How to Choose Quality Supplements

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To maintain proper bodily function, we must keep the body supplied with many nutrients. Unfortunately, studies show that a large percentage of the population is severely deficient in essential substances including omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins B and D, iron, zinc, and magnesium. Fortunately, you can help ensure that your body gets all the nutrients it needs is through supplementation. One of the most important parts of effective supplementation is using high-quality products. After reading this article you will recognize the markers of a quality supplement and know what type of products and substances to avoid.

The Importance of Supplement Quality

Despite the widespread use of supplements, many people are unaware that low-quality supplements do not provide the same nutrition as higher grade options. There are, however, major differences in supplement efficacy and safety depending on the product’s quality.

A quality supplement offers the purest form of a substance while a budget product may contain fillers that contribute to health issues. To increase profit margins, many producers of low-quality supplements include cheap substances and fillers that could be harmful. Worse still, studies show that some over-the-counter supplement brands do not even contain all the ingredients listed on their label! In a study of herbal supplements, they found that nearly 80 percent of the products tested did not contain the plants listed on the label. This blatant deception can be harmful to those with sensitivities to specific substances and individuals relying on the product to resolve a deficiency.

Another study conducted by Consumer Lab found that of the 2,000 different supplements tested, approximately a quarter of the brands examined were not quality products. It was determined that many of the supplements contained only 10 percent of the source supplement with the remaining 90 percent being filler. To supplement effectively, it is essential that we be able to discern the quality of supplemental products.

How Do I Identify a High-Quality Supplement?

Differentiating quality supplements from lower grade products may seem daunting at first. Fortunately, there are multiple tools and markers that can help consumers identify which is which. Some specific qualities to look for in a supplement are its potency, bioavailability, purity, and grade. These factors are integral to the overall effectiveness and safety of a supplement.


The potency of a supplement refers to the actual amount of a specific ingredient in the product. Unfortunately, the potency of many supplements is inconsistent. Two brands of the same supplemental product can contain wildly different amounts of primary ingredient. Fluctuating or inconsistent potency impedes an individual’s ability to resolve deficiency and may cause harm if the potency is higher than what is printed on the label.


Some people who take supplements never seem to see any improvement. Part of this may be because of the bioavailability of the product. Some supplements, for example magnesium, may contain forms that have different rates of absorption and bioavailability. Individuals lacking the enzymes or cellular energy to convert these substances receive little to no benefit from a supplement containing the inactive form. It is possible to avoid this issue by selecting a supplemental product that contains the active form of the desired substance or substances.


The purity of a supplement is also a critical determining factor regarding product quality and safety. Contamination often occurs in low quality supplements, which significantly limits their efficacy and, sometimes, may damage the body. For example, many omega-3 supplements have been and continue to be sourced from fish contaminated with mercury. Consumer Lab found that in 2002, five to ten percent of all omega-3 supplements tested contained lead! Long-term ingestion of lead, mercury or other toxins, even in trace amounts, can significantly increase the risk of heart disease and neurological disorders. To avoid this, make sure you only use supplements boasting a high degree of purity.


Supplemental products are categorized into three distinct groups; Pharmaceutical Grade, Food Grade and Feed Grade. When selecting a supplement, always select those that are Pharmaceutical Grade. Products in this category must have over 99 percent purity and be free of any binders, fillers or dyes. Using only pharmaceutical grade supplements significantly limits the risk of exposure or consumption of potentially harmful substances.

Red Flags for Low-Quality Supplement

There are multiple indicators that a supplement may be low quality. One of the most obvious being its contents. Fillers and binders are used to make products more aesthetically pleasing or improve ease of swallowing. However, some substances included in many supplement products limit their efficacy and may cause harm to individuals who ingest them. Each of the following substances are frequently seen in low grade supplements and should be avoided:

  • Artificial colorants
  • Asparagus
  • Beans
  • Citrus
  • Houseplants
  • Hydrogenated oils
  • Pine
  • Powdered rice
  • Primrose
  • Titanium oxide
  • Wheat
  • Wild Carrots

At first glance some above substances may not seem threatening. However, their inclusion in a supplement can dilute its efficacy and increases the likelihood of adverse reactions in the consumer; especially if they are sensitive to a specific ingredient.

Save Yourself from Subpar Supplements

Although the bargain pricing for supplements may be enticing, the consumer may ultimately end up paying a significant price. Being well-informed of the great disparity in nutritional value between supplement products and knowing what type of products to avoid can help protect you from potentially damaging substances. Support your wellness journey by using the information in this article to help you better identify quality supplements.

To provide you with the best pharmaceutical-grade supplements, Dr. Kent Holtorf created HoltraCeuticals.

1. FDA. “Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs) for Dietary Supplements.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

2. Consumer Lab. “Reviews of Supplements and Health Products.”

3. Miriam Weidner. “Clinician Considerations for Assessing Dietary Supplement Quality.” Natural Medicine Journal.

4. Walker AF, Marakis G, Christie S, Byng M. “Mg citrate found more bioavailable than other Mg preparations in a randomised, double-blind study.” 5. Newmaster, S.G., Grguric, M., Shanmughanandhan, D. et al. “DNA barcoding detects contamination and substitution in North American herbal products.”