What Should You Know Before You Buy a Supplement

Before purchasing a nutritional supplement, the consumer should have an understanding of what a supplement is supposed to do and whether or not it has proven properties. The testimonial of friends and articles written in a popular magazine should not always be trusted. Freelance writers who may not have an educational background in the health sciences but can write a very believable article often author these pieces. Your most accurate source of nutritional information is people educated in nutrition/medical-related fields, preferably with a higher educational degree (PhD, MD, DO) and who study the most current nutrition research. Make sure the author of a given book or article, or an individual presenting a seminar, is well educated in that field. Ask for credentials from reputable universities and colleges that actually have campuses and accredited programs.

If you are thinking about purchasing a supplement to enhance a particular aspect of your life, such as athletic performance or disease prevention/treatment, make sure the substance has been tested under circumstances similar to those to which you want to apply the supplement. For example, just because a certain nutrient is essential for fat burning in the body does not mean that a supplemental dose of that nutrient will enhance your body's fat burning potential. Furthermore, research involving the nutrient of interest should have been published in an established scientific publication, such as the Journal of the American Medical Association, Journal of Physiology, New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of Nutrition, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, and the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. For instance, phytosterols have been shown in several research studies published in esteemed journals, such as the Journal of the American Medical Association to lower low density lipoprotein cholesterol, thus lowering a person's risk of heart disease.

The journals just mentioned are peer-reviewed, meaning that before a research article is published it is thoroughly evaluated by scientists who are experts in that field. Ask for this kind of information when you visit your local supplement supplier. Do not rely exclusively on the manufacturer's insert or brochure as they are trying to sell the product.

Beware of tricky marketing. Often we read articles in certain "health" magazines that convince us of the benefits of a certain substance only to find an advertisement and ordering information for that supplement five pages later. It makes you wonder if it was really a credible article or just clever advertising designed to appear as a credible article. This is especially true when the same company that published the magazine sells the supplement. Look for the word "Advertisement" written at the top of the page in tiny print.

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