Supplements: do they really contain what the label says?

What is on the label? Do you buy over the counter dietary supplements? Whether it be Vitamin D or something called Immune Support, or just a simple multivitamin? I bet all of you! I too, am one of those people. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Lisa. I am one of Laura’s assistants. Laura and I had a long conversation the other day. It was about how companies DON’T have to put what it says on label in the actual bottle. The FDA does not require a supplement to contain what it says on the label. So supplement companies can put more, less or none of the ingredient that is listed. It both angered and frightened me. So much that I had to write about it. So, here it goes!

For an example, let’s say you’re buying Vitamin D. It says that each dose contains 2500 % of your daily value or 10,000 units in each dose. The fact of the matter is, that’s not always the case. It could be that is what is actually in the bottle is only 100 % and 500 units in each dose. In some cases, there’s actually no Vitamin D in it what so ever. Maybe, it’s actually double the amount it says. This could cause toxicity, especially in infants and children.  Below is and example of a Multivitamin label.

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It says it contains 800 mcg of Folate, but that doesn’t mean that it’s true. It could only have 150 mcg, or mabe none at all. Also, there could be ingredients in it that’s not even listed. Very scary to think about. Especially, if your are allergic to something that may be in the bottle, but doesn’t state it on the label. For these reasons, you should always go to someone who specializes, and is certified, in herbs and supplements. This way, you know you’re getting exactly what it says on the label. Laura specializes, and is Certified, in the world of Chinese Herbs and Supplements. She is a fantastic resource to come to.

You may not realize that there are lines of supplements, or brands that are only sold by physicians and healthcare professionals. Among the thousands of brands out there, this amounts to only two companies, Orthomolecular Products and Zymogen. All other supplement companies can sell things to anyone without any supervision of the actual use of the supplement, and will allow their product to be sold by poentially unscrupulous sellers on the internet.

Why are is it better to use supplements that come from a professional? Because that person has a medical license of some kind. They are liable for the outcomes of the use of products that they make available to patients, and they have the most at stake to assure that the product is safe and contains exactly what it says on the label. As the old saying goes, “accept no substitutions.”

Following is part of a post from Frontline that I just had to share:

Supplements and Safety, a FRONTLINE investigation in collaboration with The New York Times that premieres tonight, raises tough questions about how vitamins and supplements are marketed and regulated, and examines how it’s often hard to know what’s really in the bottles you’re buying.

In short, unlike with medical drugs, companies making vitamins and supplements do not have to prove that their products are safe and effective before putting them on the market — unless they’re introducing a new ingredient that’s never been marketed before.

That fact wasn’t sitting well with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, one of the nation’s leading pediatric hospitals, as a dramatic scene from Supplements and Safety recounts.

Pharmacists there were seeing families “showing up literally with shopping bags full of dietary supplements,” Sarah Erush, the hospital pharmacy’s clinical manager, tells FRONTLINE in the below excerpt from the film.

Erush was concerned: If a patient or their family brings a medication into the hospital, pharmacists are required to verify that the medication is what its packaging says, that it’s labeled appropriately and that it’s being dosed appropriately — but no such requirements exist for supplements.

So in 2013, Erush and her colleagues took action. They decided to ask supplements manufacturers to prove that their labels were accurate by submitting certificates of analysis from an independent party.

Ninety percent of the companies never responded, says Erush’s colleague, Paul Offit, M.D.

“And of the 10 percent that responded, often, they would send us certificates of analysis where what was on the label wasn’t even close to what was in the bottle,” according to Offit.

Those kinds of discrepancies could have dire consequences, especially for the hospital’s tiniest and most vulnerable patients. Erush gives correspondent Gillian Findlay the example of a vitamin D drop.  This was going to premature infants, where the true dosage was more than double the amount necessary.

“So if we’re dosing premature infants who need very tiny doses of this drug, we’re now potentially giving them double what they should get. This could really put them at risk for toxicity,” Erush says.

In the end, only 35 supplements met the hospital’s standards.

Erush was left, in her words, “worried and dismayed.”

“It is a complete unknown when you are buying a dietary supplement, unless you have some proof of what is in that product,” she says. “It could be anything.”

Lisa here again. So what this says is that basically, you could dry out some grass, powder it up, put it in a pill ,and call it whatever you want. You can say that it’s Magnesium Oxide with 400 mg in each dose. It’s really sad that companies can do this, and get away with it.

SOOO, this is where we are….look for the seals below. These companies verify that what it says on the label is what is actually in the bottle.


Here is some more information about these companies:

*Companies whose supplements meet the group’s standards – which ensure purity, identity and potency, among other things – are allowed to carry an official “USP Verified” seal on their labels. The group maintains an evolving list of the brands that have received its seal and the places where they can be purchased. That list can be found on the group’s website. But, keep in mind that there are some companies that print the letters “USP” on their labels without the official USP Verified seal. This usually means that the company claims to produce its supplements in accordance with United States Pharmacopeia standards. But it is not the same as the distinctive black and yellow “USP Verified” seal, which means that the product has actually been vetted by the United States Pharmacopeia. Only a handful of brands carry the seal. A few of them are Nature Made, Kirkland Signature and TruNature, for example.

In products from Orthomolecular Products and Zymogen, only USP ingredients are used whenever possible. USP is not always granted for some components such as herbs, but for basic chemicals such as Vitamin E, it is used.

*Another nonprofit group that independently certifies some supplements and their ingredients is NSF International. The group certifies such supplements as fish oil and multivitamins. It also has an “NSF Certified for Sport” program that is especially useful for athletes and other people who use sports supplements such as protein powders, amino acids and creatine. These products have been found in some cases to be deliberately spiked with steroids and prescription drugs. The blue and white NSF seal means that a product has been independently vetted to ensure that it is not adulterated, and that it contains the ingredients listed on its label.

*Lastly, there are at least two independent laboratories that routinely test a range of dietary supplements and then publish full reports with their findings. One is, which frequently tests products, and maintains an archive of reports on its website. Another testing company is LabDoor. On its website, you can find reports and rankings of protein powders, fish oil, probiotics, vitamin D, and multivitamins. Both websites charge a fee for access to their reports.

Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that supplements will do what they say they do. Or, that they are safe. Or, won’t interact with any medications you may be taking.  There is no guarantee that what it says is in the bottle is actually what’s in the bottle. But, there are several steps people can take. This is so they can have some reassurance that at least some of the supplements they buy actually contain what they advertise on the label – and nothing else.

There are two things people can do to assure they are getting what they pay for. For one, you can look for products that receive a seal of approval. Which are the ones I pointed out above. But, the best way, would to go to someone, like Laura, who specializes in this area. I can not stress this enough….how important it is to go to someone who is certified in this. Laura is trained in Functional Medicine through a series of professional development courses, she is nationally Certified in Oriental Medicine, is a licensed acupuncturist in Iowa, and is very experienced as a Chinese Herbology Practitioner.   This means, by coming to her to get the supplements and/or herbs that you want, you will get EXACTLY what the label says is in it. All of the herb suppliers that she use are providing only the highest quality herbs that meet US safety and purity standards or better.

So just give us a call at 319-341-0031, to set up an appointment to get the right supplements and herbs you need. Or, just come on in, and see if we have what you need on our shelf. If we don’t have them on hand, we will order them at no extra cost. Let us help you get your health back on track the right way.

Stay tuned for our next blog. It will be discussing home remedies and quick Chinese Herb combinations to help with common everyday issues. As always, have a peaceful and blessed day. Hope to see you soon!