With so many vitamin options on shelves and online, it's hard to know which one is right for you. When it comes to the bottom line, according to Carol A Rice, Ph.D., R.N., cheap vitamins are just as good as expensive vitamins. There are some things that you should look for on the vitamin label before making your final decision. You should always, of course, consult with your physician or pharmacist about possible interactions with other medications before you take them.
Expensive Vs. Cheap
When it comes to choosing the right vitamins, price doesn't matter. The label is what is the most important. If you're considering a vitamin supplement, read the label and compare information as well as ingredients. Some vitamins -- even the expensive ones -- may contain more fillers than the actual ingredient. In other instances, you may need to examine the bottle to ensure they are geared specifically for you and not the opposite sex or a completely different age group. Always ensure that the particular vitamin you choose meets the standards set by testing organizations to ensure strength, purity, dissolution and disintegration. Even inexpensive, or cheap, vitamins can pass all of these tests and still provide a quality supplement.
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The Office of Dietary Supplements notes three testing organization -- U.S. Pharmacopeia, ConsumerLab.com and NSF International. These testing organizations ensure that supplements meet strict standards of quality by examining and testing different aspects of a particular supplement. It's important to know that the Food and Drug Administration has no involvement in the regulation of dietary supplements. Ensuring that your supplement has met the standards of a controlled testing organization can help you decide which vitamins to use. Check the label to see if it lists that it was tested by U.S. Pharmacopeia, or USP, or another reliable source, such as ConsumerLab.com or NSF International. These organizations check for effectiveness, safety and risk and quality. If your vitamin has not undergone examination by one of these organizations or has failed, you may want to switch to a better-quality supplement that has passed the testing and quality standard set in place.
When examining the label, check for active ingredients, which nutrients are included and the serving size, such as a capsule or packet, as well as the amount of nutrients in that particular serving. MayoClinic.com recommends avoiding supplements that provide megadoses. The general rule of thumb is to choose a vitamin supplement that provides 100 percent of the Daily Value, or DV. MayoClinic.com also points out that the only exception this rule applies to is calcium. If a calcium supplement were to provide 100 percent of your calcium needs for the day, the supplement would be too large to swallow.
Check the expiration date. You want to make sure your vitamins are not near expiration. Sometimes, retail stores or drugstores may mark down the price of supplements that are about to expire. No matter how good the vitamin supplement is, do not take it once it has expired. The ingredients may no longer be active or you could experience side effects from taking an expired supplement.
- MayoClinic.com: Dietary Supplements: Nutrition In a Pill?; Mayo Clinic Staff; June 2010
- “Fitness” magazine: Multivitamins: How to Pick the Right Dietary Supplement; Janis Graham
- Texas AgriLife Extension: Getting More From Your Doctor’s Visit; Carol A. Rice, Ph.D., R.N.; July 2010
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Dietary Supplements: What You Need to Know; June 2011