The Wholesome Journal

How to Buy Supplements - 10 Tips to Help You Get High-Quality, Safe Products that Are Right for Your Body

We all know that food is less nutrient-dense than it was when our parents were growing up, and it will be even less nutritious when our children are adults .... (If this is new info to you, check out our blog post The Great Nutrient Disappearance.) For this reason, supporting health by taking supplements is important to a lot of people.. Actually,  approximately 77% of Americans take at least one dietary supplement. 1

But how do you know that the supplements you’ve chosen are good quality, or even safe? 

Knowing how to choose safe, high-quality supplements is a public health issue that we at Wholesome Story take seriously. 

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In this blog post, we’ll cover the 10 steps you should take when choosing dietary supplements. We hope this information will help to ensure that you get high quality, clean products that are safe and effective for you. 

Let’s dig in! 

 

Why Is Choosing Supplements Carefully So Important?

 

You may be under the impression that the US government carefully regulates all supplements sold in the US, and that therefore, anything you can purchase online or in-store is safe. 

This is not true. 

To put it mildly, regulation of dietary supplements here in the United States is pretty… relaxed.

You see, the supplement industry is still governed by a piece of legislation called the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), that was enacted in 1994 (Nearly 30 years ago!). This piece of law makes the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the governing body that oversees dietary supplements. 2

The thing is,since 1994, the number of supplements available on the US market has increased from approximately five thousand items to over ninety-thousand as of 2017. 3 That’s a huge increase! And, the FDA simply can’t adequately oversee that many products under current regulations.

Now, there are laws in place that supplement companies are required to adhere to, but many companies do not, because the odds of getting caught by the FDA are slim. 

You see, no prior authorization or testing is needed to produce and market supplements under the DSHEA, which means that new products can go to market without any kind of safety or efficacy evaluation. 2 This, combined with the increasingly huge number of new products on the market, means that there’s effectively very little oversight. 

Long story short, supplement companies are mostly left to police themselves, and many companies take advantage of this in a bad way. 

 

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Give Me a “For Instance”

 

Take a look at the results of a 2020 research study that purchased 30 products online, none of which were third-party tested, and tested them to see if the contents of the bottles matched what was listed on the labels. 4

Third-Party Testing: This refers to the process of testing a product through an independent, third-party organization or laboratory. Third-party testing is commonly used to verify the safety, purity, and quality of products, including dietary supplements, food products, and consumer goods. Third-party testing is generally preferred over in-house testing, as it is considered more objective and unbiased. 

Only seventeen of the tested products matched their respective labels. Less than half! 4

Seventeen of the tested products listed ingredients on their labels that the researchers could not detect in the product. 4 You read that right, these products were completely missing ingredients they claimed to contain.

Nine of them contained ingredients and/or chemicals that were not listed on the label. 4

Yikes! What if someone was allergic to one of these ingredients? A person would have no way of knowing an allergen was in the product before they ingested it. Bad. News. 

 

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For your safety, and the safety of your loved ones, it’s important to understand how to select quality supplement products that contain what the label says. 

 

Is This Why So Many Doctors Don’t Like Supplements? 

 

Yes. This is a big reason why many healthcare professionals look down on supplement use and discourage their patients from it. 

And who could blame them? Apparently as many as half of supplements ought to have “Mystery Flavor” on the label rather than the product name. 

 

Gah! How Do I Get Good, Truthful Supplement Products?

 

Well friends, that’s what we’re here to talk about, because despite what critics might say, supplements are important, and you can find responsible products if you know how. 

We’re here to share some steps you can take to ensure that the supplements you buy are safe, effective, and appropriate for you. Hooray!

 

10 Steps to Check your Supplements:

 

  1. Only purchase products that have been third-party tested. 

This may seem a little strict, but it’s so important! No third-party testing means that nobody checked to make sure the product is free of contaminants, or even that it contains what it says it does. 

Most brands that do third-party testing use well-known organizations, and generally post the logo for that organization on the product packaging. 

You can look for the following icons from USP, NSF International, Lab Door, and Consumer Labs.

