The diet industry generates billions of dollars of revenue each year. There are so many types of supplements, vitamins, herbal remedies, and more that it can be easy to become confused and even a little intimidated. Before you buy another supplement, even something as simple as a vitamin, get acquainted with some of the common terms you will see and what they really mean.
There is a wide range of naturally occurring vitamins that come from food, especially fruits and vegetables. Most have familiar names usually listed by a single letter, but many have other names that can be used to make an ingredient seem more medical in nature. For example, “ascorbic acid” sounds pretty important on a label but it is simply Vitamin C.
Then there are vitamin supplements that you take. These come in caplet, capsule, liquids, and even in gummies. There are many formulations meant to highlight a certain time of your life (infant, children, adult, senior) or to address certain conditions. There are vitamins for eye health, hair, skin and nails and to boost energy or sleep. All of these are a combination of various vitamins.
There are several things to keep in mind with vitamins. First, all can be categorized as either fat or water soluble. This refers to how they are dissolved so that they can work. Fat soluble vitamins must be taken with foods with a little fat in them or they are not going to be effective. A cup of coffee with full fat cream would work for these vitamins.
Since there is no regulation in the vitamin industry you may not always get what you think you are. Only buy from trusted suppliers and remember that vitamins are not going to be adequate substitutes for proper nutrition.
Some vitamins in high concentrations could become toxic, so don’t try to double or triple up on a vitamin thinking you will get a better benefit and faster results. You’re more likely to land in the hospital, setting yourself back.
Herbs and Other Supplements
Herbal remedies can also come in a number of forms like capsules, liquids, tonics, tinctures, and more. Some herbs are best rubbed into the skin or inhaled. It is important to note that some can react with prescription meds in a negative way. St. John’s Wort can make birth control pills less effective, for example.
If you have allergies to weeds you may be at higher risk for reactions to herbal remedies, especially any that are related to the most common allergy triggers. Take care trying an herbal remedy especially if you have never used one before or if you are unsure of the condition you are trying to treat.
Like vitamins, there is little regulation in this industry so look for trusted suppliers and always proceed with caution.
Concentrates and Extracts
Concentrates are the more powerful, concentrated form of a remedy, whether it is one ingredient or many. An extract typically refers to a single ingredient or component that is isolated and then delivered in pill, liquid, or other form. Extracts are advertised as the best solution to people who do not have the time or desire to get the benefits of a certain substance naturally.
Green tea is one of the most commonly known extracts. You can get a number of benefits from drinking this tea which is high in antioxidants and metabolites but you may need to drink 4 cups or more. Some people don’t care for the taste or simply may not want to drink tea at all. The attraction of using the green tea extract is the opportunity to get those benefits with a simple, tasteless capsule.
While it sounds like a very serious, medical-type word, Biovation Labs, a label manufacturer, explains that this is literally just the combining of two other words (“nutrition” and “pharmaceuticals”) for bigger impact. Nutraceuticals are not thoroughly regulated in the US and are regulated differently from country to country everywhere else. Basically they are anything food or food related that gives additional health benefits beyond just nutrition. The simplest example of a nutraceutical is Vitamin D fortified milk. Not only do you get the standard nutrition from the milk such as protein and calcium, you also get the added benefit of the Vitamin D, which helps the body to process and use the calcium.
A metabolite is a substance that the body needs for the process of metabolism. Metabolism is simply the body breaking down food for energy and storage and starts with the digestive process. Metabolites as a dietary supplement usually claim to speed up the metabolic process so that you burn food faster instead of storing it as fat. Some of these are naturally occurring in foods and drinks but can be sold as supplements as well. Some of the most common include:
- Caffeine (Found in coffee, tea, soda and chocolate)
- Capsaicin (Found in spicy foods like peppers)
- L-carnitine (An amino acid that is used to turn fat into energy)
L-carnitine is a perfect example of how the dietary supplement could become confusing. There are around 500 known amino acids with about 20 of them used by the body to breakdown proteins for energy. Of these, 9 are called “essential” amino acids because the body does not make these on its own and must have them supplemented from food or other sources. Most people get all 9 of these from the protein rich foods they eat. Some, like L-carnitine, actually help break down fat as well.
Breaking Through the Hype
Most people understand that a television commercial exists to sell a product, so of course they are going to hype it up and make a number of claims. Some of these claims are going to be so outrageous that they are hard to believe. Others are going to be just believable enough that people accept it as possible and then buy the product. Always take these claims with a grain of salt and remember that if something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is not.
There are plenty of tricks that advertisers use to get people to buy their product including faked testimonials and before and after pictures that are really just camera tricks, posture and different lighting. A number of people have shown their own before and after picture tricks to let people know how easy it can be to fake them. Read reviews online but remember, there are plenty of fakes there. Look for complaints against the companies that sell these items and read through them. While many complaints will be for pricing, delivery, and other unrelated things some will be for the performance of the supplement itself.
Before you buy a supplement of any kind — even a vitamin — make sure that you consider your overall health first. If you are under a doctor’s care, get their advice on any supplements that you think you need. Take especial care in any supplement for weight loss, especially the ones that contain high levels of caffeine because you could increase your heart rate to a dangerous level. If you get jittery just from an extra cup of coffee during the day, these are not the supplements for you. Capsaicin, which comes from peppers, can make you feel hot and tingly. Your skin may get warm and red as well.
It is always better to get all of your health benefits from whole foods, clean water, sunlight, exercise, and proper rest. At the end of the day, these are the best “supplements” that you need for good health, energy, and happiness.