Deciding to add a dietary supplement to one’s daily routine might seem like an easy choice, but choosing a supplement may present some challenges. A 2019 survey showed that 77% of U.S. adults take dietary supplements, revealing a need and desire for nutritional support. However, because the FDA does not assess supplement effectiveness, it’s important to make sure and truly know what’s in the bottle.1
Dietary supplements are broad by definition. They include vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes, botanicals, and more. Depending on the formula, supplements come in powders, capsules, tablets, and liquids. Since ingredient standards aren’t strictly regulated, it’s vital to know how to read supplement labels to ensure the product is safe and of high quality.2
What To Know When Choosing A Supplement
While the human body effectively gets needed nutrients from food and drink, changing diets throughout the globe often causes deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals. Since the 1950s, the Standard American Diet’s (SAD) increasing use of calorie-dense food lacking in nutrition and diversity has contributed to many people’s health challenges. It’s for this reason that many seek to add nutritional supplements to their diets.3
When choosing a supplement, it’s important to be informed. This will help make the best choice clear in order to reach intended health goals and illustrate the differences between science-backed, quality products, and false claims. By understanding how to read supplement labels, you can have confidence in the ingredients and formulas you select for your unique health regimen.
Supplement Label Basics
Each supplement is required to have a facts label, much like you’d see on any food product. The basic information will include:
Number of servings per bottle or container
The product’s ingredients
The amount of each nutrient the product contains
Taking a closer look at these facts can help consumers make the best decision on which supplement to choose.
Percent Daily Values
Depending on the vitamin or nutrient, the label may also include the Percent Daily Value (%DV). However, the %DV only needs to be included if the FDA has established the daily value of that ingredient.
For example, well-known and extensively studied vitamins like A, C, or D will always have a %DV. Other ingredients or extracts that haven’t been studied or determined may not have the %DV. In this case, many supplement labels will note that the daily value has not been established. This simply means the FDA has not studied or determined how much of the ingredient is needed for optimal health.
The %DV of each nutrient won’t always equal 100%—some might be less or more, depending on the formula. This information, in addition to the serving size, can help determine how much of the supplement to take at a safe, effective level.4
The ingredients of any supplement can be quite varied. From simple essential vitamins to complex botanical extracts, it’s wise to research each component of a supplement. Additionally, common additives are used to enhance the texture, taste, or color of a product. While many of these are harmless or naturally-derived, others may pose a risk to health over time.
Because supplement ingredients aren’t strictly regulated, some fillers and additives may be included that indicates a lower quality of supplement. Ingredients to be wary of include:
- Artificial Colors - Synthetic food coloring (like FD&C Red No. 40) add no benefits and have been linked to adverse reactions in some people
- Hydrogenated Fats - These are sometimes used as fillers in supplements, such as soybean oil. Since the FDA recommends avoiding these trans fats, hydrogenated fats in a supplement may indicate low quality5
Aside from trying to determine a supplement’s quality from its ingredient list, there are additional ways to identify a good product. U.S. supplements are required to follow Current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs). A supplement label that indicates it meets or exceeds this requirement shows the product has been produced according to strict quality standards including individual ingredient analysis, batch testing for contaminants, and much more.
When choosing a supplement, this factor should be taken into consideration. Without these regulatory guidelines, consumers could unknowingly ingest potentially harmful substances.6
After reading and researching a supplement’s label, there is one further point of investigation to consider. While a vitamin or mineral blend may be perfectly safe, can it really do what the manufacturer suggests? Even though supplement labels can’t claim to cure any disease or illness, what does the marketing of the product imply?
For optimal safety, efficacy, and results, published research should be a key component in any product or formula’s development.
The truth is, however, many supplements are not supported by scientific research or published clinical studies. While a supplement label gives consumers key facts on ingredients, dosage, and potential risks, only scientific studies and clinical trials can indicate efficacy. Without published data, any evidence of the supplement “working” might just be anecdotal at best.
Researched formulas and ingredients, however, include published clinical trials and scientific studies to demonstrate their effectiveness and safety. A supplement’s developer should have medical training and advanced knowledge of the science behind the ingredient or formula.
Independent, third-party peer-reviewed research on a formula or patented ingredient, published in high-impact scientific journals, can be an excellent indicator of the efficacy of a specific product. When unaffiliated research groups are interested in studying a specific product, there’s a good reason for it.
This is one of the features that sets ecoNugenics flagship formula, PectaSol Modified Citrus Pectin, apart from so many other supplements on the market. Independent research groups from renowned institutes around the world are increasingly interested in studying PectaSol because of its unparalleled cellular health-supporting properties. To date, over 65 peer-reviewed studies have been published on PectaSol, showing its ability to support our most critical areas of health.*
When time and money are spent on supplements, you want to know that there will be a documented, positive effect. Published formula research can help give you that assurance.
In this way, supplements can be taken with greater confidence—though of course, it is imperative to always consult with your primary care physician before embarking on any supplement regimen.7
Formulated by award-winning Integrative Medicine expert and best-selling author, Isaac Eliaz, MD, PectaSol is the leading supplement for enhancing the body’s most essential self-healing mechanics.
- Dietary supplement use reaches all time high. Crnusa.org. https://www.crnusa.org/newsroom/dietary-supplement-use-reaches-all-time-high
- Using dietary supplements wisely. Nih.gov. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/using-dietary-supplements-wisely
- Grotto D, Zied E. The Standard American Diet and its relationship to the health status of Americans. Nutr Clin Pract. 2010;25(6):603-612.
- Center for Food Safety, Applied Nutrition. Dietary Supplement Labeling Guide: Chapter IV. Fda.gov. Published 2019. Accessed December 14, 2020. https://www.fda.gov/food/dietary-supplements-guidance-documents-regulatory-information/dietary-supplement-labeling-guide-chapter-iv-nutrition-labeling
- Dorene Petersen AF. The hidden dangers in your dietary supplements. Achs.edu. Accessed December 14, 2020. https://info.achs.edu/blog/dangerous-supplement-ingredients
- Levin MD. The new food current good manufacturing practices and their effect on dietary supplement quality: What you need to know. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2016;15(5):22-24.
- The research process for EcoNugenics. Econugenics.com. Accessed December 14, 2020. https://econugenics.com/pages/research