The Dirty Secret (the FDA Actually WANTS You To Know About) In Your Vitamins

the dirty secret the FDA actually wants you to know about in your vitamins

Did you know the FDA does not test or approve vitamins and supplements before they hit store shelves? That they can't?

This little tidbit isn't from some whistleblower's website- it's from the FDA itself. And it appears that they WANT consumers to know this because the following are written plain as day on their site:

FDA is not authorized to review dietary supplement products for safety and effectiveness before they are marketed. (The FDA bolded this, not me!)

For most claims made in the labeling of dietary supplements, the law does not require the manufacturer or seller to prove to FDA's satisfaction that the claim is accurate or truthful before it appears on the product.

In general, FDA's role with a dietary supplement product begins after the product enters the marketplace. That is usually the agency's first opportunity to take action against a product that presents a significant or unreasonable risk of illness or injury, or that is otherwise adulterated or misbranded.

Yikes.

The American Cancer Society makes clear that the FDA uses a "Safe until proven unsafe" protocol when it comes to dietary supplements (whereas with drugs it's a "unsafe until proven safe" policy).

Which makes you and me the world's cheapest lab rats.

Why do I need to be concerned with vitamin safety?

Well, the FDA leaves it up to the manufacturer to tell them what's in their products- which sounds a little bit like a conflict of interest- right?! You might see a list of active ingredients on the bottle but inactive fillers are often missing. Vitamin fillers can be problematic, especially for people with heart disease, inflammatory conditions, and other sensitivities.

And if you don't need the fillers, why take the risk?

Finding safe nutritional supplements (and  your nutritionist-approved vitamin picks)

Fortunately, there are 2 non-profit organizations that provide standards for safety, purity, and effectiveness- U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) and NSF International. Both monitor the manufacturing process AND provide testing of the finished product (to make sure the vitamins contain what the manufacturer SAYS they do).

Look for the USP or NSF Seal on the label. My favorite brand is Mega Food. They are NSF certified and they are whole food supplements, which can often be better absorbed by the body than synthetic nutrients. Get Mega Food on Amazon here.

Studies have shown daily magnesium supplementation for migraines can reduce attacks by over 40%

Do I NEED a Vitamin Supplement?

Some studies have shown multivitamins provide almost no benefit (especially if the diet does more damage than a vitamin can fix), while others say they are a nice little insurance policy (especially for women in their childbearing years). 

I often encourage clients to eat a balanced diet and supplement specific vitamins your doctor might suggest for you, due to your own unique circumstances. For example:

  • One physician I encountered regarding migraines suggested 400-800 mg of magnesium a day. The frequency and intensity of my migraines has greatly improved since starting a magnesium regimen- one study showed a decrease of over 40% in migraine attacks in those taking magnesium supplements.
  • If you don't eat a lot of animal protein, get yourself some B12 (trust me, you don't want the neuropathy that comes with a B12 deficiency). 
  • As we age, the body has a more difficult time absorbing vitamins from food or synthesizing nutrients like vitamin D. Supplementing specific nutrients may be suggested by a physician in cases of obvious deficiency.

What About Kids' Vitamins?

I know many parents are worried about their kids nutritional needs, especially those picky eaters. Here are a few ideas you may want to consider:

  • Consider supplementing with a kids' multivitamin 1-3 times a week rather than daily. You may find that they do just as well.
  • Avoid typical kid branded vitamins. They often contain fillers and chemicals like artificial sweeteners. Gummies put kids at risk for overdosing if they get into them because they often assume they are candy. I like the Mega Food brand (which you can order right on Amazon).
  • But that one's not chewable! I know. I have chopped them up and put them in applesauce or even used a mashed banana. Makes swallowing pills totally possible for even young children.

What questions do you have for me about vitamins? I'm happy to help with the research!