I have to admit, it's taken me years and much wasted money to see the value of pharmaceutical supplements versus your typical store-bought stuff in the shiny packaging. Even as a fitness professional with a keen eye for nutrition I've been just as confused as many of you as to what supplements I actually needed, if I needed them at all, and which brands were best. I'd try this and that, and largely based many of my decisions on taste, what they had in the store when I happened to be in and, of course, price. It's an out-of-control free for all out there in the supplement marketplace. On one hand, there's the crazy, seductive marketing of products promising to give you an edge over the rest of these mere mortals. On the other hand, there seems to be no shortage of negative studies showing the inefficiency of just about any supplement. It was all so overwhelming. I've recently heavily schooled myself in all things nutrition and supplementation and I now understand there's a huge difference between your typical hyped-up, store-bought supplements and pharmaceutical-grade kind. The former is much more accessible (everyone can buy it just about anywhere), is not subject to much control and gains popularity by the millions of dollars they put into marketing: think ads in magazines, endorsements by fitness models and shiny packaging. On the other hand, the later is typically only available through health and medical professionals, is heavily regulated and instead of advertising they put their millions into paying leading scientists, nutritionists and doctors. The truth is those studies that state certain supplements are useless, ineffective or even down-right dangerous, are right -- about most store-bought supplements, that is. The typical charges against such products are:
- They do not contain levels of the nutrients stated on the label. Or if they do contain the levels as stated, they are inadequate to have any meaningful effect.
- They lack the proper purity to be effective, or even safe. Aside from fillers, sugar, artificial coloring and flavoring, preservatives, and additives such as shellac, chlorine and other chemicals they may even contain toxic ingredients such lead, mercury, pesticides and insecticides.
- They use a grade or form of the supplement that has poor bioavailability -- meaning the body does not fully absorb the nutrient.
- Their formulations are not research-driven, and have no independent research proving their claims.