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Knowledgebase: Nutritional Information
How can I tell if a vitamin-mineral supplement is of high quality?
Posted by Jayson Hunter, Last modified by on 22 April 2011 11:18 AM

It is difficult to tell quality simply by looking at a tablet. Many factors (most of which are hidden to the naked eye) go into a high quality nutritional supplement, but one of the three main variables is quality of the science behind the product: the human body has often been compared to an extremely complex and wonderfully efficient machine. To function normally, it is extremely dependent upon a large variety of raw materials such as protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and so forth. If any of these critical substances are lacking in sufficient quantities, the efficiency of the "machine" suffers. The therapeutic use of nutrition supplements usually involves combining as many of these rate-limiting nutrients together as economically and physically possible, to provide everything required to focus on a particular health goal. If the nutritional supplement is poorly designed, key nutrients may be left out, or less important "window dressing" may be added that doesn't provide benefit. The product may then be inadequate to meet the therapeutic goals, or may be more expensive than needed. A reputable company will be able to provide scientific studies to support the formulation and its therapeutic value.Quality of the ingredients: the same nutrient may be available in different forms. For example, vitamin E can be a natural (derived from food) or it can be synthetic (manufactured). The natural, food-identical vitamin E is called d-alpha tocopherol, while the synthetic form is called dl-alpha tocopherol. That "l" in the dl-alpha tocopherol is the only way you can tell a natural from a synthetic vitamin E by looking at the label, but science has shown that there is a significant difference in the way the body uses it. Natural vitamin E is significantly better in its biological activity that the synthetic. Another example is found in minerals such as calcium or iron. Minerals are not found alone in supplements but as chemical compounds. The nature of that compound is related to the ability of the body to absorb and use the mineral. For example, calcium may be found as "calcium carbonate" which is inexpensive but relatively more difficult to absorb. Other forms of calcium, such as calcium citrate may be more expensive as raw materials, but may also be much better utilized by the body. Quality of the manufacturing process: even if the supplement is well-formulated and has high quality ingredients, care must still be exercised during the manufacturing process to ensure a quality finished product. If the supplement doesn't break down properly during the digestive process it doesn't matter how well it's designed or what is used as ingredients! A manufacturer of high-quality nutritional supplements will perform a number of different tests before, during and after the tableting process to ensure quality in the finshed product, and should be able to provide you with documentation to support their processes upon request.

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