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What are you really Getting? Darrell Miller 8/21/06



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What are you really Getting?
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Date: August 21, 2006 05:20 PM
Author: Darrell Miller (dm@vitanetonline.com)
Subject: What are you really Getting?

 

Supplement labels can be confusing!

 

The list of ingredients on some supplement labels can tax the mind of even a Ph.D. in nutrition!  What’s worse, although labeling laws exist to counter misleading and non-uniform labeling, confusing and deceptive labeling, confusing and deceptive labeling practices continue to abound.  Here’s some help to aid you in making better sense of supplement labels.

 

1.Begin at the Bottom

 

The supplement facts panel on the label of every nutitional supplement sold in the U.S. tells you about active ingredients in a product. Before analyzing this information, look beneath the panel, where the OTHER INGREDIENTS are listed.  Here, at a glance you can begin to spot a questionable product.  Synthetic colors, flavors, preservatives, or the absence of certain information, are early warning signals. 

 

Poor Label

 

 

Good Label

1.other ingredients: Cellulose, stearic acid, sucrose, sodium, silicoaluminate, talc, titanium dioxide, mineral oil, FD&C red #40, FD&C yellow, aluminum lake, polysorbate 80.

  1. other ingredients: Cellulose(capsule), vegetable magnesium state, silica.
  2. this product contains no gluten, wheat, yeast, eggs or dairy, no synthetic colors or flavors , and no toxic levels of lead or other heavy metals.
  3. Lot# 123456

Expires: 01/08 or use by: 01/08

 

 

  1. Other Ingredients: supplements can be natural only by degree, since their manufacture often requires the use of binders, flowing agents and other items.  Such materials may come from natural and artificial sources. They must be listed in descending order by quantity.
  2. Contains No / May Contain:  Sometimes, supplements are derived from sources that could cause reactions in allergic individuals (eg. Soy, shellfish).  Better labels tell you which allergens are absent, as well as those which may be present.
  3. Expiration date & lot Number: shelf life varies fro different supplements, but most will diminish in potency and quality over time.  Better labels provide a USE BYE or EXPIRATION date.  They also note a LOT NUMBER for identifying product origin (for tracking any product related problems).

 

2.Directions, Dose & Value

 

Poor Label

 

Good Label

 

DIRECTIONS: Take 6 tablents daily, two with each meal.

 

Directions: Though not required on labels, directions tell how and when to take supplements.  This is important because timing your doses can affect absorption. In general:

 

·        Vitamins are best absorbed when taken with food, and in divided doses throughout the day.

·        Fat-soluble vitamins (A,D,E,K) require dietary fat for absorption, so are best taken with meals.

·        Many minerals can be absorbed effectively at any time.

·        Most herbs, probiotics, amino acids & proteolytic enzymes (not digestive enzymes, which should be taken with meals) are best taken on an empty stomach.

 

Poor Label

Good Label

Supplement facts

    1. serving size 3 tablets
    2. servings per container 20
    3. % DV (Daily Value)

Supplement facts

1. Serving Size 2 Tablets

2. Servings per container 30

3. % DV (Daily Value)

 

1. Serving size: SERVING SIZE is required on labels. It recommends the number of tablets, capsules, spoonfuls, ect. Taken at one time.  Be ware that a serving is not necessarily the total recommended daily amount.

 

2.      Cost-Effectiveness: To determine, first find the SERVING SIZE.  Then read the directions to see how much servings are suggested daily.  Finally, divide the number of servings needed into the number of SERVINGS PER CONTAINER.

 

Example: Assuming the two bottles above have the same ingredients and cost. The product on right offers more servings, and is a better buy. Product on left just has less nutritive ingredients, or more filler, in each pill.

 

3.      % DV (Daily Value): The daily value of a nutrient represents the amount expected to meet the daily needs of an “average” healthy person.  On labels, % DV indicates provided by one serving.  DVs have not been established for herbs, essential fatty acids and other nutrients.

 

Note: Many experts in nutrition think that suggested DV levels for some nutrients are far too low to optimize health.  This is why certain ingredients may be present at greater than 100% DV levels.

 

3.Games Labels Play

 

There is no free lunch in the world of supplements.  A bottle that costs less probably contains less – either fewer nutrients, or less effective forms of nutrients.  Educate yourself; compare ingredient amounts, forms and sources, and watch out for labeling tricks such as these.

 

“Padding” the label

 

padding” the label is a common way for supplement marketers to make their ingredients list look more complete and beneficial than it really is.  Padding methods include:

 

Poor Label  amount per serv.

