Every few months we hear reports in the media of supplements that either don’t contain what they say they do or are contaminated by toxins. We do sell supplements in our office and use them regularly with patients. We choose the companies we work with because of their quality. The companies we use test each batch of raw material for purity and each batch of finished product to make sure that it contains what it’s supposed to and nothing else. Our fish oils, for example, are tested to make sure that they do not contain dangerous levels of mercury. We avoid products that contain unnecessary dyes and chemical preservatives whenever possible.
Because the supplements that we recommend are of high quality and there is a lot of testing that goes into the manufacturing process, they are often more costly than other brands. Often my patients want to save money and buy a different brand or buy something they can find more easily. While I understand this desire, I always try and steer them back to the companies I trust. The latest article on this issue from The New York Times (http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/02/03/sidebar-whats-in-those-supplements/) refers to some testing on products from some of those cheaper brands. It turns out that many of the products contained absolutely none of what was supposed to be the main ingredient. What I try to explain to my patients is that buying these other brands may mean throwing your money away. You won’t get the results that you’re looking for and it could impact your health in ways that you don’t want.
If my patients prefer not to buy their supplements directly from the office, I have no problem with that. Many high quality brands can be purchased at places like Pharmaca, which sell physician quality supplements. What I do care about is that my patients get what they think they are buying and take supplements that are safe. Often my patients have researched on the internet and found a supplement that is supposedly useful in their condition. I will always look at the supplement with them and sometimes the ingredients in the product do seem to make sense for that patient. Even so, I’m not familiar with the quality of every brand out there. In those cases I usually tell them that the product could potentially be helpful, but I can’t speak to the quality or purity of ingredients. I will continue to recommend brands that I’m familiar with, brands that I know do regular quality and purity assessments of their products, brands where I have seen good results with my patients.
By Dr. Erin Westaway, ND