Did you know that unlike drug products, the FDA does not “approve” dietary supplements for safety or effectiveness before they are sold?
As with many other products and regulatory agencies, the FDA only has the authority to act after people get sick or some other risk reveals itself. While there are some regulations, they are weak and flawed. Case in point: the rules do not set limits on many toxic contaminants and questionable ingredients.
A Congressional study from 2010 found trace amounts of lead, mercury and other heavy metals in nearly all supplement products tested, plus a number of illegal health claims. The levels of heavy metal contaminants didn’t exceed established limits, but investigators also discovered disturbing and possibly unacceptable levels of pesticide residues in 16 of 40 supplements.
Find safe supplements and vitamins by following these tips:
1. Look for the USP Verified Mark.
Seeing the USP Verified Mark on a label indicates that the dietary supplement product does not contain harmful levels of specific contaminants. (Check the current regulated levels to see if you are comfortable with the “acceptable” exposure levels and feel that individual products qualify as safe supplements.)
2. Look for local.
Be extra-cautious about supplements manufactured outside the U.S. Herbal products from some European countries, for example, are highly regulated and standardized, but toxic ingredients and prescription drugs have been found in supplements manufactured elsewhere, particularly China, India and Mexico.
3. Avoid artificial dyes.
As with any other food or beverage, avoid synthetic dyes linked to asthma, allergies, hyperactivity, and more. There are nine certified color additives approved for food use in the U.S. and they are classified as either dyes or lakes. Dyes are water soluble and lakes are the water insoluble form of the dye. They will be listed on the label as follows:
- With ‘FD&C’ preceding the color (e.g. FD&C Blue #1)
- Abbreviated, with just the color (e.g. Blue 1)
- The color followed by ‘Lake’ (e.g. Blue 1 Lake)
4. Skip those made with GMOs. (If possible, opt for organic ingredients.)
If you take a look at the label on your children’s vitamin and you see corn syrup, glucose syrup from corn, high-fructose corn syrup, soybean oil or soy lecithin, the odds are these ingredients have been derived from genetically modified corn and soy. Over 90 percent of the soy in the U.S. and over 80 percent of the corn in the U.S. are now produced using genetically modified seeds.
5. Be vigilant!
Make sure to keep vitamins and all other medicines and supplements out of the reach of children. Overdosing can be fatal. This is not a comprehensive list of safety qualifications, nor is it meant as professional medical advice. Please consult your doctor before taking any vitamins or supplements.
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