So many you have asked us about how to choose the right supplements. We understand how difficult it can be in a very dense market, with so many promotions about different benefits and ingredients. While we do sell our own products, our primary goal is to educate you on buying the best supplements yourself, whether they’re ours or not! As always, feel free to reach out to us with any questions you may have!
Our supplements always follow these rigorous standards to make sure you are getting the best of the best! There are 13 key points to look for and remember:
1) Not All Supplements Are Created Equal
The first crucial component to understand when picking supplements, like anything else when it comes to quality, is that all supplements are not created equal. And the quality of your supplements can make the whole difference in how effective they are. Did you also know that many supplements do not contain the amount of ingredients they claim? Studies have shown a significant amount do not have the amount of ingredients on the label and that is why you should always aim to buy lab tested supplements! This is one among many tips we would recommend in this upcoming series on the factors to consider when picking the right supplements.
2) Avoid Cheap Flow agents
“Toxic” flow agents like magnesium stearate and stearic acid are often used when producing supplements so the ingredients do not stick to the machinery and can be smoothly encapsulated. The problem with magnesium stearate and stearic acid first and foremost is that they are commonly derived from highly pesticide-laden, GMO cottonseed oils. While the isolation and purification process MAY remove most pesticide residues, there are still significant negative impacts on the environment, not to mention the unknown effects of the genetic modifications.
Furthermore, there is some evidence, though controversial, that stearates may affect immune cell function, inhibited absorption of nutrients/supplements, and possible harmful biofilm formations in the intestines. While all of these require further investigation, in our opinion it is best to avoid them all together for environmental implications as well as possible health effects.
3) Use Clean Flow Agents (or no flow agents)
Alternative clean flow agents include Nu-Flow® and Nu-Mag®, patented clean label natural and organic formulations by a company named Ribus. Nu-Flow® is an organic rice concentrate that contains silica which replaces synthetic anti-caking agents. Nu-mag® is a 4 ingredient blend that replaces magnesium stearate and stearic acid. It contains non-GMO rice hulls, rice extract, gum arabic (a prebiotic fiber) and sunflower oil. Look for supplements that contain either no flow agents or Nu-Flow® and Nu-Mag® as a marker of high quality and thoughtful formulation.
4) Ingredients to Avoid
There is an extensive list of ingredients to avoid in all supplements either due to their toxicity, dangers, or impairment of absorption. This list includes: Magnesium stearate (don’t be fooled by labels saying vegetable source or vegetable magnesium stearate, it is still bad), stearic acid, SLS, propylene glycol, polyethylene glycol, sodium benzoate, aspartame, TBHQ, acesulfame-K, benzoic acid, BHA, BHT, and gluten. Check your supplements today to make sure they are free of these ingredients!
4) Bioavailability Enhancers
You are not what you eat, you are what you absorb. Supplements, vitamins, minerals, herbs and antioxidants are all useless to us unless we are able to absorb them into our bodies. Some supplements like resveratrol and curcumin have very poor bioavailability naturally meaning most of what you take, you do not absorb. But coupled with the right ingredients, there can be a drastic increase in absorption. For example, combining Resveratrol with BioPerine® black pepper fruit extract has been shown in studies to boost maximum blood levels 1544% and combining Curcumin with BioPerine® has increased maximum blood levels up to 2000% or 20-fold.
Furthermore, it has been found to boost the absorption of an abundance of nutrients at least 30% such as CoQ10 (31.8%), Selenium (42.6%), Vitamin C (52.3%), and Beta-Carotene (61.2%). Piperine is the active ingredient in BioPerine® and Black Pepper that provides the beneficial effects on absorption and bioavailability. Other ingredients in high quality supplements that boost absorption include AstraGin™ panax notoginseng extract and astragalus root. Look for supplements that enhance bioavailability with ingredients like BioPerine® and AstraGin™ to ensure you get the maximum benefits from what you take.
5) Active or More Bioavailable Forms
Most vitamins have an active form in the body or a form that is more beneficial to the body. For example, vitamin B6 can be found in supplements as the pyridoxal-5-phosphate (the active form) or the pyridoxal HCL form. The active form has been found to have more beneficial effects on nerve function relative to the inactive form which has to be converted in the body and may actually interfere with the active form and have increased risk of neuropathy at higher doses. Methylfolate is another crucial activated vitamin, since up to 40% of the population has a mutation in the gene that activates folate (Vitamin B9) and therefore cannot use regular folate as effectively. Other important active forms of vitamins are methylcobalamin for vitamin B12 and yeast derived forms of selenium. When it comes to minerals like iron, chelate forms (where the metal ion is bound to an organic molecule) are more effectively absorbed and used by the body.
6) Branded/Trademarked Ingredients. The Gold Standard.
