Are you buying JUNK supplements

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The supplement market in South Africa has never been bigger. Nearly every supermarket, chemist and plenty of health stores sell these. The question however with this great supply is do you really know what you are buying and putting into your body?

Analysis of omega-3 fatty acid content of South African fish oil supplements

A recent study on Omega-3- fish oils in South Africa, tested 45 commercially available products to see how much fish oil they contain.  Remarkably they found that more than half of the omega -3 supplements on the market contained less than 89% of the claimed content on the label. A majority of the capsules contained conjugated diene (CD) levels higher than that of vegetable oil from opened containers, indicating rancidity despite the addition of Vitamin E.

Probiotics for vaginal health in South Africa: what is on retailers’ shelves?

Similarly in 2003, a study was published where the researchers took 9 probiotics of South African shelves and sent it to a laboratory in Ghent, Belgium. The study showed that where was a poor correlation between the amount of bacteria on the label and the actual amounts. Only 3 of the 9 products tested, contained the bacteria as stated on the label, and 5 products had enough probiotic in them to have a desired effect. An evaluation of nine probiotics available in South Africa, August 2003.

How can this be true you should think?

South African Consumers has grown accustomed to the high quality of the manufacture of medicinal products and usually accept without question the consistency purity and potency of non prescription products. There would be no reason to doubt what is stated on the supplement label

Well, since there is no formal regulatory structure for any supplements in South Africa, consumers are open to buy just about anything – which could or could not be what it states on the label.  The nutraceutical industry does not have to comply to assurance of product quality, consistency, potency or purity. Is it not just the easiest thing to produce a product, put a label on it and sell to the public?

You should however be thinking about this. We want optimum nutrition for ourselves and our children. We know we have rushed lifestyles and not consuming the nutrients we need on a daily bases. We are bombarded with supplemental advertisements and feel guilty for not looking after ourselves properly. You might have a medical condition and try to manage some symptoms with supplements. Now I have made you worry……

I think there is a simple rule where it comes to the use of supplements:

Rule 1: Do research on the efficacy of the products that you buy

Check the label to see where your supplement was produced. Bigger supplement companies have facilities where supplement are tested and have medical teams who work in them. This information is easily found on the internet. If your supplement has little information available on it, better choose another. If your supplement is imported, there is a big possibility that supplements are overseen by a governing body.

Rule 2: Where do you go to buy supplements?

Supplements are best purchased from practitioners that has in-depth knowledge about the usage, indications and side effects of supplements. Some supplements can also interact with medication so it is best not to just choose of the shelf.  Health shops are also good starting points. Usually not your big chain pharmacies, or supermarkets.

Rule 3: Seek advice before using supplements

There is none such a thing as a one supplement for all. In all honesty every person that I consult have a different requirement for supplements. Don’t fall into the trap of buying things for example calcium, an immune booster or even multivitamins without knowing whether you need it. A specialised dietitian or a doctor specialising in nutrition and supplements can do an assessment for you based on your dietary intake, blood results and if you want to do a higher grade assessment, you can add your DNA test to see what your body requires

Rule 4: Ensure  you using the correct dosage of  supplement

Carefully look at the contents of the supplement whether it gives enough of the product to have a desired effect. For instance, if your calcium and vitamin D dosage is too low, it will not necessarily ensure adequate bone …..

If your probiotic dose is too low, it will have a minimal effect on the symptom or health benefit (i.e. immune support) you are trying to support. If your omega-3-dosage is too low, you cannot expect it to help with your joint pains for example.

If you spend enough time on the internet, you will be able to establish the right dosages for your gender and age group, but instead of wasting your precious time, rather have a chat with a professional.

Rule 5: Timing of supplement use

Did you know that certain types of calcium should be taken with food and others without. That only 300mg of calcium is absorbable at a time, so if you take a 500mg tablet, you are effectively wasting your supplements. Some nutrients cannot be taken with calcium, iron for example will bind to calcium and should best be taken alone. There are many more where this is concerned. Ensure that you know how much of your product you need and when the best time is to take it.

General advice

My general advise to you is that most people should consider the use of a Multivitamin, Omega 3 oil and Vitamin D. Our lifestyles these days are rushed and leading to skipped meals, poor planning and preparation and poor nutrient intakes.  On the long run deficiencies can set in which can adversely affect your mood, health and energy levels.

These days there is advanced tools like DNA testing which specifically indicates whether your body is in need of certain nutrients specifically the B vitamins, Folate , calcium, anti-oxidants and more. Obviously diet is first choice, however with increased needs of certain nutrients, dietary intake is not feasible.

I am a perfectionistic of nature and always send my patients to do some blood tests before a decision is made on what supplements and the dosages, specifically when it comes to single nutrients like vitamin D, Iron, Vitamin B12, zinc and magnesium intakes.

Each persons body is different and the DNA determines what your exact needs are. Therefore I do a DNA analysis followed by blood analysis to deliver an expert opinion of requirements of a patient.

Remember that all is not bad. There are many Reputable companies in the USA and other countries that regularly test their products in laboratories to ensure efficacy, purity and correct dosage.  Some even have research studies behind their products. These product are often more costly due to this factor, however rather invest in your future than taking supplements with its only benefit is the placebo effect.

So next time you are temped to take that two for the price of one special…… Think twice.