Nurse Keilynn Hopkins tells us what to watch out for when purchasing supplements in her article Shopping for Shortcuts–Herbal Supplements for Fast Results:
Have you ever gone to a health food store and seen the isles dedicated to herbal and dietary supplements? These products promise to enhance workouts and help you reach fitness goals quickly. I understand the allure. It’s tempting when diet restrictions and exercise routines are hard work and results are slow to come. It is reasonable that many people look to supplements when they want to reach their muscle building or fat loss targets.
When shopping for supplements, remember that some companies go to great lengths to supply high quality products. However, some brands manufacture products made from low-grade or filler ingredients and make false claims that may pose serious health risks. When using supplements, remember that safety and quality are not guaranteed just because an item is sold inside a reputable store (see UPDATE below).
What you should watch out for:
1. Too much of a good thing. Vitamins, minerals, herbs, botanicals, enzymes, and metabolites are ingredients that can be added to a dietary shortfall. An assessment by your licensed health care provider will include an evaluation of your blood work to determine where your body is actually deficient. Kidney and liver function tests can help to determine if your body will be able to process the supplements. If you are already taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, this is the time to discuss any side effects or potential secondary adverse effects that may complicate your health.
2. Warning labels. A few weeks ago I reviewed the BodyLab fitness app endorsed by Jennifer Lopez. The app is part of a program that offers a 7-Day Ultra Fast Slim Kit that comes with three herbal-based supplements. The box is covered in health-risk related warnings on almost every side. Quick fixes with multiple warning labels are just plain scary.
3. Expiration date and lot number. Ron Maughan, PhD and Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine, has researched quality assurance issues in supplements. His review, published in the Journal of Nutrition, has found poor quality control in the manufacturing and storage of supplements over the past 10 – 20 years. So you should always check the product for a change in the color or smell. Stores usually put items set to expire within quick reach. Products with longer expiration dates are stocked deep, behind the older products, at the back of the shelves. Lot numbers allow you to report a batch of supplements that have gone bad before the product expires. This is useful in the event of a recall.
The right food will give you all the nutrients your body needs. Make exercise your habit. If you still aren’t reaching your health target then find your superstar team of licensed health professionals to take you to the next level. A supportive team can make all the difference.
A note from NurseGail.com: We cannot stress enough that nutrition is best absorbed and utilized by consuming a varied diet of whole foods. Studies regarding supplementation have heeded mixed results and they are not recommended for the treatment of illness or disease. The supplement industry is unregulated and supplements are taken at one’s own risk. Nurse Keilynn Hopkins is not endorsing the use of supplements, but she is sharing information regarding their use so that you may use them as safely as possible.
UPDATE 2/4/2015: Keilynn Hopkins clearly has her finger on the pulse of health and wellness. We posted this piece a week before these stories broke. Please take heed with supplement use:
- New York Times Well Blog, Alternative Medicine: New York Attorney General Targets Supplements at Major Retailers 2/3/2015
- Washington Post Morning Mix: GNC, Target, Wal-Mart, Walgreens Accused Of selling Adulterated “Herbals” 2/3/2015
- Yahoo! Health: Investigation of Supplements at Target, Walmart, Walgreens, And GNC Reveals Troubling Discovery 2/3/2015
- El Nuevo Dia: DACO Investiga Tiendas Por Suplementos Con Contaminantes 2/4/2015