You’ve heard a lot of good things about dietary supplements and you like the idea of using natural products to support your health, but you also have some doubts.
Are supplements regulated? Are there standards that manufacturers need to follow?
How do I know if supplements are safe?
It’s an important question to ask before you add anything to your diet.
- You can find out more about how the FDA regulates dietary supplements.
- And you can find out about additional ways you can verify manufacturing standards are followed.
But there are some basic issues about safety you should think about first.
Natural Doesn’t Always Mean Safe
There’s a myth floating around out there that anything natural is safe. While most natural supplements have an excellent track record, it would be misleading to use “natural” as an absolute guide to safety.
NOW® was founded on the understanding that using natural products is one of the best things you can do for your health. NOW® founder and chemist, Elwood Richard, was deeply impressed by the data he’d seen on natural products.
However, “natural” doesn’t always mean safe.
Some supplements can affect your internal chemistry dramatically often in positive ways, but depending on your health status and unique biochemistry this can also bring negative results.
Bottom line, the same natural supplement may not work the same way for different people.
Fortunately, most reputable supplement companies include helpful warning labels on their products that will help you identify potential problems. It’s important to do your research, and if you have specific health concerns, speak with your healthcare provider.
But there are some additional safety issues when it comes to supplements.
How Quality Affects Supplement Safety
Supplement safety is also jeopardized by three quality issues: Adulteration, contamination and ingredient substitutions.
Adulteration occurs when ingredient suppliers or manufacturers illegally slip undeclared ingredients, like pharmaceutical drugs, into a formulation. For example, there have been a few cases of sports supplements containing illegal performance-enhancing steroids. This is strictly illegal and when it is discovered a company is doing this, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) takes action.
Sometimes companies unwittingly end up manufacturing adulterated products because they’ve gotten adulterated ingredients from suppliers.
NOW® tests incoming raw materials in specific high-risk categories for adulterants. To increase our capacity to screen for adulterants, we’ve developed a state-of-the-art method of testing for adulterants in a wide range of raw materials using infrared spectroscopy.
Contamination happens when heavy metals, allergens, microbes like bacteria or fungi, or other toxins taint raw materials. Proper cultivation, harvesting, processing and storage are the best ways to prevent contamination.
NOW® works with our suppliers to ensure our standards for raw materials are met at each of these stages.
In addition, as required by FDA regulations for dietary supplements, all raw materials should be tested for microbial and heavy metal contamination.
NOW® has an excellent track record of complying with FDA regulations. You can see our latest report here, but we also go further. We frequently test our manufacturing facilities for contamination. Finally, we have an extensive finished product testing program – one of the most extensive in the industry. Over the course of a month, we may perform as many as 16,000 individual tests.
Ingredient Substitution also causes safety problems. Sometimes manufacturers try to shave costs by substituting other materials for what’s listed on the label. Sometimes suppliers do this, or herb species are simply not identified properly when wild harvested. For example, in a recent sampling of black cohosh products, one third contained plant species that were related to black cohosh but had not been studied and used for human supplementation. While in some cases this may be harmless, it certainly is unethical, and it can cause safety issues.
The FDA requires all manufacturers to test raw materials for identity and confirm that they are using the materials named on the ingredients listing.
NOW® makes sure that the ingredients we include in our formulations are tested not only for identity but purity and potency as well.
Your Safety Comes First
NOW® was founded to help you achieve good health by using natural products. And since our beginnings, we knew quality control makes the difference in producing products you can trust.
With our world-class labs and science team, our exceptional standards of cleanliness and accuracy when it comes to manufacturing and our careful ingredients-sourcing, we continually work to make sure that trust is well-earned.