 

At Wholesome Story, we have our third-party testing completed by The Clean Label project. Every supplement we sell has either the CLP- Certified icon, or the Purity Award icon to show that we’ve paid to have testing conducted, passed the test, and in the case of the Purity Award, produced a product that is among the cleanest on the market! 

 

Clean Label Project is a non-profit company that’s passionate about consumer education and food/supplement safety. You can learn more about the Clean Label Project at their website, where we’re sure you’ll soon come to see why, out of all the options, we chose to get certified with them. They’re awesome! 

 

  1. Check out brand websites to find out more about how and why they produce their products. 

You can tell a lot about a brand from their website. Even if you choose to buy from some place like Amazon, take time to check out a company’s own platform before buying. Look for clues as to how seriously they take issues like research, efficacy, and customer service. 

The last thing you want is to have a bad reaction to a supplement and then have to deal with a company that doesn't know or care why it happened, and therefore doesn’t provide refunds or Q&A support. 

Here is a link to our website where you will find our story, our values, our certifications, and more blogs like this one! 

 

  1. Check to see if a company will provide a certificate of analysis (CoA) to verify the purity of their products.

Let us make this simple for you. No CoA, no deal. 

If a company doesn’t want to share their CoA with you, it likely means they’re hiding something, which means you can’t trust them. Period. 

 

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  1. Compare the star ratings on Amazon to the star ratings on other sites, including the company’s own website. They should be similar. 

People can pay for ratings, and a good way to spot fake ratings is a discrepancy in a product’s overall score between two different selling platforms. 

For example, our best-selling product, Myo & D-Chiro Inositol, has a rating of approximately 4.5 stars on AmazoniHerb, and on our website

Each platform has a slightly different rating, but they are all pretty close, and this is a good sign. This helps to show that we aren’t paying for reviews. If one platform were to have a rating of 4.8 and another platform listed the same product at a rating of 3.8, that would be a red flag. 

 

  1. Avoid buying from unauthorized third-party sellers. 

Third-party sellers are notorious for cheating and trying to make a quick, dirty buck. In fact, it’s not uncommon for unauthorized third-party sellers to sell counterfeit products. No bueno. 

Unauthorized Third-Party Sellers: This refers to individuals or companies who sell products, without proper authorization or permission from the manufacturer, brand owner, or authorized distributor. They may obtain products from sources other than the brand owner or authorized distributors, and may sell them at a lower price or with altered packaging. They may sell counterfeit, expired, or otherwise unsafe products, and they may not provide the same level of customer service or product support as authorized sellers. Hence, buying from unauthorized third-party sellers may violate the manufacturer's warranty or other policies, which can leave the buyer without recourse if something goes wrong with the product.

To avoid this, try to buy directly from the company if possible. You can do this through their website or through verified seller accounts, such as those on Amazon, iHerb, etc.  

Here’s our Amazon Storefront, where you can purchase our products with your Prime account and still avoid unauthorized third-party sellers. We’ve got you covered!

 

  1. Avoid Proprietary Blends when possible

Proprietary blends can help supplement companies keep the secret to their success a secret. But, secrets aren’t exactly helpful to the consumer now are they?

 

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Proprietary Blend: This is a term used to describe a mixture of ingredients that are blended together in a specific ratio. Proprietary blends are commonly used in dietary supplements, and often include several different ingredients that are intended to work together synergistically. The specific ingredients and ratios of a proprietary blend are typically kept secret by the manufacturer, and are not disclosed on the product label.

In fact, proprietary blends are a great way to mask how much and/or how little of certain ingredients a company uses in their product, which means they can cover up Pixie Dusting quite effectively. 

Pixie Dusting: This is a term used to describe a marketing tactic in which a manufacturer includes a small, ineffective amount of an ingredient in a supplement formula in order to list it on the label and advertise its supposed benefits, without actually providing a meaningful dose.

At Wholesome Story, we don’t do Proprietary Blends or Pixie Dusting. We think it’s important for you to know exactly what you’re consuming and how much, so we shun these all-too-common practices. 

 

  1. Make sure the company has posted contact information. 

If a company/product doesn’t provide any contact information, don’t buy. It’s imperative that a customer be able to reach the producer of a supplement product, so that they can get things like CoAs and allergy information, and so that they can report side effects, etc. 

