The world of nutrition supplements can seem overwhelming when strolling down the vitamin isle in the grocery store. There are so many different brands, dosages and formulas available that often we find ourselves blindly selecting a nutrition supplement and hoping it is the right one that will benefit our health in some way. We tell our doctors, “yes, I am taking calcium” or “yes, I take vitamin C every day” but we also find ourselves wondering why our bones are still aching or why we continue to get sick. Aren’t these supplements supposed to prevent or even cure these issues? Well, unfortunately not all supplements are created the same, and the efficacy of the supplement depends on many different factors, from manufacture to sale.
In a 2015 investigation, the NY State Attorney’s Office found that 80% of herbal supplements sold from Target, Walgreens, Walmart and GNC locations across the state of New York contained either a minimal percentage or no traces of DNA from the active herbal components and contained a high proportion of DNA from unlisted contaminants, such as household plants and powdered rice. The presence of these unlisted contaminants is especially detrimental for people with allergies, who may have adverse reactions to these products.
In contrast, suppliers of pharmaceutical-grade supplements ensure pure ingredients and correct dosages by conducting scientific studies, selecting high quality ingredients, establishing a high quality manufacturing process, and utilizing ingredients in their most bio-available form.
Continue reading below to find out what makes all these supplements so different, and why pharmaceutical-grade supplements, such as the ones Dr. Barbara Pacholec prescribes at her Lutz and St Petersburg locations, can actually improve your health when compared to similar over-the-counter (OTC) products that more often than not, only result in expensive urine.
Pharmaceutical-Grade Supplements Must Meet Strict Guidelines for Purity and Quality
Other than price, one of the biggest differences between pharmaceutical-grade supplements and OTC brands is the level of government regulation over their manufacture and sale. OTC supplements are marketed for Food Grade consumption, which means the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is only responsible for making sure these supplements are safe to eat. They do not test for purity, strength or quality and allow many different additives, colors and filers to be included in the manufacture of these supplements, which can decrease the purity and overall efficacy of the nutrient or herbal extract.
On the other hand, pharmaceutical-grade supplements undergo rigorous third-party testing by research laboratories for purity, quality and strength. The manufacturing process must meet stringent guidelines set forth by the US Pharmacopeia to ensure quality and purity. The research laboratories often conduct independent studies to test the efficacy of the products on either lab animals or with human trials. The key difference here is that a vitamin which is in its purest form will be absorbed better by the body when compared to a vitamin that has many different additives applied to it. Additives make the vitamin unable to bind to key receptors in the body, and ultimately the vitamin ends up being excreted without having much effect.
Pharmaceutical-Grade Supplements Contain the most Bio-Available form of the Nutrient
Pharmaceutical-grade supplements contain active, raw nutrients which are absorbed quickly and effectively by the body when ingested. Examples of this include Pyridoxal-5’-phosphate, which is the active form of Vitamin B6, methylcobalamin, which is the active form of Vitamin B12, and L-methylfolate (5-MTHF), which is the active form of folate. When you see these ingredients listed on a nutrition label, it means that you are buying high quality supplements which are already available in their most active form, so can be quickly absorbed by the body. This is especially important for people with severe allergies, or those who are immune-compromised as they cannot convert inactive ingredients to active forms through biochemical conversions within their own bodies.
Pharmaceutical-Grade Supplements are Administered in Correct Dosages
Since pharmaceutical-grade supplements are more active and contain pure ingredients, they are also generally more potent than OTC products. This means they need to be administered under the supervision of a medical practitioner to ensure they are being taken in an effective manner. Each tablet, capsule or suggested dose of powdered nutrient is rigorously tested to ensure dosages remain uniform. OTC products do not undergo this level of quality control, and many studies have found that the dosages between individual capsules or tablets is not standardized and therefore, may be negatively impacting the overall effectiveness of the supplement. This is one of the reasons why some health professionals refer to OTC products as resulting in “expensive urine.”
If you want to see real results from your supplements, do your research before you buy blindly at the grocery store. Dr. Pacholec offers an extensive range of supplements, which she has thoroughly researched herself to ensure they are the best ones for her patients’ health and well-being. Make an appointment at either her Lutz or St Petersburg location to discuss which supplements may be best for you. Begin your journey towards better health today!
Barbara Pacholec, MD
Dr Pacholec is Board Certified in Bariatric Medicine and Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine. She has run a successful practice specializing in medical weight loss, hormone replacement therapy and anti-aging/regenerative and functional medicine for the past 20 years in Lutz, FL in Tampa Bay. In January 2018, she opened a satellite practice in St Petersburg, FL which also specializes in medical weight loss, hormone replacement therapy, and anti-aging/regenerative and functional medicine.