Early in my career, I would tell patients who were set on taking supplements to take the cheapest ones they could find. I really did not believe that supplements had any value, so why not try to save my patients a little money? In contrast, now that I realize all of the health benefits my patients can receive by taking supplements, I want to be sure they receive high-quality products.
One of the greatest frustrations in becoming a specialist in nutritional medicine is that I work with such an unregulated market. The FDA looks at nutritional supplements the same way it looks at foods. This entire industry is really not regulated, and a nutritional company can pretty much put any amount of nutrients in their tablets. In other words, the amount stated on the label is not necessarily what is in the tablet. Unless a nutritional company voluntarily produces its nutritional supplements in a pharmaceutical-grade method, the consumer has no assurance that what is on the label is in the tablet. Why sell your health to the lowest bidder? Taking high-quality, complete and balanced nutritional supplements is the least expensive health insurance policy you will ever purchase.
Presently, nutritional supplement companies are not required to follow any standard of quality manufacturing. They are basically unregulated.
Even if they follow what is known as food-grade Good Manufacturing Practices(GMP), they are only required to have about 20% of what they say is on the label actually in the tablet. Unless you take supplements from a nutritional company that follows pharmaceutical-grade Good Manufacturing Practices, you really have no assurance that what is on the label is actually in the tablet. Companies that voluntarily (they are not required by law to do this) produce their products in a pharmaceutical-grade fashion are required to have 100% of what is on the label in the tablet. In fact, some will even guarantee their potency.
I always encourage my patients to take pharmaceutical-grade nutritional supplements. This is the only way I can be assured that my patients receive what I recommend. When my patients bring a particular bottle of supplements into my office and want me to evaluate what they are taking, I must first determine that the supplements are pharmaceutical-grade. If they are not, there is really no need for me to even look at the label. There is no way I could actually know what patients are getting.