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How to Know if a Vitamin or Supplement is Good or Bad - Blog Puriya

October 07, 2019


There was a shocking study that came out of Canada published in the BMC Journal that discovered 1/3rd of the supplements they tested did not contain ANY of the main herbal ingredients listed on the label!

Today, we are going to discuss:
1. The Shocking Statistics Of What Is On The Market
2. How to read a label
3. The importance of transparency
4. How natural does not equal safe
5. How to navigate the health food shops without being distracted

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Right below, you will find the transcript of this video.


(00:00) – Dr. Michelle Burklund: My name is Dr. Michelle Burklund, the science officer here at Puriya, and this is our weekly series where we discuss a lot of different topics in wellness. And this week, I’m really excited ’cause we’re talking about something that we need to talk about quite a bit, ’cause a lot of people don’t know what’s going on. One in five Americans right now are currently taking at least one supplement or vitamins. So, a multi, multi-billion dollar industry. But so many of you don’t actually know if you’re taking the real thing.

(00:30) – DB: But there was this shocking study that actually came out a couple of years ago from Canada, that looked at 12 different companies and they looked at 40 different products and these are companies and products that are sold in stores all over the US, North America, and Canada. And they found some shocking, shocking things. No. First off, they discovered that one third of the supplements they tested did not contain any of the ingredients on the label.

(01:00) – DB: This is something we really need to talk about and become educated on as to how to read a label and all of these important things. So I will show you this study, so we can just jump into it. All of you that are joining us now, this is a little bit of an education on supplements and what you need to know, what you really need to find out before you choose a supplement, wherever you buy it, and things you need to learn when you’re looking at the label, too.

(01:29) – DB: Okay, let me bring this up. This is the trial were speaking of and the results were that 59% of the products contained ingredients not listed on the labels. One third of the products contain contaminants and fillers, not listed on the labels, and there was a lot of product substitution, over 30 different products and the 44 examined had product substitution, so they didn’t have this plant, they added this one. Yet, there’s… It’s not like the pharmaceutical industry in many good ways, and in many bad ways, and one of them is, it’s not regulated as well. And what you see on the label and what testing they do, they’re getting better over the years, but we as consumers need to be aware and also know the brands and know what’s really in them, as well.

(02:19) – DB: We are going to discuss some of the shocking statistics how to read a label, the importance of transparency in a company, how natural does not necessarily equal safe, and how to navigate health food shops without getting too distracted. So let me pull up this slide I created and it’s all about some simple skills on how to read a label, and what to look for, because it might feel overwhelming, and you might not be able to recognize some of the ingredients, but some key things to look at. If you’re looking for a specific constituent or a specific product look at it and ask yourself, is it standardized?

(03:00) – DB: For example, if it’s milk thistle, and the medicinal ingredient you’re looking for is Silymarin, is there a percentage that you can look at, that you know that each capsule contains? If you can look at the dosage and figure out the importance of what you’re looking for and the proper dosage you’re looking for, and the consistency with that, I think it’s very important. The next, which is actually quite shocking, too, is that, look at the part used. Now, some herbs, you need to use the roots. Some, you need to use the flower, some you need to use the leaf. It all depends. And interestingly, some products actually use the wrong part. A lot of this is consumer education and also meeting with the right professional, so you know you’re gonna get the right products, and the right part.

(03:53) – DB: Another thing is, how is the product harvested? Is it organic? Is it something that is commonly grown with pesticides or has a lot of heavy metals? Things like that, that you need to know if you wanna focus on something more organic. So this is a question. How is it harvested? Is it in a sustainable way? A lot of companies now, which is great, are not only looking at the ingredients but they’re looking at the farms and how these ingredients are made. There’s a lot of bad companies, a lot of shady companies, and there’s a lot of amazing progress, where we look at the ingredients, we look at the sources, we look at the sustainability, and we create the supplement based on all these different factors, not just medicinal use, but how is it sustainable, how are the farming practices, and is it organic, and what testing do they have?

(04:47) – DB: The next part I’m gonna go into is, where is it made? And is the product made in America? And then, where are the ingredients made? A good thing is, when you go into a company’s website, it’s great when they have so much transparency and you can read not only what ingredients they have, but also what are their sources, what are their manufacturers. All of these things help, and when they showcase those things, or the testing you’ve done, you know you can trust them more because they want to provide that information to you as well. They’re proud of it.

(05:26) – DB: Another question, but this is not something you will be able to read on the label, is the testing, whether they personally test the product or if it’s tested by other organizations. All of these things help make the decision of, is this a good company, is this a quality company that you can trust? Another thing is, when we go into testing is, looking at specific testing. In fish oils, a lot of them, a lot of fish oils can have Mercury and other heavy metals in them so a lot of very good high quality companies will always test for that and they will make sure to list that as well. Another thing is with probiotics. Looking at the strains. Now, the strains matter, diversity matters, dose matters, when it comes to that, and quality matters. And we won’t get into the quality of a probiotic or the bio-availability after ingestion, or the different types of strains that it can live in and sustain in a bottle, and how long, all these different things… But this is why it is important to talk to a professional about this, so they can help you make sure they know what you are getting and also the quality of what you are getting, as well.

