Quality Update: Where you buy your supplements matters!
Today, you can buy supplements almost anywhere. In addition to traditional options like vitamin stores, natural food stores and your office, patients can now buy supplements online from vitamin retailers, online dispensaries and even eBay!
We’re not just talking about retail brands—now some professional brands can also be found online. Not only can this pose a threat if you depend on supplement sales as a source of revenue; without your guidance, your patients may be purchasing vitamins and supplements that do not support your treatment recommendations or their ongoing health.
I’ve had patients ask whether it matters where they purchase their refills of supplements. The answer is: absolutely! While many parameters of quality stem from what happens in the manufacturing process, the storage, shipping and tracking of supplements after manufacturing also impacts a product’s quality.
Here are some key considerations to share with your patients when you talk about their supplement recommendations.
1) Product storage
When a high-quality dietary supplement is manufactured, companies conduct testing to determine how long the product will remain potent. This is called stability testing, and it ensures the product’s quality through its expiration date. The expiration date will remain correct as long as the product is stored properly. Distributors of dietary supplements (like Emerson Ecologics) are required to store products within a well-controlled temperature and humidity range in order to preserve product integrity. When patients order from an online retailer, there’s no telling how the product was stored, how long it sat at room temperature and the conditions it was exposed to during shipping. This is especially concerning with highly perishable products like probiotics and with products close to their expiration date.
2) Product authenticity
You thought it was only handbags, but there have been instances of supplements for sale online that are labeled as a particular brand, only they were not manufactured by that brand. Who’d have thought there could be a black market for vitamins?
3) Product tracking
In the unlikely (but important) scenario that a product is recalled, you depend upon your supplement source to let you know that there could be a problem. Only the best suppliers and distributors have the ability to alert customers who have bought a product that was recalled.
4) Ingredient integrity and potency
You could be buying “nothing”! The first three considerations assume that your patient is going online and searching for the same product and brand at a cheaper price. Another scenario I see is when patients try to find the same ingredient in a less expensive brand. A story comes to mind of a colleague who saw supplements for sale at the local dollar store. They purchased several and sent them to a lab for testing. The fish oil? It came back as canola oil. Vitamins were significantly sub potent. The results would be laughable if it wasn’t detrimental to the health of our patients. While this is an extreme example, I could share my story of a patient who purchased a brand of St. John’s wort that was different from what I had recommended and experienced a noticeable decline in effect and outcome.
We are all aware of the quality challenges in the dietary supplement industry. It’s why you choose a company like Emerson Ecologics to work with to ensure your patients’ products are the best available. Please share this information with your patients so that they understand the dangers of “price shopping”. This will help ensure they stay with only the most reliable, effective products. And if you want more information on quality, you can visit us at:
By Jaclyn Chasse, ND