dreamstime_xxl_10726438By Caroline Snelwar, RN, MHA

Everywhere you turn there are ads, articles, and daytime talk shows telling you how “this vitamin” or “that supplement” can help you. There seems to be a supplement for every ailment and health goal in the form of vitamins, minerals, botanicals, sports nutrition supplements, weight management products and specialty supplements. And there must be some good coming from it because more than 150 million Americans take dietary supplements annually, creating a $32 billion (yes, that’s a “b”) industry!

But how do you know the supplements you’re taking are high quality and not just a bunch of fillers that don’t really do anything? And, what’s the difference between the supplements you buy at a store versus those sold by your physician?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates any product that contains one or more dietary ingredients such as vitamins, minerals, herbs/botanicals, amino acids, or other ingredients used to supplement the diet. They have divided supplements into 3 grades:

  • Feed Grade for animal consumption;
  • Food Grade for human consumption;
  • Pharmaceutical Grade for human consumption and meeting pharmaceutical standards

Pharmaceutical grade supplements are the highest quality available, and for good reason.

Of the two for human consumption, there are some major differences that are important to note – after all, you don’t want to pay for a vitamin that doesn’t work, do you?

Pharmaceutical Grade

  • 98-99% Pure, not full of fillers or binders
  • Must be bio-available – This means they have to be easily absorbed and used by the body
  • High Quality ingredients that are added in such a way as to not go bad

Human Grade

  • Can be 30% fillers and binders, which do not have to be listed on the label. Up to 88 different chemicals can be added without being listed on the label
  • Many are not broken down and absorbed by the body
  • Not a high quality and/or not processed and stored in a manner that will keep the ingredients from going rancid or breaking down inappropriately

So, how can you tell if the supplement you’re using is Pharmaceutical Grade or Food Grade? Easy – if you are buying it from a local store it’s most likely Food Grade. Pharmaceutical Grade supplements are only available through a doctor or clinic. Yes, they cost more, but it’s worth every cent. Which would you prefer: a cheap supplement which is not properly absorbed and most likely ends up going down the drain (quite literally), or a slightly more expensive one which is metabolized and used up well? Don’t settle for anything less than pharmaceutical grade nutritional supplements so you can rest assured that you are getting your money’s worth and taking a safe, effective supplement.

Don’t settle for anything less than pharmaceutical grade nutritional supplements so you can rest assured that you are getting your money’s worth and taking a safe, effective supplement.