Some groups of people, because of distinct nutritional needs, benefit most from taking a vitamin and supplement.  These are:

  • Women of childbearing age (need extra calcium and iron)
  • Pregnant or lactating women
  • Children and teenagers with irregular eating habits
  • Seniors
  • Vegetarians or vegans (may be deficient in key nutrients)
  • Dieters or people avoiding certain food groups (may be deficient in key nutrients)
  • People with eating disorders or medical conditions (deficiency diseases, absorption problems, lactose intolerance, etc.)
  • People who often eat processed and fast food

Q: How do you research and buy vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements

A: The safest way to purchase supplements is from a reputable vitamin or health food store, or from a health practitioner. However, not all of us have access to these types of resources. As an Internet-savvy consumer, your computer can be your best friend when it comes to choosing the right supplement for you.  The amount of information available on the Web can be overwhelming, but by using the following simple steps, you can be sure you are getting reliable information about herbal or vitamin supplements.

Researching dietary supplements

Safety and Effectiveness: Before you embark on a supplement regimen, be sure that what you are going to take is safe and effective. The National Institute of Health Office of Dietary Supplements offers fact sheets on most herbal dietary supplements, including safety aspects.

Dosage: The Mayo Clinic offers a searchable database of supplements, also in the Resources and References section below. It rates the efficacy of a supplement for various health conditions, explains safety concerns, and details recommended dosage information for adults and children.

Quality: Look for “standardized” products from manufacturers participating in the US Pharmacopeia’s Dietary Supplement Verified Program or those carrying the NSF International mark of safety.

A seal from one of these organizations indicates a dietary supplement has met certain manufacturing standards, such as uniformity, cleanliness, and freedom from environmental contaminants, including lead, mercury, and drugs. Each group has different standards and processes, but the goal of each is to certify that herbal supplements meet certain safety and purity criteria.

There are many different companies marketing supplemental products. Quality does matter, so it is good to read the ingredients and warnings on the bottle and learn about the manufacturers. It’s up to you as the consumer to protect your own health – so practice caveat emptor (“let the buyer beware”), and consult your health care professional before taking any type of dietary supplements.