We frequently see patients failing to get results with supplements purchased elsewhere. Most people think all supplements are created equally but chemical analysis proves otherwise. When you purchase supplements, you should ask for a certificate of analysis, which measures ingredients and the presence of toxins. You may find you can’t get it or be told it’s not important. You may be surprised to find the Federal Drug Administration does not test supplements for purity or contamination.
Here are a few examples. You can review the results at ConsumerLab.com, but you’ll have to subscribe. In August 2006, 5 of 15 Vitamin E products failed testing. Two contained only 75-77% Vitamin E, despite good manufacturing claims. A cream contained only 58% Vitamin E and a cosmetic product contained only 64% synthetic Vitamin E despite claims of being “pure and natural”. I don’t prescribe much Vitamin E unless testing proves you need it and, for whatever reason you take Vitamin E, better supplements are available.
In February 2006, 13 of 23 products for weight loss or blood sugar had problems. Six were contaminated with potentially toxic metals (i.e. lead). Several had excessive caffeine, one had as much as 30 cans of cola. Two supplements combined caffeine and synephrine that can cause serious cardiovascular problems. Two of 3 products containing 7-keto-DHEA (which doesn’t work in my experience) had less than amounts found in one small study to help obese adults. Chromium supplements contained only 25-42% of the amount listed. We have pure supplements for weight loss with experience and medical data to know they work, if used properly. I recommend testing blood glucose levels and using very specific supplements or drugs and then retesting to make certain blood glucose levels normalize.
Prostate supplements were tested and some lacked the correct ingredients. Supplements to improve sexual performance were tested and only 6 of 11 contained key ingredients. 5 of them had lead contamination.
Supplements for memory problems, such as ginkgo, huperazine, phosphatyidyl choline and acetyl-L-carnitine were tested. Some had low or no active ingredients and some had significant amounts of lead. The November 2008 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association published studies that gingko doesn’t prevent dementia or Alzheimer’s. I’ve found none of these supplements are very effective for memory problems and better treatments exist to improve memory or slow memory loss, if started early enough.
I could go on and on about purity and toxicity studies of supplements. The point is work with professionals who carefully choose supplements that have certificates of purity analysis and who stay current on what works. Finally, supplements and drugs are meant to be supplemental to lifestyle changes to improve health. If you have a poor diet, are overweight, don’t exercise or have bad sleep habits, abuse substances, etc. you can expect drugs or supplements may not be all that effective. We work with people to improve lifestyle while using supplements or drugs as needed.