Walking down the supplement aisle in the grocery or health food store can be an overwhelming experience for even the most educated consumer.

The shelves are filled with thousands of products, many claiming to be the answer to whatever ails you. Some of these products may contain heavy metals (like lead) or chemical solvents — or may not actually contain a dose of the product listed on the label.

So, how does one go about identifying a high-quality supplement?

Unbeknownst to most consumers, the supplement industry is a minimally regulated industry. Unlike a pharmaceutical drug that is under intense scrutiny by the FDA, supplements receive very little oversight. Unless people start getting sick from a product, generally the FDA does not get involved. It is, therefore, up to each manufacturer to put quality control measures in place. Some companies do an excellent job of this, but many have inadequate processes in place to insure their product is safe.

I recommend my patients look for companies that follow current good manufacturing practices (cGMP) laid out by the FDA and carry a label by the NSF, USP or ConsumerLab to certify that they submitted their product for independent testing to ensure quality and purity.

Check to see what additives or fillers are in the product. Try to avoid supplements that include artificial colors, artificial flavors or shellac. You may want to avoid supplements that contain lactose, corn or wheat if you are allergic to these foods.

To go even further in guaranteeing quality, do a little research on the company to see whether it does testing on its raw materials before putting them into production, as well as batch testing on the final product. You can get this information on the company’s website or by calling or writing the company.

The next time you walk down the supplement aisle, start reading labels. Use only those companies that meet the mark in quality, so that you know you are getting a supplement that is safe and pure. Supplements can have amazing health benefits when delivered in a quality product.

• Heidi Rula, M.D., is a physician at Integrative Care for Women in Mesa. Reach her at (480) 699-2508 or www.integrativecareforwomen.com.

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