For the health-conscious consumer, the process of selecting and purchasing vitamins is an important step yet can be overwhelming. Finding a brand and product you trust takes more than a casual recommendation, instead it takes understanding the product label to be assured what you are taking is the best for you to reach optimal health.
Learning how to read a vitamin, mineral or supplement label is the first step in being able to determine for yourself if the product you rely on to boost your health, immunity and energy is the best it can be. Also, it is vital to ensure you are not ingesting an unintended ingredient, or that an ingredient you assumed would be included is not missing.
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has strict governing laws and requires that certain information appear on dietary supplement labels and that the responsible firm determine the supplements it manufactures or distributes are safe, and that all claims are regarding the product are not false or misleading.
The FDA also requires all supplement labels must identify each dietary ingredient contained in the product, so look for the Supplement Facts as well as the other ingredients statement next to the panel. This area can identify the source of the dietary ingredients and is important for people with allergies to review to ensure they are not ingesting something that can trigger an allergic reaction. It is also prudent to review for the sake of understanding the vitamin source. You might notice some labels have a asterisk (*) or plus sign (+) next to an ingredient. This means the daily value has not yet been established however scientific studies suggest a benefit to it.
Be aware of the units of measure. Knowing how much to take can vary by product and manufacturer so take note of the quantity (in milligrams/mg) your physician recommends and compare it to the nutritional label. Another confusing measurement is the acronym IU. It stands for International Unit and is a way of setting a standard in the effect of certain substances. The goal in setting the standard is that different preparations with the same biological effect will contain the same number of IUs. It is helpful in determining if the vitamin, mineral or supplement is as effective based on its source as another from a different source.
Be sure to also look on your vitamin label on bottle for:
- Lot number and expiration date: To determine if your vitamin is expired and should be disposed of, or reference the lot should you need to contact the manufacturer or distributor.
- Suggested Use: Be sure to read the suggested use to ensure you are taking it accordingly, as well as storing the container properly.
- Warnings: Anyone currently taking prescription medications or pregnant women should always consult a physician before beginning a vitamin regimen; check to see if there are any potential side effects or drug interactions noted on the label.
Finally, look for the manufacturer's contact information, which should be on the vitamin label. This is a sign you can trust the company and be able to easily contact them if you have any questions or problems.