Good Label  amount per serv.

1.CoQ10……….1000mcg

2.Oat Bran………20mg

   Oat fiber……….1mg

3. Oat flavonoids…25mcg

1. CoQ10………….50mg

 

  1. Pixie Dust:  Adding useful ingredients in therapeutically useless amounts. Some brands use tiny amounts of nutrients just to get the ingredient on the label.  Learn how much nutrient is required, and be watchful of inappropriate measurement sizes. (See Weights & Measures below.)

 

Example: CoQ10 useful range is 30mg to 400mg (milligrams.)  product on left provides 1000mcg  (microgram) of CoQ10, the equivalent of just one mg!  product on right provides a beneficial 50mg.

 

  1. Sounds Good:  Adding impressive but irrelevant ingredients, often in useless amounts, that are of no benefit to the formula.

Example: Whole grains such as oats are part of a heart healthy diet, but the product on left provides less than a pinch 20mg of oat bran.  Product on right includes no irrelevant ingredients in useless amounts.

 

  1. Expanding Assets:  Separately listing the parts of a single ingredient to give the illusion of additional ingredients. 

Example: Fiber and flavonoids are part of oats, not more ingredients.

 

The “Name’s the Same” Game

 

A common trick is to provide unproven, weak or useless forms of familiar, good ingredients.  Buyer beware!

 

Poor Label  .

Good Label   .

Pygeum Bark Powder

Pygeum Africanum…..100mg

Pygeum Bark Extract

Pygeum Africanum (Standardized to 13% total sterols……….100mg

 

Example: Studies suggest that Pygeum bark standardized extract helps support prostate health.  Product on left uses unresearched powdered bark.

 

 

Proprietary Blend = “It’s a Secret”

 

Some companies may hide the quantity and quality of their ingredients by calling their formula  a “Proprietary Blend.”  This term may allow manufacturers to use a lot of nutrient from a cheap source and very little from a good source without disclosing how much of each you are actually getting. 

 

This deceptive practice is legal—as long as the secret blend:

·        Is labeled “Proprietary Blend” (or fanciful trademark name)

·        Lists individual nutrients in descending order by weight

·        Lists the total weight per serving

 

When you see the word “Proprietary,” ask: “how relevant is the first or second ingredient?”  Sometimes, the most abundant ingredients are either fillers, or inexpensive, less effective forms.

 

Poor Label              amount per serv.

 

Good Label             amount per serv.

Special Proprietary Women’s Blend

Alfalfa herb, Black Cohosh root, Chaste Tree berry, Dong Quai root, Licorice root………….350mg

Black Cohosh root

Cimicifuga Racemonsa (2.5% total triterpene glycosides)…….125mg

Chast Tree berry

Vitex agnus-castus (0.5% agnusides)………………..100mg

Dong Quai root

Angelica sinensis (5:1 extract)..75mg

Licorice root

Glycyrrhiza glabra……………50mg

Example: Legally, product on left could contain 99% alfalfa filler and only 1% of all the other herbs together! The Good Label tells all.

 

Hiding Outside the Box

 

Another clever way to hide the quality of ingredients is by listing them outside the Supplement Facts box, in the Other Ingredients section located beneath the box.  This section is usually intended for listing agents used in the tableting or encapsulation process.

 

 

Poor Label

 

Good Label

Other Ingredients: Cellulose, stearic acid, spirulina, lycopene, grape seeds.

Other Ingredients: Cellulose, vegetable magnesium stearate.

Example: Agents used in supplement manufacture (i.e. cellulose and stearates) should be listed under Other Ingredients.  Product on left also uses this section to list catchy sounding spirulina, lycopene, and grape seeds.  With no amounts listed, assume these ingredients are present in low levels that provide little value.  A supplement maker who is proud of a product’s nutritive ingredients will fully disclose amounts within the Supplement Facts box not list these ingredients along with manufacturing agents in the Other Ingredient section.

 

4.Understanding Herbs

 

 

Herb Forms: Powders, Tinctures, Extracts

 

The form, preparation and concentration of an herb affects its potency and influences the herb’s potential for therapeutic effectiveness.  the potency of all herb forms except standardized extracts are uncertain and depends on factors invisible to the consumer (i.e. soil quality, rainfall, seasonal climate, harvesting methods, storage methods and age).

