Imagine this scenario, you are walking through a park, and you run into an old friend. During your conversation you mention that you are stressed and looking for multivitamins to improve concentration. She highly recommends a "natural" product that her friend distributes. Confident of her suggestion, few days later you buy a bottle of "vitamins for tiredness" and start taking them. You are looking forward to getting back to your stress free, calmer, energetic and more productive self, instead after two months you have not felt any better beyond an abdominal discomfort associated with the intake of the famous vitamins. What do you think happened?
As consumers we expect medicines and supplements to be effective and safe. Many times we are faced with countless options offered in the market and we end up choosing the most colorful packaging or the cheapest price. We don't read the labels carefully, or we don't know the ingredients. We even assume that the packaging contains all the information necessary to decide whether to buy the product or not. We trust too much.
However, if we are trying to take best care of our body and mind, we must be responsible and choose wisely food supplements with the best possible quality.
In this article you will find all the aspects you need to know about your supplement before deciding. Read!
The supplement industry is growing more and more. The consumption of vitamins, minerals and products derived from medicinal plants has become a common practice both among those who wish to supplement their diet, and those who require specific support to treat certain conditions or diseases.
The problem is, unlike the pharmaceutical industry, the category of supplements is not regulated by the same requirements. Sometimes untested and non-certified products can go on sale without further restrictions and be available to anyone. Hence it is important to look at certain elements of quality, certifications, and regulatory status to guarantee best production standards are met.
As an additional detail, the requirements to acquire a certification can change in different parts of the globe, so not all are synonymous with purity, safety, and effectiveness.
When we talk about raw materials, we must ensure that the origin of these is declared in the packaging of the product and that it complies with appropriate production, transfer, and storage standards.
This becomes important when it comes to obtaining a high-quality product, since not all countries have the same requirements or meet the same requirements when producing certain compounds. When a company is willing to lower its production costs at the cost of compromising the integrity of its products or the working conditions of its staff, it will not comply with certifications or quality controls. One way to ensure that your supplement complies with a standardized and regulated process is through “good manufacturing practices” (GMP) certification. This implies that all the raw materials must meet well defined standards, resulting in a premium quality final product.
"Good Manufacturing Practice" (GMP) applies to the production of medicines, food and cosmetics, among other items. This includes formulation development, stability studies, preparation processes, quality testing and everything else needed before the product goes out for sale.
GMP Certification offer a guarantee in quality and ensure that the products are generated in a controlled and regular way. These regulations seek to prevent risks of contamination and uncertain mixtures of components, which can result in harmful consequences for the consumer.
The regulation of good manufacturing practice is based on European guidelines. These are royal decrees and standards of the international harmonization conference, which includes the steps to be taken for the correct manufacture of medical products with all the necessary details.
Those who carry out quality control must dedicate themselves to it exclusively. In addition, hygiene protocols are required, use of clothing adecuada and the handling of products and the consumption of food and cigarettes in the facilities are prohibited.
The International Organization for Standardization (or “ISO”) seeks to protect the consumer and ensure food safety. Within this framework, the ISO 22000 standard is the one that determines all the requirements that must be met in the handling of food to ensure that the products are safe.
A company that is certified under this regulation has been able to demonstrate its commitment to the consumer and its ability to control all potential risks associated with any point in the food chain.
ISO 22000 can be applied in any organization that has a relationship with the food chain, regardless of its specific function or geographical location.
These points include:
In this way, you as a consumer can have the peace of mind that the product you have purchased is safe and of excellent quality.
Another important point when choosing your supplements is to look at what components it contains apart from the main active component. Depending on their presentation, laboratories often require adding inert additives or "excipients" to a drug or supplement. These are inactive vehicles, that is, they do not interact or modify the main component of the preparation and are used to increase the size of a tablet and give it stability, color, or flavor, as needed.
In a study published in the journal Science in 2020, researchers looked at 134 active effects on 38 commonly used excipients, conducting in vitro testing. While the limit of these compounds is regulated for the pharmaceutical and nutraceutical industry, there is a risk of reaching levels higher than those recommended in people who consume multiple drugs containing the same excipients. This can become a problem, especially for people sensitive to some compounds.
Nowadays it has been seen that these inactive elements are not always harmless. Many of them can cause harm in people with allergy or intolerance to certain ingredients such as dairy, eggs, crustaceans, gluten, nuts, and derivatives of all of them. The alteration of intestinal absorption is one of the most common drawbacks.
Once the supplements are manufactured, the process does not end there. These must be tested continuously to define the suitable storage conditions and expiration date. It must be ensured that the product maintains its properties from the first day to the last without losing quality in the meantime. Storage and distribution conditions are also evaluated, as long as they do not affect any aspect of the product.
So, if you are looking for a supplement, the best parameter to choose an ideal quality product, is looking for the certification seals, checking the presence of the most abundant allergens and reading the ingredients in detail. If after that you still have doubts, the option to contact the manufacturer should be available on the packaging.
By Valentina Quintana
Surgeon from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and specialist in Integrative Medicine. I help people to improve their health through lifestyle changes, adopting a diet with therapeutic purposes, focusing on the mind-gut relationship, and stress management techniques. Additionally, I teach Western Medicine in Acupuncture Schools and give educational workshops on Natural Medicine and healthy habits.