Quality: The Key to Safe and Effective Dietary Supplements
June 19, 2023
June 19, 2023
A blog in collaboration with Fullscript
When recommending dietary supplements, there is nothing more important than quality. Supplement quality is a complex, multi-layered topic requiring detailed information about every aspect of the dietary supplement supply chain.
As a result, this topic often leaves practitioners and clients alike feeling overwhelmed and confused about what constitutes a high-quality product. Continue reading below to learn more about supplement quality and why it matters.
As mentioned above, the topic of supplement quality is vast. However, a great place to start the quality conversation is by looking at why quality is important to you, your practice, and your clients. Safety, evidence-based ingredient forms, therapeutic doses, and improved health outcomes are some factors to consider when discussing supplement quality.
We don’t have to look far to find news stories warning us about the dangers of low-quality supplements. A study published in August 2022 regarding 30 immune health products sold on Amazon found that 17 had inaccurate labels, 13 were misbranded, and 9 contained additional ingredients not listed on the label. (Crawford et al., 2022) More recently, NOW® alerted Amazon that a fraudulent company was selling 11 counterfeit NOW® supplements on their platform. (Now press release, April 2023)
Low-quality products are also less likely to contain evidence-based ingredient forms, which can, for example, impact the absorption rate (i.e., bioavailability) and worsen adverse reactions. For example, many low-quality multivitamins contain calcium carbonate, which is known to cause more adverse reactions (e.g., constipation, bloating, and gas) than calcium citrate. (American Family Physician, 2000)
Ingredient doses and serving sizes in low-quality products are often significantly lower than the recommended therapeutic doses. Individuals taking suboptimal doses are less likely to experience improved health outcomes and are, as a result, more likely to stop their treatment plan. On the other hand, individuals may compensate for the low doses by increasing their daily serving size. Although this may be a suitable solution short-term, treatment adherence generally decreases as the pill count increases.
In the replay video below, join Fullscript’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jeff Gladd, MD, to learn more about how recommending high-quality dietary supplements can help enhance health outcomes and grow your practice.
Hopefully, the importance of recommending high-quality dietary supplements is now evident. Below are the four stages of the supplement journey that can impact quality.
It’s commonly known that to make healthy and delicious meals, one requires healthy and delicious ingredients. In other words, the finished product is only as good as the starting materials or ingredients. The same is true for dietary supplements. Optimal supplement safety and efficacy starts with accurate sourcing, identification, validation, and processing.
Beyond sourcing, it’s important to ensure the facilities processing the dietary supplement ingredients follow proper manufacturing standards. At the very least, all manufacturing facilities should be compliant with current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs).
High-quality dietary supplement manufacturers should not only meet cGMPs but also be transparent, freely provide information and have quality assurance programs in place to prevent contaminations.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires manufacturers to conduct identity testing on their finished products. However, these testing standards can be chosen and developed by the companies themselves with no obligation to publicize their standards. (USP 2016) It’s therefore important to work with manufacturers and brands that are transparent regarding their testing standards.
You can also look for manufacturers and brands that work with third-party certification companies. These are independent auditing agencies that inspect and verify ingredient sourcing, product manufacturing standards, distribution channels, and labeling.
Poor distribution practices can turn a high-quality product into a low-quality product.
For example, the quality of heat-sensitive probiotics may be negatively affected if it’s not properly stored (i.e. refrigerated) at the distribution center or properly packaged for delivery (i.e. packed with ice packs).
Fullscript is a free, powerful integrative care delivery platform used by thousands of practitioners to deliver high-quality supplements, strengthen treatment adherence and health literacy, and improve patient outcomes.
Fullscript only partners with healthcare’s best cGMP-compliant brands. In addition, our distribution facilities are certified by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF), which is a highly respected independent product testing organization.
Quality is an important factor when recommending dietary supplements. High-quality products have greater safety profiles and use evidence-based ingredient forms and therapeutic doses. As a result, clients are more likely to experience better health outcomes and remain adherent to their treatment plans. Happy clients are then more likely to return for follow-up appointments, re-order products, and refer family and friends, increasing your practice’s profitability.
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