The Potency of Supplements & Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP)
Dr. Michelle Kmiec, Founder OHH
Medical doctors and pharmaceutical companies strongly argue against the use of supplements because they are not regulated, and therefore a particular supplement’s potency cannot be ascertained. They further argue that there isn’t enough valid research to prove that this or that supplement is indeed effective. “Valid” research meaning only that which comes from the pharmaceutical companies. Research that does not originate with pharmaceutical companies seems to be ignored.
The problem with these arguments is that the “so-called” research conducted by conventional medicine and pharmaceutical companies is often less than credible. Money is poured into “pharmaceutical research” that is later retracted when a drug is taken off the market because it has proven to be not only unsafe but in fact, harmful! Another problem is that people are told that they do not need vitamins or supplements unless they are sold as a pharmaceutical drug. For example, NIASPAN®, which is far more expensive than niacin sold as a supplement.
So, how can a pharmaceutical company take a natural and inexpensive substance such as niacin, and turn it into an expensive drug? According to the American Heart Association (AHA), since vitamin companies are not regulated, supplements, or in this case niacin, may “contain widely variable amounts of niacin, from none to much more than the label states”. As opposed to the drug NIASPAN® which is of pharmaceutical grade, and therefore the amount of niacin on the label is consistent with the amount in the pill, and from bottle to bottle.
It is true that supplement companies are not regulated. However, it is sad that it is not common knowledge that there are indeed many supplement companies that carry pharmaceutical grade supplements, and have eliminated the inconsistency of potency, inflated cost, and do not require a prescription.
In order to determine which supplement companies adhere to pharmaceutical grade standards, visit GMP Certified Companies, or call the vitamin company and ask for a “third-party assay” with respect to the supplement. Having a third-party assay means that the supplement company has obtained a lab analysis from a non-affiliated party that tests the quality and quantity of the substance. In other words, you are buying exactly what the label claims.
There are other means to assure the quality of your supplement. One such way is purchasing supplements from companies that comply with Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), which ensures that each supplement is held to a level of quality that the consumer can rely on.
GMP certification is an outstanding marker of quality and should be considered when purchasing products from a particular company. These high-quality nutritional supplements are manufactured in facilities that are inspected and certified by the following organizations:
- Natural Products Association (NPA) (Formerly known as the National Nutritional Foods Association or NNFA)
- National Sanitation Foundation (NSF International)
- Therapeutic Goods Administration of Australia (TGA)
You need to be aware of the difference between GMP compliance and GMP certification (click HERE to see if your brand makes the list). GMP compliance refers to a company that in actuality is monitoring itself with respect to adhering to GMP standards. A GMP certification means that outside auditors ensure adherence to GMP standards. In other words, there is a third party assay.
Unfortunately, GMP certification is not free and requires an investment to ensure quality and implementation, which is an ongoing process. It is for this reason that many nutritional manufacturers do not have GMP certifications. However, without the GMP certification, you cannot be sure if they are adhering to GMP requirements; thus, the quality of your supplement is in question.
It is important to note here that just because there is an added cost to ensure the quality of a supplement, it does not necessarily mean that the supplement needs to be outrageously expensive. It’s true that many are; however, after a great deal of research I have found that there are companies that market affordable quality supplements.
You are encouraged to refer to the Natural Products Association website and search for the vitamin company that you use to ensure that they are in fact a company of quality standards. As you will see, many of the vitamin companies listed are those which commonly sell their products at local vitamin stores or easily accessed online stores, and that doesn’t break your checking account!