No contact info, no purchase. In fact, providing contact info is a legal requirement in the US. If you see a product that doesn’t have contact information for the brand, then they’re in violation of the law and are probably hiding something. Yikes!

You can find contact information for Wholesome Story on our packaging and our webpage…and here too! Just email hello@wholesomestory.com and the ever-lovely Isul (our customer service manager) will gladly help you with whatever you need. 

  1. Ask Yourself: Do I need the amount of supplement provided by this product? 

This is an important thing to know. Different amounts of supplements can do different things. If you’re taking either too much or not enough of your chosen supplement, you may not be getting the benefits you’re looking for. 

A common example of this is our Myo & D-Chiro Inositol. Our recommended dose is 2050 grams per day (4 capsules) and many people follow our recommendation. However, some people find that they need to take either more or less of the product for it to work for them. 

 

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In a case like this, users can modify their dose by taking more or fewer capsules as needed. But, if you are taking a product that contains more in a single capsule, than you need in a whole day, then this is not an option. Always check to be sure you can get the dose you need from the product you choose. 

 

  1. Ask Yourself: Am I taking any medications that make this product an inappropriate choice? 

Many supplements, including vitamins and minerals, can interact with prescription medications and may not be safe for you because of this. 

Good supplement companies usually provide pertinent warnings on the packaging and/or website to help consumers figure out if a product is safe for use alongside certain medicines. 

Wholesome Story has caution statements for each of our products on our website under the “CAUTION” tab for each listing, where we list possible interactions and warn against inadvisable combinations.  

As an example, here is our caution statement for Berberine. Scroll to the menu in the middle of the page and select the “CAUTION” tab to read. 

Unfortunately, many good-quality products don’t have caution statements, so it’s always important to do your own research to help figure out if something is appropriate for you to use alongside your medication(s). 

And remember, caution statements are not comprehensive. If you have questions or concerns that you don’t feel are addressed in a product’s caution statement, you should reach out to your healthcare provider. 

 

  1. Ask Yourself: Do I have any health conditions that could make this product an inappropriate choice? 

In the same way that medications and supplements may not be appropriate to use together, many diseases and other health conditions may cause your body to respond poorly to certain supplements, including certain vitamins and minerals. 

Again, you can look for caution statements and warnings, as well as reaching out to your healthcare provider. 

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You’ve Got This

As you can see, with just a few simple steps and some planning, you can ensure that safe, high-quality supplements are the only supplements you and your loved ones use. Now you have what it takes to be your family’s supplement superhero!

And, since carefully-chosen, high-quality products that keep individual needs in mind aren’t always the easiest or cheapest option, here’s a 10% off code to help you get what you need WHOLESOME10 Sweet! 

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So from all of us at Wholesome Story, happy shopping! 

 

Questions

What do you look for when evaluating supplements? What are some products that you wish you could get from Wholesome Story? Find us on FacebookInstagramPinterest, and TikTok

 

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 Sources

  1. Flynn J. 25 fascinating supplements industry statistics [2023]: Data + trends. Zippia 25 Fascinating Supplements Industry Statistics 2023 Data + Trends Comments. https://www.zippia.com/advice/supplements-industry-statistics/. Published March 2023. Accessed March 27, 2023. 
  2. 103rd Congress. Office of dietary supplements - dietary supplement health and education act of 1994. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/About/DSHEA_Wording.aspx. Published October 1994. Accessed March 27, 2023. 
  3. Cadwallader AB. Which features of dietary supplement industry, product trends, and regulation deserve physicians' attention? Journal of Ethics | American Medical Association. https://journalofethics.ama-assn.org/article/which-features-dietary-supplement-industry-product-trends-and-regulation-deserve-physicians/2022-05. Published May 1, 2022. Accessed March 27, 2023. 
  4. Crawford C, Avula B, Lindsey AT, et al. Dietary supplement products marketed for Immune Support. JAMA Network Open. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2794987. Published August 10, 2022. Accessed March 27, 2023. \
  5. All gifs obtained from Gify.com; links for each gif are posted below the respective image. 

 

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