Dietary Supplements are everywhere. You can find them at the big box store, vitamin shop, health food store, grocery store and online to name a few, but not all of these supplements are equal. According to an investigation recently by the New York State attorney general’s office into store-brand supplements at four national retailers — GNC, Target, Walgreens and Wal-Mart. All four have received cease and desist letters demanding that they stop selling a number of their dietary supplements, few of which were found to contain the herbs shown on their labels and many of which included potential allergens not identified in the ingredients list. In 2013 researchers reported, “Of 44 herbal supplements tested, one-third showed outright substitution, meaning there was no trace of the plant advertised on the bottle — only another plant in its place.” So what should you look for while shopping for your supplements online or at the store.

Nutritional supplements are typically available in four different categories: pharmaceutical grade, medical grade, cosmetic or nutritional grade, and feed or agricultural grade. Pharmaceutical grade is the highest quality grade of vitamins, meaning the purity, dissolution and absorption meet the highest regulatory standard verified by an outside party. Pharmaceutical grade vitamins may be available without a prescription, but they are typically only sold by licensed health care practitioners. Medical grade vitamins are also a high-grade vitamin, although they may not meet all of the standards of pharmaceutical grade vitamins. Prenatal vitamins typically fall into this category. Cosmetic or nutritional grade supplements are typically sold in health food stores. These supplements might not always be tested for absorption, dissolution or purity. Additionally, these supplements do not always have the same concentrations of active ingredients as what is listed on the label. Here’s my advice. 1) Read the labels. Ingredients for the supplements should be from organic sources whenever possible. 2) Look for hypoallergenic products if you have sensitivity problems or allergies. 3) Dietary supplements should be tested for toxic substances and any contaminants such as lead or mercury. 4) Contact information should be easy to find on the packaging. If not, don’t trust the company. 5) Look for an expiration date and make sure the product is fresh. If there is no expiration date on the label, buy something else. 6) Call the manufacturer and ask what published studies they have to substantiate their claims and what quality-control systems they have to ensure the ingredients listed on the supplement label are actually in the bottle. 7) If a product claims it will “cure” a disease, is “all-natural,” or has a “money-back guarantee,” be on guard. Any supplement that sounds too good to be true likely is. 8) Be wary of supplements produced outside the United States. Many are not regulated and some may contain toxic ingredients. If you’re pregnant, nursing a baby, or have a chronic medical condition, be sure to consult a nutritionist, dietitian or health care provider before purchasing or taking any dietary supplements. And unless you have consulted with a health care provider, please follow the dosage instructions on the labels. You can find a list of quality companies at


Middle Tennessee Chiropractic and Sports Injury utilizes chiropractic care, nutrition and functional rehabilitation exercises to help patients conquer pain and enjoy healthier lives.



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