What’s in your bottle?

What’s in your bottle?

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Are you getting what you paid for?

I don’t often get time during my busy day to sit down and watch television, but recently was able to catch a popular health show. The segment was discussing weight loss. It is almost ironic that in the past few weeks I have seen this program twice and at both instances the discussion was regarding supplements. As much as I truly appreciate medical experts sharing supplements, I find it perplexing that there are often things omitted from the information that is considered beneficial to the viewer. Here is a great example:

During one of these segments white kidney bean extract was mentioned with regards to its ability to help with weight loss. As with most of the supplements I have seen mentioned there, this is only partly true. Why? Not all supplements are created equal. This is not just for white kidney bean extract, but also for numerous other herbs and vitamins. For example: there are different ways to do an extraction on an herb (Water, Alcohol, CO2, other), there are different parts of a plant that can be used (flower, root, leaf, stem, shell, husk, etc.), different growing region (Asia, Europe, North America, etc. or even more specific to a region in those countries), different variety of a plant (there are numerous types of beans, seeds, mushrooms, roots, etc. for the same “plant”). To save time and space I will stop here, but hopefully you get the point…NOT all supplements are the same-even if they say the ingredient used is the same.

In addition to the shortcomings in some of these programs, you may have recently been exposed to stories in the media (including social) questioning the quality and safety of numerous dietary supplements. This negative press may make you even more concerned about using dietary supplements, which I find disheartening. There is too much good to come from using supplements to just give up on them based on allegations that are yet to be substantiated. I am not only a health expert, but I am also a consumer. I will not give up my supplements and I will always seek out the best ingredients/products to use and share with others.

So, what does The Herbal Pharmacist do?

With regards to purchasing supplements, I always look for patented unique ingredients with scientific studies on that exact product or ingredient. Why? Consistency is critical when using anything that improves our health. Studies done on one herb should NEVER be applied another. In the case of the white kidney bean extract, the studies done on weight control and the ability to block starch digestion was done with only one form of white kidney bean extract (Phase 2). There may be other products on the market, but as far as I am concerned and aware, they are not the same. Buyers beware. Are those other products from the exact same bean, are they extracted the same, are they in the same concentration…most likely not.

There are other great examples of this type of “generalizing” done in the natural health marketplace: The carnitine I use is called Carnipure. This ingredient has tons of studies done on this exact ingredient. Can others say they have spent millions of dollars showing how their carnitine works for weight loss, energy and more? No.

Another technique I use is to look for products that claim to use 3rd Party companies to test and evaluate their products. The two most popular 3rd party testing companies are NSF and USP. If a product has received the “seal of approval” from one of these companies, it will be plainly displayed on the label of the product you are purchasing. If you wish to see a list from these two testing facilities, check out their respective websites; www.nsf.org and www.usp.org. Additionally, certain companies may do randomized testing using a 3rd party. Even though it is “random”, this policy keeps the manufacturer “honest” so to speak and you are more likely to get a consistent product.

For those of us who have been consuming dietary supplements for years, my suggestion is simple, If it seems/feels like it is working then keep taking it. There is no real reason to change products, companies, etc. if you are already receiving the benefits. On the other hand, if you really aren’t sure of the effects/benefits, you may want to seek out a branded/patented ingredient. These often have higher quality assurance in manufacturing and safety/efficacy studies to back up any claims.
Do we even need to use supplements?

The simple answer here is YES. We just can’t get what we need from a “perfect” diet and the fact is that the majority of us don’t eat right. Dietary supplements are a critical part of achieving and maintaining health. Whether it is due to poor lifestyle choices such as smoking, lack of exercise, over-eating, etc. or the fact that most of our food choices lack the nutrients they once had, supplementing your daily diet is a must.