How to Choose Your Supplements Safely?
by Ines Juanola at Aug 25, 2021
Are you interested in adopting a healthier lifestyle and have started buying supplements? Do you think you need help to give your body energy or for a specific function?
Imagine the following scenario: you are walking through a park and run into an old friend. You strike up a conversation and mention to her that you need to buy vitamins for concentration. She recommends some "natural" ones that an acquaintance of hers makes at his house. A few days later, following her recommendation, you buy a bottle of "memory vitamins" and start taking them. After 2 months you have not felt any effect other than an abdominal discomfort associated with the intake of the famous vitamins. What happened?
As consumers we expect drugs 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 one with the most colorful packaging or the one with the cheapest price. We do not read the labels, or we do not know how to recognize their compounds. We even assume that the package contains all the information necessary to make the decision to buy the product or not. We trust too much.
However, if we want to give our body the best care, we must be responsible and choose what we are going to consume with the best possible quality.
In this article you will find all the aspects you need to know about your supplement before deciding. Read on!
The quality of supplements
The supplement industry is increasingly growing. 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, as well as those who require specific support to treat certain conditions or diseases.
The problem is that, unlike the pharmaceutical industry, the supplement industry is not regulated with the same requirements. Unstudied and uncertified products can go on sale without major restrictions and be available to anyone.
Hence the importance of learning to pay attention to which elements determine the quality of the product we are looking for, and whether or not it is certified by a regulatory entity that guarantees certain production standards.
As an additional detail, the requirements for acquiring a certification may change in different parts of the world, so not all of them are synonymous with purity, safety and effectiveness.
The origin of the materials
When we talk about raw materials, we must ensure that their origin is declared on the product packaging and that they comply with adequate production, transportation and storage standards.
This becomes important when it comes to achieving a high quality product, as not all countries have the same demands 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 personnel, 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 certification to good manufacturing standards (GMP). This implies that the sourcing of your raw materials must meet the same standards, resulting in a high quality end product.
The "Good Manufacturing Practices " (GMP), also known as "Good Manufacturing Practice" (GMP), are applied to the production of medicines, food and cosmetics, among others.
This includes formulation development, stability studies, preparation processes, quality testing and everything necessary before the product goes on sale.
They provide a guarantee of quality and ensure that products are produced in a controlled and regular manner. These regulations are intended to prevent risks of contamination and uncertain mixtures of components, which can result in harmful consequences for the consumer.
The GMP regulation is based on European regulations. These are royal decrees and standards of the international harmonization conference, which include the steps to be followed for the correct manufacture of medical products with all the necessary details.
Requirements of GMP standards
- Trained personnel. Each person must be qualified to perform the process controls. Their functions must be defined and recorded in a procedure. In addition, personnel must be constantly trained according to the needs that arise in the manufacturing processes.
Those performing quality control must be dedicated exclusively to this task. In addition, hygiene protocols, the use of appropriate clothing and the handling of products and the consumption of food and cigarettes on the premises are prohibited.
- Qualified and calibrated facilities and equipment. All procedures should be validated and documented. Facilities should be located in appropriate environments to minimize contamination risks. They should follow strict hygiene measures, as well as temperature and ventilation conditions. Premises should be designed to prevent the entry of animals, insects or dust. Conservation of raw materials and proper use of containers and packaging.
- Production, storage and distribution. Compliance with documented protocols in the handling of raw materials and products. Processes carried out by competent personnel. Containers with appropriate labeling and processes to avoid errors in the content. Permanent labeling during manufacturing, storage and distribution of products. Measures to prevent cross-contamination. Inspection of the condition of containers and packaging upon receipt and delivery of materials or products, and their corresponding registration.
- Documentation. Detailed record of all existing processes. Each record should be in clear and specific language. Documentation of any change in an established process, with research to document the change. Documents that allow complete traceability of products are also required.
- Quality Controls. Applied in all decisions during the manufacturing process of a product. It is essential that the control is independent of production.
- Auto inspections. External materials or services required in the production process must also comply with GMP standards, so as not to affect the quality and safety of the products.
ISO 22000 Standards
The International Organization for Standardization(ISO) seeks to protect consumers and ensure food safety. Within this framework, ISO 22000 is the standard that determines all the requirements that must be met in food handling to ensure that products are safe.
A company that is certified under this standard 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 related to the food chain, regardless of its specific function or geographical location.
Among these points are:
- Producers such as farmers and ranchers
- Processing plants
- Manufacturing plants
- Transportation services
- Suppliers of cleaning products or equipment manufacturers
- Wholesale or retail outlets
In this way, you as a consumer can rest assured 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 compound. Depending on its presentation, laboratories often require the addition of inert additives or "excipients" to a drug or supplement. These are inactive vehicles, i.e., they do not interact with 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 in 38 commonly used excipients by performing in vitro tests. Although the limit of these compounds is regulated for the pharmaceutical and nutraceutical industry, there is a risk of reaching higher than recommended levels in people who consume multiple drugs containing the same excipients. This can become a problem, especially for people who are 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. Alteration of intestinal absorption is one of the most common drawbacks.
Once the supplements are manufactured, the process does not end there. They must be continuously tested to define 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, so as not to affect any aspect of the product.
So, if you are looking for a supplement, the best parameter to choose an ideal quality product is to look for the certification seals, check for the presence of the most abundant allergens and read 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.
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