3 Steps to Buying Safe and Quality-Assured Health Supplements Online
Dietary supplements like natural herbs and synthetic nutrients aren't considered drugs by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). That means they don't need to be tested or FDA-certified to ensure it works before they can go on the market. Sometimes supplement companies will blur the truth when marketing to customers online.
With no real regulation on dietary supplements, consumers need to do their own research. Here are three steps you can take to thoroughly investigate a health product before you buy it:
1. Look at the Research
Since brands today can get away with exaggerating the health claims of their products, it's important you read what the science says before making a purchase. Rather than a Google search, which could lead you to more marketing content, search the active ingredient in a research database like PubMed. This will show you any medical studies that have been published on the substance.
If there's been a study conducted on human participants and the supplement was shown in general to work, then you have a fair chance of seeing results, too. If studies show inconclusive or contradicting results, or if there have been worrisome health effects causing scientists to advise against it, then steer away from the product.
2. Read Customer Reviews
Oftentimes you can find out about customers' experience with a health supplement reading the product's online reviews. Check Amazon, iHerb, the company's website and anywhere else there may be customer reviews on the product. If several reported side effects or no improvements, you probably shouldn't put faith in it working out. If the majority of people loved the product, then, especially if many people reviewed it, maybe it's worth a try.
By searching YouTube for customer reviews on the product, you might get more details about its effectiveness. Make sure you consider not just the ingredient, but also the brand making the health product, because not all of them have the same standards. Even if the video is biased because it's sponsored or the speaker is affiliated with or sponsored by the brand, you can often find insight from users of the product in the comments section.
3. Check for Third Party Certifications
Since they aren't being checked by the FDA, dietary supplement brands rely on third party certifiers. One certification many herbal products seek is the organic certification from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) tests, inspects and certifies a range of consumer products, including health supplements. Supplements certified by the NSF have a recognizable blue certification badge that says "NSF."
Another major third-party tester is USP. If a health product is USP-certified, it will say "USP" in the ingredient list. USP checks for harmful toxins, such as heavy metals and microbes.
Use a website like Labdoor or ConsumerLab to check what third-party certifications a given product has obtained. If it has none, you should shy away from it or call the company to ask about its quality assurance process and whether it was denied certification after third-party testing.
Finding the Best Health Supplements Online
When shopping for health supplements, you can't just pick the cheapest brand and hope for the best. It's important to do your research, because many health products on the market aren't substantiated by research. Yet, with compelling marketing messages, brands are able to push sales for products and make their own health claims. Before you risk your health or risk throwing money away, find out what the best supplement is based on its reviews, third-party certification and scientific support.
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