The FDA categorizes the ingredients in supplements as food, not drugs. And because big pharma cannot patent food, they will try their best to convince you to buy drugs even when it's not necessary.
However, there are thousands of studies that back up the effectiveness of the vitamins, minerals and compounds in our supplements.
Vitamin C is a great example. It is common knowledge that vitamin C helps boost your immune system. But it's not common knowledge to know how 5-HTP affects your brains receptors, or how lemon balm works to actively calm your mind. These are just two examples, but our product pages go into great details on the compounds in each ingredient.
Manufacturers (in the USA) are required to follow "good manufacturing practices" (GMPs), which means their supplements have to meet certain quality standards. However, it has been found that some products may contain more or less of the ingredient than is stated on the label. Or, in some cases they may contain ingredients not listed on the label, including prescription drugs.
To be sure you're getting a good-quality product, look for a seal of approval from an organization that tests supplements such as the U.S. Pharmacopeia, ConsumerLab or NSF International. Products that carry these organizations' seal must be manufactured properly, contain the ingredients listed on the label, and not include any harmful contaminants.
The reality is that a pill can never replace the benefits of a complete diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and some meat, eggs, fish, dairy, and high quality fats.
However, supplements can help as an "insurance" policy for when we are not eating the healthiest meals, when we are not getting enough nutrition to sustain our intense training schedules, or simply not getting enough sunlight in the case of vitamin D.
A recent study found that dietary supplements are responsible for about 20,000 visits to the ER every year (mostly related to weight-loss or energy related supplements for young adults between 20 and 34 years old). Supplements may have side effects, interact with medications, or not have adequate research ensuring safety for certain groups of people.
It is important to discuss supplementation with your doctor or dietitian if you are taking any medication, have any medical conditions, are expecting to have surgery soon, are pregnant or breastfeeding, or are trying to become pregnant. Most dietary supplements have not been tested on pregnant and nursing women, infants, or children. Always follow the directions on the label for correct dosage.