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Mar 31, 2017

All About Supplements

I  C A N  G E T  I T  C H E A P E R  A T . . .

How often have you heard, "I can get it cheaper at GNC ( Walgreens or other retailer)? Let your patients know that there can be problems with shopping for the lowest price. One big problem is that the product may not contain any of the ingredients you think you are buying. In 2015 the New York State attorney general's office accused four major retailers of selling fraudulent herbal supplements. Products from GNC, Target, Walgreens and Wal-Mart were tested. They discovered that most (80%) of the products did not contain ANY of the herbs listed on their labels. The tests revealed that most of the herbal products often contained little more than cheap fillers like powdered rice, asparagus and houseplants, and in some cases substances that could be dangerous to those with allergies. Ginseng pill that were purchased at Wal -Mart contained garlic powder and rice, but no ginseng. The Wal-Mart brand of Ginkgo biloba contained powdered radish, houseplants and wheat, but no Ginkgo biloba. At Target, Ginkgo biloba, St John's wort and valerian were all found to be lacking in the label denoted claims. At GNC Ginkgo biloba, St John's wort, genseng, Echinacea and Saw Palmetto were also being sold without containing the herbs promised on the label. At Walgreens Ginkgo biloba, St John's wort, ginseng, garlic, and Echinacea did not contain the herbs listed on the label. Since regulation of supplements is spotty at best, it is a good idea to buy your nutritional products from a trusted source. Biotics Research is licensed as a producer of pharmaceutical grade nutritional products.


Does the company actually make the vitamin? Many companies do not do vitamin? their own manufacturing, making it very difficult to do any kind of quality control.

Quality of components: Oyster shell has Quality of components: calcium, but the body can’t use it (just like your car can’t use the gasoline in coal). Calcium carbonate is cheap, but is not well absorbed, and it may contain lead. Calcium citrate is much more expensive than the oyster shell or the carbonate. A high quality supplement will use the citrate, a poor one will use oyster shell or carbonate. There are similar quality issues for just about every vitamin and herb. The quality of herbal constituents in a lot of products is often questionable. Herbs contain various active ingredients and if the quality or the preparation of the herb is not good, the product can be completely useless.

Label claims: Are the ingredients listed Label claims: on label actually contained in the product? You would be shocked at how often they are not (see page 1). Many companies don’t actually produce their own vitamins, and they don’t test what they buy. Without testing, you can be misled about the content of the product. Second, by the time the product changes hands several times, anywhere along the line someone can substitute cheaper or even phony ingredients and not be held accountable. The product can be contaminated when it changes hands. Sometimes the label claims are fraudulent. Health care practitioners that deal with nutrition should take the time to find reputable manufacturers—like Biotics Research.

Are the products tested for quality or for contaminants? There is not a or for contaminants? lot of government regulation in this industry. The best way to protect yourself is to find a company that you trust, that makes its own products and tests the quality and purity of its products.
Where did the materials come from? Most of the botanicals from? purchased in the US come from the Far East. There are manufacturing practices in some Third World countries that would surprise many Americans. You want to buy from a manufacturer that checks on their suppliers—like Biotics Research.

How is the tablet or capsule made? Something as simple as how a tablet is produced can affect bioavailability. Many manufacturers use inert ingredients that interfere with the absorption of the nutrients. Capsules generally have less inert material than tablets. Biotics Research makes tablets that are extremely bioavailable, they are made of food. In general, supplements in capsules are better absorbed than supplements in tablets (with the exception, of course, of the vegetable-based tableting mentioned in the last paragraph). But even capsules can contain inert ingredients that interfere with absorption. Sometimes it is necessary to use a little cellulose in capsules that contain very little active ingredient or with nutrients or herbal extracts that will not flow properly in the capsuling machine. When high volume is a concern of the manufacturer, inert ingredients are added to enable the machines to work faster. It speeds up production, but makes the vitamin less absorbable. How long will the product keep its potency on the shelf? This is another “label claims” issue. shelf? Vitamins break down over time. Will the label be accurate after six months? A year? Is there a clear expiration date on the vitamins? If the vitamins (minerals, herbs whatever) are produced in exactly the amounts that are listed on the label, in a short period of time the label will be inaccurate because the nutrients will break down. A good company will put more of each ingredient into a capsule or tablet so that the label claims will be true in one or even two years.

Are the formulations good? Is there research and Are the formulations good? clinical evidence to support the use of a given supplement? Is it a reasonable formulation for the desired outcome? Is there support information that is reasonable and credible? Has the company designed a product that will get results? Many times companies jump on bandwagons and aggressively market substances that really don’t work the way consumers think they will. We can help you know the difference between marketing and science.


While everyone loves a bargain, there are some problems with shopping for supplements using only price as a guideline. The difference in quality between different brands of supplements is often considerable. Also, treating yourself or relying on untrained individuals for health advice is not a good idea. Vitamins are cofactors that help the thousands of biochemical reactions that occur in the body. If they are not absorbed well or are in a form that is not well utilized by the body, they will not produce the desired result.

Does Quality Matter in Ice Cream or Wine? Does Quality Matter in Ice Cream or Wine? Herbs, vitamins and minerals are meant to be utilized by the body, to help with physiology and biochemistry. Think of wine or ice cream. The only physiologic concern with these products is taste, but what a difference between the quality of a cheap product and a good one. Compare the taste of a premium ice cream to the cheap store brand; the difference is considerable. Compare inexpensive wine to Laffite Rothschild. It should be obvious that the difference between the quality of vitamins and herbs should be at least as great.

What is Bioavailability? You need to realize that supplements are molecules that promote physiologic activity in the body. Just as a good ice cream gets a favorable response from your taste buds, a good supplement creates chemical reactions that are favorable to the body. Quality and bioavailability are important. Bioavailability is a difficult concept for some patients to grasp. It has to do with how well the supplement is utilized by the body. There is gasoline in coal, however you just can’t run your car on coal. Similarly, there are ingredients listed on a supplement’s label that are as useless to your body as coal is to your automobile. Let's talk about something a basic as calcium, for example. Some companies use calcium carbonate as their calcium source because it is cheap. Calcium carbonate is limestone, and it is not absorbed by the body very well. Also, some studies have shown that calcium carbonate can be a source of lead, which is very toxic. If you decide to save money and buy a product with calcium carbonate, not only will you not absorb the calcium, but you may be damaging your nervous system with highly toxic lead. Since there is not a lot of federal control over the quality of supplements, it is vital that you become a smart consumer and not make your supplement decisions based on price alone.Basically you have to trust your manufacturer, or at least have checked them out. Many of the best manufacturers sell only to health care practitioners. There’s a lot to know when buying supplements and herbs. Health care is complex and you may realize that the quality of the products you use may make the difference between getting a good result and not having your patient improve. Quality is so important when talking about health.

By Dr. Paul G. Varnas &