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Get Supplement Savvy
By Pamela Bond
So you don’t eat the recommended five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Who does? Besides, if you’re like a third to a half of your compatriots, you’re taking a daily multivitamin to make up for any nutritional gaps you may have. Oh, you’re not doing that either? Well, don’t let those vitamin-laden shelves intimidate you. Here’s how the experts respond to the most common questions about taking supplements.
How do I know I’m buying a high-quality multi?
You can choose brands you trust—or get recommendations from a naturopath, nutritionist, or holistic doctor. But if you want to be sure, look on the label for the USP (United States Pharmacopeia), NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) International, or Consumer Lab seal. These symbols indicate the product has passed independent tests that confirmed it contains the ingredients listed on the label and in the amounts noted. A new FDA rule, which goes into effect in 2010, will require all companies to verify ingredients through testing, but for now, shop the seals.
Are cheap vitamins just as good?
“Price and quality don’t necessarily correlate,” says Mark A. Moyad, MD, MPH, the Jenkins/Pokempner director of preventive and alternative medicine at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor. Instead, you have to look on a case-by-case basis to make sure the vitamins come in a well-absorbed form and in sufficient amounts (see “The Major Players” below).
Also, check to see how many “extra” ingredients the vitamin has: artificial colors, sugars, and excipients (a catchall term for fillers, binders, and lubricants that help in the manufacturing process or impact the dissolvability of a vitamin). Avoid excipients like dicalcium phosphate, magnesium stearate, and palmitate, which inhibit absorption, and lactose if you’re allergic. Instead look for the safes ones: cellulose, silicon dioxide, titanium dioxide, and magnesium citrate. Generally speaking, health-food store brands have fewer and safer excipients than drugstore or discount brands.
Should I choose “natural” or “synthetic” vitamins?
Let’s assume natural means that the vitamins are obtained from a plant, food, or animal, while synthetic vitamins are manufactured in a lab. The source doesn’t seem to make any difference for some nutrients. Vitamins C and B6 have similar bioavailability, be they natural or synthetic. That’s not true for fat-soluble vitamins, however. Natural vitamin E (d-alpha-tocopherol), for example, is more bioavailable than the synthetics (dl-alpha-tocopherol or all-rac-alpha-tocopherol). Also, natural-source beta-carotene, which comes from the algae Dunaliella salina, benefits you more than the synthetic version, because it contains small amounts of other free radical-fighting carotenoids, like alpha-carotene. The same holds true for tomato-derived lycopene, which has small amounts of related antioxidants, while the synthetic form contains only lycopene.
Is it better to get my ...
Author: Pamela Bond
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