Have you ever looked at a supplements label and seen an ingredient with a ™ or a ® next to it. That is a branded or trademarked ingredient, and these ingredients are the gold standard of quality supplement ingredients. These ingredients are often patented and backed with clinical research as well as extracted using special methods for optimal bioavailability, purity, efficacy, and/or potency. Certain versions can be drastically more effective than generic ingredients, when available. But also remember, not all supplements have a trademarked version nor do they need it. But as a general rule, when looking for supplements, look for those that contain branded ingredients as a marker of quality and effectiveness.
7) Lab Tested Supplements + cGMP Certified
As we mentioned earlier, many supplements do not contain the amount of ingredients written on the label. To optimize your benefit, look for those which have been lab tested. Lab testing will provide verification of the amount of ingredients in each batch and assure you that you are getting what you paid for!
cGMP stands for current good manufacturing practices. Any supplement you buy, make sure it is made in a facility that is cGMP certified. The GMP standards are set buy the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and outline proper handling and manufacturing processes in all stages including the supply chain of the ingredients, the ingredients themselves, proper handling, proper manufacturing and more.
Supplements you take should be comprehensive for the effect or health benefit you are seeking to get. For example, if you want to address your gut health, you do not want just a probiotic, but also prebiotics, gut lining supporting compounds and polyphenols. Why is this? Because the body is a SYSTEM. It all works together and if you do not address it holistically, your results will not be as effective.
Every part of our bodies and all our organs work together and the health of the whole optimizes the health of the parts. So look for supplements that address the benefits you are seeking from multiple angles rather than just single ingredient supplements to maximize your benefit. In addition, single ingredient supplements are significantly more expensive to make considering the fixed costs of manufacturing remain largely the same. Therefore you get a better effect at a more efficient and sustainable cost!
8) Synergistic and Hormetic Dosing
More is NOT always better. Hormesis is the concept that there is an ideal dose of any stimulus, stressor, supplement, or ingredient. This is represented classically by a biphasic curve. At doses that are too low, there is no benefit. At doses too high, there is also no benefit or even toxicity. But at the right doses, aka the hormetic doses, you get the maximum benefit. The concept of hormesis shows that there is such a thing as healthy stress, when maintained in a happy medium. The same applies to supplements.
Look for supplements that use the recommended doses of ingredients, because those are the doses that have been shown to have the maximal benefit. Doses much higher or much lower than that, for the most part will have no benefit (except for some rare exceptions). Some exceptions include vitamins or minerals for which the RDA may be underestimated or there is significant benefit at higher doses with little or no risk. This includes vitamins such as vitamin B12 or vitamin D3, which have been shown to be beneficial at doses higher than the RDA. Others include B-vitamins which are water soluble and your body simply urinates out whatever it does not need. Vitamins that you want to avoid at higher doses, that can have toxicity include vitamin A, beta carotene, and vitamin K.
One way to get supplements at the ideal ranges is to buy them from science-based companies with brands you trust that have done the research and have a commitment to quality.
9) Physician/Scientist Formulated Supplements
It is always best to look for supplements formulated by experts. Did you know that most supplements companies are not started or led by experts on nutrition or health and have no qualifications? Look for companies run by scientists or physicians because scientists and physicians are trained to have an understanding of how human physiology works, how to interpret and evaluate research studies, drug interactions, and more. It can make a big difference to buy physician formulated supplements because it provides an assurance of higher quality, safety, and knowledge. That is not to say all supplements not formulated by physicians are bad, but you are more likely to be dealing with a wider range of possible quality than you are with physician formulated supplements.
10) Supplement Blends
Blends of supplements can provide a more cost, time and efficacy effective alternative to single ingredient supplements. A blend of science based supplements at the right doses will have significantly greater benefits most of the time. It costs significantly more for you to buy a bunch of single ingredient supplements, takes more time to take and remember them, and it wastes resources as well. Finding high quality supplement blends for areas you are trying to address (gut health, brain health, stress, anti-aging, etc.) is the best way to see the optimal benefits.
The reason for the increased benefits is the power of synergy. Many ingredients work together to comprehensively improve your health. For example, curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has greater bioavailability when combined with black pepper extract and/or ginger. Alpha-GPC, and citicoline, compounds that are precursors to acetylcholine (crucial for memory, mood and cognition), have enhanced effects when combined with Huperzine A, which inhibits the enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine allowing for a longer and more robust benefit. Therefore, look for high quality blends that have been synergistically formulated for your maximum benefit.
13) FDA registered facilities + Made in the USA
Look for supplements made in FDA registered facilities and made in the United States. When manufacturing facilities are registered with the FDA, they open themselves up to be inspected by the FDA for all of their processes, ingredients and more as well as maintaining certification for good manufacturing practices. The inspections also provide feedback on improving processes and commenting on all stages of the production process to make it as optimal as possible.
Second, look for supplements manufactured in the USA. Supplements manufactured around the world in places such as China have lower quality standards, supply chain transparency, and liability than typically adhered to in the United States. So look for supplements made at FDA registered facilities here in the United States to ensure you are getting high quality supplements in addition to all the other checkpoints on this segment.
Check out our Instagram series on choosing the right supplements to learn more: https://www.instagram.com/p/CQRG4wMLEZT/