8 Things to Look for When Buying Vitamins & Supplements

Pharmacist smiling and showing senior couple supplements on shelf in Pharmacy
Written by Ron Martin
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6 minutes

As the market for dietary vitamins and supplements continues to grow, there are more products and brands for consumers to choose between today than ever before. While having options is great, picking out safe and high-quality nutritional supplements from a crowded store shelf or shopping page on the internet can feel daunting. How do you know which brands to trust? And how do you choose the right supplement to meet your needs? 

By keeping a few simple things in mind, selecting the best supplement becomes easier, saving you time and energy along the way. We’ve put together this guide to help you narrow down your choices when shopping for vitamins and supplements, inspired by and with the permission of our friends at the Council for Responsible Nutrition

How to Choose a High-Quality Supplement Brand

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates dietary supplements differently than drugs, meaning FDA generally doesn’t review products for  safety or efficacy before they’re marketed. While this can make it difficult for consumers to identify the top brands, some quick research can lead you to finding the supplement brands you can trust, easing your shopping process significantly. You just have to know what to look for and, just as importantly, what to avoid.

Look for trusted brands

By choosing a reputable supplement brand, it’s likely that the product has undergone extensive testing, is sourced from high-quality ingredients, and has been produced according to FDA’s high manufacturing standards to ensure supplement quality and safety. Plus, companies with a nationally recognized store or retail brand have a lot at stake – and at lot to lose, requiring them to invest time and resources to protect their hard-to-come-by and often long-held reputations.

Look for a Reputable Third-Party Seal on the Label 

Several certification programs independently review manufacturing processes used by supplement manufacturers and certify that they meet certain standards. A certifying organization may also test a company’s products to verify that it contains the listed ingredients at the amounts indicated on the label. Look for brands labeled with the mark of a certifying organization, such as NSF International, US Pharmacopeia, Underwriters Laboratory, or Consumer Lab.  Check out the organization’s website for program details, or reach out to the brand holder for information about the certification program. When considering Ubiquinol CoQ10 products, look to see if the retail brand is third-party certified.

Look for Membership in an Industry Trade Association

Membership in trade associations,  such as the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), demonstrates a company’s long-term commitment to product quality and fair trade in the marketplace. As the supplement industry continues to enjoy rapid growth, membership in well established trade associations is one indicator of a company’s commitment to quality. 

Visit the Company’s Website

The important thing to look for on a company’s website is information about their product quality, including, manufacturing practices, testing, certifications, and ingredient transparency. Be wary of the magic of marketing! A slick website doesn’t guarantee product safety or quality, just like a high price tag and attractive packaging doesn't ensure that the supplement meets any quality standards. On the other hand, lack of a website or a poorly designed website with very little information might indicate the company doesn’t intend to be in business long enough to interact with its customers or build a trusted brand. 

Did you know Kaneka’s Ubiquinol manufacturing process incorporates the highest standards of safety? You can learn more about the process here, a great example of the type of product testing information you should look for on a company’s website. 

What To Look For When Buying Supplements

Whether you’re shopping online or navigating the supplement aisle in-store, equipping yourself with these simple tips can help ensure you’re buying a high quality supplement.

Shop Trusted Stores & Websites

Be wary of buying products that are available exclusively online, and don’t buy from sites without a U.S. based address and phone number. Some sites are operated by “fly-by-the-night” companies that are off-shore and may be selling counterfeit products or products with outrageous claims, some of which may be adulterated with drug ingredients. This is why it’s best to only buy supplements from a store or website you trust or recognize. Look for companies that offer full transparency into their supplements and the ingredients they use --and don’t use. You can buy high quality supplements containing Kaneka Ubiquinol® online at NewQ.com or in store at your local grocery or vitamin shop.

Look for Product Labels and Ingredient Lists

Unfortunately, there are some bad actors out there. There are a few things you can look for to help distinguish if the supplement you chose is properly labeled. Dietary supplements must include a “Supplement Facts” panel, identifying the vitamins, minerals, herbs, and other dietary ingredients in the product.  Supplements must also include a listing of excipients, including colors, preservatives and processing aids, such as anti-caking or binding agents. If a product lacks such required ingredient information, it likely indicates that the company is trying to hide something.

Also, be attentive to ingredient names and terminology. For example, when buying Vitamin E, look for the natural version, D-α-tocopherol, rather than the synthetic version, DL-α-tocopherol acetate. And, if you see the claim, “natural” or “100 natural”, be sure to carefully review the ingredient list.  Most multi-vitamin and mineral supplements contain some synthetic ingredients, even if natural forms of vitamins and minerals are also used.  

Consider Brand Longevity

Longevity of a brand doesn’t guarantee quality, but it can offer confidence that the company has been around long enough to stand behind the products it sells and will continue to do so. Look for brands that have existed for at least one year, which can often be found on the brand’s website.

Other Considerations When Buying Supplements

Manage Your Expectations

Dietary supplements aren’t meant to have immediate and dramatic effects. They won’t treat or cure a disease. Supplements support health in important ways, but don’t confuse them for prescription drugs or a miracle in a bottle. That said, if a brand claims their product can or will have an effect on disease, don’t be tricked. In general, if it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.  And, if you take a product labeled as a supplement, but experience a dramatic and unpleasant or unexpected effect, stop taking the product and promptly seek medical attention. 

Follow the Steps to Make Supplement Shopping Easy

While following these steps may take some extra time, it’s important to your health to make sure you’re purchasing a high quality, properly labeled dietary supplement. . In addition to these helpful tips, our free Healthy Diet & Supplement guide can help you learn more ways to prioritize your health in easy-to-follow steps. As always, let your doctor or primary care provider know about any supplements you plan to take. 

Written by:

Ron Martin

Vice President of the Nutrients Division

Ron Martin is the Vice President of the Nutrients Division at Kaneka North America. Ron’s dedication to lifelong learning and belief that “one cannot know too much” inspired a decades-long career centered around educating the public about health.

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