Are your supplements safe and effective?Nov 12, 2023
Dietary supplements are popular among athletes and fitness enthusiasts, but it is important to be informed about what you are taking and know the risks of adulteration.
What is adulteration?
Adulterated supplements are ones that are either accidentally or intentionally contaminated with unwanted substances. Sometimes these are lower-grade and less expensive substances that are used as fillers. Other times they are stimulants, anabolic agents, and other pharmaceuticals that can cause an elite athlete to fail a sport-sanctioned drug test.
Another concern for supplement safety is the mislabeling of supplement facts and ingredients. Often, ingredients are listed but not found in the product or labeled in inaccurate amounts. This means you may be paying for a supplement that claims to contain creatine, but in fact, does not or only contains a fraction of the amount listed.
Why should this concern you?
Your primary concern with supplements should be your health. If you aren’t certain what you are putting into your body, you could unintentionally be consuming harmful compounds. If you are an elite athlete who is drug tested for banned substances, taking supplements could put your athletic career and reputation on the line. If a product is mislabeled, you may not actually be getting the supplemental benefit you are looking for due to an active ingredient being missing or present in an inadequate amount. It is important to always be aware of what you are consuming and in what quantities!
How often does this happen?
Studies have been conducted to test random supplements that are not 3rd party tested for adulteration. They have found that pre-workouts and weight loss supplements are the most likely to be contaminated. One study reviewed over 600 dietary supplements from over 200 suppliers and found that 14.8% of the supplements tested contained steroids or steroid derivatives. Researchers have also found specific banned substances that increase the risk for adverse cardiovascular events in a significant amount of weight loss supplements.
In one study 12 supplements were tested for mislabeling, and only 1 of the products actually contained quantities of ingredients that matched what the packaging claimed. This has a large impact on safety and effectiveness of a product. If the product contains more than is listed, you might be putting yourself at a health risk. If the product contains less of the intended amounts, your supplement might provide no actual performance benefit.
Which supplements can be trusted?
There will always be some risk associated with dietary supplements, however, it is best to take supplements that are third-party tested. This means that an independent organization has verified that the product contains the ingredients listed on the label and that it is free of harmful contaminants. Look specifically for NSF-certified for sport or Informed Choice for sport. If a supplement just says “third party tested” but doesn’t list what the third-party company is, don’t trust it!
If you are still unsure of a supplement’s intended use or which brand to buy, be sure to reach out to the team of Sport Dietitians at eNRG Performance.
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