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Over the Counter Supplements vs. Medical Grade Supplements

As Americans become more health-conscious, many are turning to supplements to either supplement or increase their intake of vitamins, minerals and/or amino acids. With that increased consumption – last year more than $30.7 billion was spent on supplements in the United States alone – the demand for supplements continues to grow. In addition to heading over to your local pharmacy or health food store, consumers are seeking supplements from internet boutiques, Amazon, big box stores and overseas distributors. But with supply working to meet demand, how can the consumer guarantee that what they are purchasing is not only effective, but safe? The difference may lie in over-the-counter vs. medical grade supplements, where you purchase them, and how they are consumed. Here’s what you need to know about over-the-counter vs. medical grade supplements.

Over-the-Counter Oversight

With the popularity and demand of quality supplements, one would assume the industry might be doing everything in its power to ensure quality and safety. Think again. Due to the way the FDA classifies OTC supplements, there is actually zero oversight or testing performed to verify a manufacturer’s claims. In fact, when it comes to ensuring their over-the-counter product is safe and effective, the only quality control available comes from the manufacturer itself.

Verifying Veracity of OTC Supplements

Recently an investigation by the New York Office of the Attorney General evaluated claims made by several large supplement manufacturers and found that popular brands by Walmart, Target, Walgreens, and even GNC contained ingredients not listed on the label. For example, some supplements labeled as gluten-free actually contained gluten; others contained less of the effective ingredient than was advertised, while still others contained absolutely none of the critical ingredient and could be classified as placebos. Some of less expensive or “pop up” brands – and even those that were high in price or deemed 100 percent natural or even organic– were found to contain cheap or synthetic key ingredients, and even fillers made of weeds, powdered rice, cork byproducts, dextrose, and many other mystery fillers. Some even contained contaminants.

Pharmaceutical Grade Supplements

On the other hand, pharmaceutical – medical – grade supplements are manufactured in accordance with CGMP, the Certified Good Manufacturing Practices protocol, in FDA-registered facilities. Expect these quality supplements to cost more, but you will be getting what you pay for with regard to quality, safety and effectiveness.  Plus, when taken as directed, pharmaceutical grade supplements really do pay for themselves – an OTC brand may require five to seven pills to match what is in one pharmaceutical grade supplement without all the mystery filler.

Separating Truth from Fiction

So if reading labels and doing research online doesn’t answer your questions about supplements, how can you know whether what you and your family are taking will deliver what is advertised? Start by locating a local compounding pharmacy or use non-commercial online sites like those of the National Institutes of Health, the FDA, and USDA rather than a commercial Web site whose sole purpose it is to sell you product. Choose brands labeled with NSF International, U.S. Pharmacopoeia, UL (Underwriter ’s Laboratory), or the ConsumerLab® seal – all of these organizations will verify the product contains what it says, with no mystery or potentially harmful additives or filler. Be wary of supplements manufactured outside the United States; they are unregulated and some have even been found to contain toxic substances like mercury, arsenic and fertilizer.

Getting Advice in South Florida

Throughout their lives, women may be advised to take supplements and vitamins for any number of reasons, to include low iron, pregnancy and menopause. Before beginning any supplementary regimen, especially if you have allergies to gluten or other substances, it’s best to consult a doctor. Women in South Florida can trust Dr. Ladynez Espinal of Lady’s Care Center. Dr. Espinal’s passion for caring for women means she is current on cutting-edge advances in medicine and is familiar with and understands their diverse needs, serving as a trustworthy advocate and consultant for a lifetime of health. Call Dr. Espinal today at (954) 538-1700 or, request an appointment online.

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