(06:44) – DB: I hope I was able to educate you just a little bit on the basics of reading the label and starting to ask questions when you’re there. Instead of feeling overwhelmed with all these different brands, you start to become more familiar and then you can feel comfortable trusting specific brands based on the information that they provide.

(07:06) – DB: Okay.

(07:09) – DB: So our next part is, is basically talking about supplements in general. And there’s a lot of misconceptions out there. Some people think more means better. If I take more of this, it’s going to be better for me. And like anything, it’s always about balance. And so, if you’re deficient in something, you might need to take more of something, but it’s always about listening to the healthcare professional and not overdoing it, because in the end, everything is about balance. Another thing that I wanted to talk about was that natural does not equal safe.

(07:51) – DB: There’s a well-known study, that happened a couple of years ago with smokers. And the study wanted to look at beta carotene supplementation, a common antioxidant, with smokers, thinking that it could help them in the long run, reduce lung cancer. And what this study actually found was that supplementing with beta carotene in smokers could actually increase the risk for lung cancer. There’s a lot of things we don’t know about supplements and making those guesses of what can work and what can’t work. So natural does not equal safe.

(08:27) – DB: What is great about this industry right now is all the current research that is going on in so many different areas. It’s a very exciting time. We have many different plants studied in test tube, in animals, and in humans, and we have more and more trials going on, so the science is finally getting there. But it’s also important to know that just because it’s natural, it does not equal safe. And the fact that we did talk about what is in the supplement, are you even taking what’s in it, or who knows what’s in it? So, that alone, don’t… The goal is to look at supplements, look at vitamins, as something that can help you, if you’re deficient, to help you re-balance, or to help you in your journey and to accentuate and help based on the mechanisms of action focused on, but we also wanna focus on quality and consistency at the same time.

(09:23) – DB: I think they can do powerful things when we done right. When done in a different way, you might just be spending a lot of money, not getting anything or even causing harm. So, I hope I helped you a little bit, think about supplementation a little differently, and understand the power of it. It has tremendous power when done right. And one of the most important things is transparency. Learning about the ingredients, where they come from, and what is available from the product you purchased. I think all of these is incredibly important then, for myself, as a formulator, this is what I love to give the customers. It’s finding the perfect ingredients, great high quality sources, and putting that all together in a beautiful supplement and then showcasing everything that we did. So the consumer has all of that knowledge, too. Incredibly important, education is power, as well.

(10:24) – DB: I’d also like to remind everybody to always meet with a licensed physician, ideally a naturopathic physician, so they can really go over it. They have been trained for years on it, supplements, vitamins interactions, ones that are clearly contraindicated for conditions and ones that can enhance medications. This is an area where you really need to consult somebody that knows what they’re doing, so there isn’t harm and you’re not wasting a ton of money at the same time.

(10:57) – DB: Okay, I’m taking that down. And the last part I wanna talk about today is when you’re inside that supplement store. Here are some of my tips because I think a lot of people go inside and they say, “Oh I need this. Oh what about this? Maybe I’ll buy this instead.” This is what I’m going to tell you. Go on a mission. Do not browse the aisles and ask yourself what you might need. Keep focused. Secondly, do not ask the vitamin store employee about your medical condition. They do not know your medical background, they don’t know the medications you’re on, they haven’t given you a physical exam, they don’t know your diagnosis. What you can ask them, and what they are there for is to give you product knowledge.

(11:39) – DB: So if you have questions on the quality, on the dosage, on the company, they’re amazing for that. They can guide you to the section that you need to focus on, but go in there with a mission and use them for the knowledge they have, so it can only help you find the right product. And the last thing I wanna talk about while you’re in the store, is, don’t judge the product based on the price because there are very high-priced products that are surprisingly low quality, and clearly, they use, they raise their price based on marketing and not the ingredients they use. Read the label, and then take a look at the company and judge for yourself. But don’t judge on how beautiful the packaging is or the price, because there’s some very good companies out there. And here at Puriya, we’re doing an amazing job getting all that information to you and finding the right sources, so don’t get distracted when you are going through the vitamin store. Stay on a mission.

(12:47) – DB: Here’s what we talked about today. Transparency, the more transparent the better. Also, if you go to the company’s website, looking at the ingredients, looking at the testing, seeing what ingredients they avoid and the test they list is incredibly important. Also, the Environmental Working Group. I’m sure some of you are familiar with it. It’s a great website to look up ingredients, especially skincare products, and see the level of toxicity, this amazing information for the consumer on this site.

(13:20) – DB: So we talked about some shocking statistics. I want all of you to be aware of how to read a label, the importance of transparency, how natural does not equal safe, and how to navigate the health food shops without being distracted. With that, I hope you have an amazing weekend. And next time you go into a vitamin shop, stay focused and look at each supplement in a different way now and start asking those questions to yourself, and don’t prescribe yourself. Have somebody make sure what you’re taking is what you need at the right dosage and the right quality.

(14:00) – DB: Okay, well, I will you next week. We have amazing interviews lined up. We have two. We have Serena Dyer, talking about spiritual wellness, and Shannon Miller, a seven-time Olympic medalist, talking next week. Lots of amazing things. So I will see you next week. Take care.

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