The Serious Side of Supplements

vitamin supplements on store shelf

Many athletes take dietary supplements, including vitamins, herbs, minerals, amino acids, and others, in an effort to improve their performance and health.  If you plan on taking dietary supplements be aware and use caution!  Dietary supplements unlike medications do not have to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for safety or effectiveness.  Dietary Supplements are not standardized, so there is no assurance of product potency or purity.  It is important to realize some manufactures may have poor quality control.  This can result in the amount of an active ingredient differing from the amount listed.  Also be aware some supplements have been shown to contain contaminants or dangerous levels of active ingredients leading to injury or death.  Just because a product claims that it contains “natural” ingredients does not always mean it is safe.

Some dietary supplements may contain ingredients, such as androstenedione and ephedrine, which can produce positive test results for banned substances.  Athletes may not realize a product contains a banned ingredient because an unfamiliar name for the ingredient is used or the ingredient is not declared on the supplement label.  Even the unknowing use of a banned ingredient by an athlete may result in a doping suspension and seriously jeopardize an athlete’s career.

Although there are no guarantees if you plan on taking dietary supplements, select brands with USP (United States Pharmacopeias) on the label.  USP means the supplement passed tests for dissolution, potency and purity.  Manufacturers should be able to demonstrate their product passes tests in areas such as potency, purity and uniformity. As a consumer, make sure the supplement is made by a nationally known food and drug manufacturer.  Reputable manufacturers follow strict quality control procedures.  Additionally, if a company does not answer questions or address complaints, do not use their product.  Make sure claims made by the manufacturer of the dietary supplement are supported by research.  Reputable companies will provide research from peer-reviewed journals to support claims.  Remember the ultimate goal of the manufacturer is to sell their product. If statements are unclear or the label makes preposterous claims, it is unlikely the company follows good quality control procedures.  If claims sound too good to be true, be wary.