supplements are a superior product, they do generally cost more than FG. Depending upon the supplement, the grade can make a critical difference in terms of not just efficacy but safety as well. For example, Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oils) are a very important and popular supplement which should only be consumed if it is PG (more about this later). In other cases, however, FG, while not as pure, potent, or reliable as PG, may be good enough and worth buying for people on a tight budget. Vitamin C is an example of a popular supplement for which a FG version would suffice for most people (again, more about this later). When buying FG supplements, a good rule of thumb is to purchase well-known, ‘big’ brands, such as Centrum, or Life Extension. Another good idea is to visit your local vitamin shop and speak to the salesperson in charge. He or she should be able to guide you toward the best quality FG products on the market.
If you decide to purchase PG supplements, speak to your doctor. Here at our chiropractic office, we sell Pure Encapsulations supplements at prices which compete with–and in some cases beat–many of the Food Grade products found in retail stores and supermarkets. Check out the products we offer here: http://www.purecapspro.com/drberkoff
Author: Dr. Gregory Berkoff