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How to Determine the Quality of A Dietary Supplement

Have you ever questioned the quality of the you are taking?  No doubt, you have spent hundreds if not thousands of dollars on those supplements in hopes that they will boost your health.  It's a great thing to celebrate when you see improvement with your health because you're eating right and using the supplements to give you momentum to reaching your health goals.

So, wouldn't it be nice to know the quality of your supplements before putting down hundreds of dollars?  It's important to know what you are taking into your body because the United States does not have a governing body that analyzes the content  and quality of dietary supplements.   The FDA, however, does have a standard under Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) where it has set requirements for how the supplements are manufactured, prepared and stored.  (1)

With that being said, it's up to you to be the detective.  Here are a few guidelines to follow to help you make the best purchasing decision.

1- Is the product third party tested?

This means the supplement company sends their products to a lab outside of their reach to test the product.  One such organization is called NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) .  It ensures it meets public health and safety standards as well as the efficacy of the ingredients  and that there's sufficient evidence  that the product claims and labeling are supported.  (2) You can search their database to see if your supplement complies:

Another third party trusted organization is the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) which is a division of the Australian Department of Health.  This organization regulates the importing, exporting, manufacturing, and advertising of therapeutic goods.  It also oversees that products are properly formulated and manufactured.  As a rule of thumb, Australian regulatory standards are more strenuous than the United States so this certification can boost your confidence in the product. (3)

2-Is the product labeled as Non-GMO?

Even though the product is certified through NSF or TGA, it's important to know if the product is unadulterated and how the product was sourced.  The Non-GMO project is a third-party verification that ensures GMO avoidance along the supply chain.  A Genetically Modified Organism is a plant, animal, or microorganism whose genetic make-up has been changed. (4)  These genetic modifications can wreak havoc on the body and on generations to come.

To give yourself peace of mind, look for the Non-GMO project label.  You can also search the database for supplements you use here:

3-Is the product Certified Organic?

The term organic refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed. Specific requirements must be met and maintained in order for products to be labeled "organic". The crops must be grown in safe soil, have no modifications, and must remain separate from conventional products.  Farmers are not allowed to use synthetic pesticides, bioengineered genes (GMOs), petroleum-based fertilizers, and sewage sludge-based fertilizers.

At one time, many agencies existed certifying under different standards.  So, in 2002 the USDA created a set of national  organic standards for all the agencies to adhere to.

Some of the biggest agencies that certify organic foods in the US are:

CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers)OCIA (Organic Croop Improvement Association)Oregan TilthIndiana Certified OrganicICS (International Certification Services)Quality Assurance InternationalMaine Organic Farmers and Gardeners AssociationPennsylvania Certified OrganicNortheast Organic Farmers Association (5)

You won't see all of these certification labels on food and supplements but it means that the product has met the USDA Organic guideline.

How To Find Certifications

Many times the company will post their standards on their website under FAQ, About Us, or Our Story. A good example of this is on the Nature's Way website.  Visit their site by going to Under the "Our Story" tab, you will see how they test their product and their certifications as you scroll down to the bottom of the page. You can see their products are certified with NSF and TGA as well as having the non-GMO label.

Also be aware that certain ingredients may be considered high quality, but aren't the best substance for the body.  Learning how to read labels is a whole other topic, but understanding the certification process will at least give you a leg up!

You Are The Best Detective

As always, you are the best detective.  Do your research by reading labels,  searching the NSF database, calling the company and asking poignant questions, and looking at their website. Following your gut feeling about a certain product along with the detective work will give you peace of mind.


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