Millions of consumers use or rely on the internet to learn about and buy their health products, be they herbal or natural health supplements, multivitamins or any other related product. In this regard, there are thousands of website which offer these products and also provide a load of health information. Even though most of these products are safe and effective, some are not. It is, therefore, important to know what to look for when shopping for such products online.
Multivitamins are supplements which contain vitamins and minerals; they usually provide a variety of nutrients to the body which can also be found in other foods. These multivitamin products are generally available in the form of liquids, powders, chewable tablets or pills. A standard multivitamin product should contain water soluble vitamins such as Vitamin C and the B Vitamins: B12, B6, biotin, niacin, folic acid, thiamine, pantothenic acid, and riboflavin. These soluble vitamins pass out and in the body easily and don’t build up in the body’s cells. Multivitamins also contain fat soluble vitamins; these include vitamins K, E, D and A. These don’t pass out in the body quickly and are stored in the body’s cell. Minerals in these products usually include Zinc, Potassium, Magnesium, Copper, Calcium, Phosphorous, Selenium and Calcium. It is worth noting that some multivitamins may also contain other ingredients such as lycopene and lutein which are antioxidants. A good multivitamin should, therefore, contain most if not all of the above ingredients in appropriate quantities.
Before you purchase any supplement, make sure it is the correct one for you. Most supplements are specialized or designed for certain age groups and certain genders. Men’s formulas are usually lower in iron whereas women’s formulas have extra iron, some even contain extra calcium. Senior formulas are made for older adults and usually contain more Vitamin D and Vitamin B12 and less Iron and Vitamin K. Prenatal formulas, on the other hand, are made for women who are planning on getting pregnant, are pregnant or are breastfeeding. They usually have extra Iron and Folic acid which is known to prevent certain birth defects.
As earlier mentioned, even though most supplements are safe, there are some risks in taking supplements. Using them with medications, whether over the counter or prescription or substituting supplements for prescription medicine is not only dangerous but also life threatening. Taking too much of supplements such as Iron, Vitamin D and Vitamin A can also be harmful to a person’s health. It is also noteworthy that there are some supplements which may have some unwanted side effects before, during and immediately after surgery. In this regard, it is important to get in touch with your health care provider about any supplement you may be taking; this is especially so if you intend to go for any surgical procedure.
Another important factor to consider is that dietary supplements are not approved by the government for safety and effectiveness before marketing. The distributors and manufacturers of dietary supplements are the ones who are responsible for making sure that their products are safe before they go the market. It should be noted though that manufacturers are required by law to produce dietary supplements to minimum quality standards and ensure that they don’t contain impurities or contaminants and are accurately labeled. It’s only when the supplement contains a new’ ingredient that FDA gets involved prior to marketing. In such a case, FDA will review (not approve) that ingredient for safety and not effectiveness. The FDA though can take any supplement off the shelves if found to be unsafe, if claims on the product are misleading or if it is adulterated.
To be a smart health products shopper, it is important to be on the lookout when doing your shopping. First and foremost, claims about the efficacy of the product mostly remain unproven, and it is important to watch out for blanket statements such as an efficient and quick cure –all”, a supplement which can cure or treat diseases or one that is marketed as “no side effects” or “totally safe. Also, note that the term natural’ does not always mean safe. Before you make a purchase, you should visit http://is.gd/N9nQwf (FDA’s Tainted Supplement page) which has a list of some of the potentially hazardous dietary supplements which have been sold to consumers.
Lastly, make sure you check on the information contained in the label, it should tell you the ingredients used and the nutrients included in the product. The label should also provide some basic information such as the address and contact information of the manufacturer, the manufacturing and expiry dates and the recommended dosage. You should also check out how credible the health company or supplement brand is and make some concerted effort to get as much information as possible about the product before you make your initial purchase.