This is something I am very passionate about. After 5 years of working in a retail health food shop and now practicing clinical nutrition, this is one of the most underestimated, important factors of nutritional medicine. Hence why this blog is longer than most of my others. So how do you know what supplements are good quality?
First of all, look for the AUST L number in packaging of the supplement. This number shows that the product is included in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG). The AUST L number is used for the prevention of diseases and health conditions. This shows that the supplement has been assessed for safety, quality and effectiveness or that the ingredients used in the supplement are all pre-approved, low-risk ingredients. Australian and some New Zealand product ranges, will specify this on the label. Know the difference between a supplement and a food product. Supplements will have a AUST L number and food products won’t. Food products are often sports health products and/or wellness superfoods. Get in touch if you have more questions about food products.
Most Importantly! Be aware of buying supplements online. Supplements in Australia are approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) whereas the laws for the consumption of products are different in foreign companies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They may be regulated differently due to dosage or ingredients, and it is best to consult your health care practitioner before buying online. I recently had a patient that was prepared to buy a supplement online for her 5 year old child that was not TGA approved and 5x the dosage that should’ve been given to a child that age. Please be careful.
Where you can, support local business. Look to your local health food shop or compounding pharmacy. They will have qualified staff available to offer you expert advice. They will be able to direct you to supplements that offer scientific research articles with their products. (HINT: For other practitioners or retail staff this is usually in the product manual!)
Okay, so back to the labelling. Quality supplements will state on the label “free from gluten, dairy” etc, you should use this as an indication of what excipients are being used in the formula. These are the other ingredients, alongside the “active ingredients”, that make up the capsule, tablet or powder. Excipients can include anticaking agents, fillers, bulking agents and stabilizers.
When looking at probiotics supplements, they should list the genus, species and strain of bacteria on the label. For herbal formulations, they should specify the common name and the botanical name on the label, in case of adulterated botanical species, or renamed species. Labelling laws will require supplements to have specific facts such as active ingredients and dosage, but the more upfront a company is about the ingredients they use the more you can trust them to be providing you with a quality product.
Now, let’s talk about pricing. Generally quality supplements are more expensive than budget products, this is because they have higher quality ingredients and those ingredients will cost more, hence the higher RRP. I always like to put this in perspective for people, you wouldn’t look at budget tools if you were an expert tradie and expect them to do the job you need to do, you would buy the best quality tools so you can be more efficient in the work you do. The body is the same, give it the best quality supplements in order for the body to effectively utilize the nutrients.
Bigger isn’t always better, it’s how you use it. I’m talking about dosage of course! Some health food and pharmaceutical companies choose to give high doses, less often, and for some people this is quite effective and they have the research articles to prove it. I want you to know that you are an individual! You have a different dietary intake, health conditions, possibly medications, and genetic make up to those around you. Speak to your healthcare practitioner and they can help you understand the correct dosage and formulation for you.
Still unsure about what to buy? Most brands will have a company contact number on the back of the product, call the company and ask some questions:
- About the manufacturing process
- Where they are manufactured
- Where they source their ingredients for the formulation
- For fridge products, how they maintain stable environments during transportation
- Patented ingredients
- If they can send you any research studies on their products
Ask for help. If you are unsure if the supplement is the right one for you please see your practitioner or ring the product company and ask if they have a practitioner on hand to answer your questions. Don’t be afraid to contact your practitioner, if they have prescribed a product that you are not sure, is the right one for you. AND organise a supplementation review, if you are planning pregnancy, are pregnant, lactating, begin any new medications, or are undergoing any medical procedures. Click here to book your supplement review now.