 

            Know Your Plant Parts: Medicinal plants often have specific parts that are most effective therapeutically, such as the root for goldenseal, the leaf for raspberry, and the blossom for clover.  Products using irrelevant plant parts may cost less, but offer little or no benefit!

 

Powdered Herb

 

Often encapsulated or used as tea, powdered herbs are more likely than other forms to lose potency when exposed to air.  Fresh, high quality powdered herb may add therapeutic or nutritional value to a supplement.  Low quality powders may provide little benefit.  Look for expiration or “use by” dates.

 

Poor Label

 

Good Label

Saw Palmetto………..320mg

Saw Palmetto berry

Serenoa repens……320mg

Example: If the label doesn’t say otherwise, assume the form of herb is powdered.  Better labels specify plant part and latin name (genus and species).  Sometimes a less effective species of a plant is used to save money.  Check to see if other related species may be equally effective.

 

Tinctures and Fluid Extracts

 

Tinctures contain the soluble parts of dried or fresh herbs, often extracted in a mixture of alcohol and water, vinegar or glycerin.  Tinctures are usually dispensed by drops. This form is more stable and thus has longer shelf life than powdered herb.

 

Poor Label

 

Good Label

Saw Palmetto berry

Tincture…………..320mg

Saw Palmetto berry

Serenoa repens 1:5 tincture, 40% alcohol………………..320mg

Example: Better labels specify tincture strength as a ratio.  Regular tinctures are made using 1 or 2 parts herb to 10 parts solvent, yielding strength ratio of 1:10 or 1:5.  higher potency tinctures (also known as fluid extracts) use more herb in less solvent, yielding stronger 1:3, 1:2, or even high strength 1:1 ratios.

 

Concentrated and standardized extracts

 

Concentrated or standardized extracts (solid, powdered, liquid) are generally prepared from evaporated herbal tinctures or teas.

 

Poor Label

 

Good Label

  1. Saw Palmetto Berry Extract..……..320mg
  2. Saw Palmetto berry standardized extract………..320mg
  1. Saw Palmetto berry

Serenoa repens extract 5:1…………320mg

  1. Saw Palmetto berry

Serenoa repens (standardized to 85%-95% fatty acids and sterals)………320mg

 

  1. Concentrated extracts commonly use 4 to 8 parts of plant matter to make 1 part extract (4:1 to 8:1).  Some may use up to 200 pounds of herb to make 1 pound of finished product (200:1)!

Example: A better label tells you the concentration strength by noting the ratio of herb to extract.  This is often appears after the plant name.

 

  1. Standardized Extracts are lab-analyzed to provide a verified amount of one or more nutritive ingredients.  In many cases, proportional amounts of other constituents are also present, retaining the natural “fingerprint” of the whole herb.  Standardized extracts are the most consistent, and often the most potent, form of an herb.  They are used in the majority of studies demonstrating therapeutic effectiveness.

Example: Standardized extracts provide a set percentage of an herb’s researched nutritive ingredient.  Useless this percentage is noted on the label, the term “Standardized” is meaningless.

 

5.Beware of False Claims

 

Is it science of is it marketing?  To avoid being misled, question all claims on supplement labels as well as in advertisements.  Although government guidelines restrict the types of claims that manufacturers can legally use to promote their products, not all companies comply.  Many promises mount to little more than marketing hype.

 

Use common sense to decide if a claim seems realistic.  Be aware of emotionally charged, misleading language in advertising.

 

When doubt, contact the company and request information to support a claim.  Unbiased research and human studies are most relevant.  If the science seems legitimate, verify that the form and dose used in product match form and dose showing benefit in studies.

 

Weights & Measures

1 kilogram (kg) = 1000grams (g)

1 gram (gm) = 1000 milligrams (mg)

1 milligram (mg) = 1000 micrograms (mcg)

1 liter = 1000 milliliters (ml)

946 milliliters (ml) = 1 quart

30 ml = 1 fluid once

1 teaspoon, medical = 5 milliliters (ml)

1 tablespoon = 15ml = ½ fluid ounce

28.35 grams (gm) = 1ounce

1 kilogram = 2.2 pounds

Vitamin E

Measured in mg alpha-tocopherol equivalents 1 mg alpha tocopherol = 1.49 IU

Beta Carotene 1mg = 1667 IU

Vitamin A

1 RE (retinol equivalent) = 5 IU

1 RE = 6mcg of beta carotene

1 RE = 1mcg of retinol

Vitamin D

Measured in mcg cholecalciferol

1 mcg cholecalciferol = 40 IU

 

 

 



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