The Top 5 Most Contaminated Supplements

by Oskar Thorvaldsson

The Top 5 Most Contaminated Supplements

In today's health-conscious world, nutritional supplements have become increasingly popular as people strive to boost their overall well-being. However, with the rising demand for these products, there has also been an increase in deceptive practices by supplement manufacturers.

To help you make informed decisions and avoid being tricked when buying nutritional supplements, this article will cover several critical aspects: the top most contaminated nutritional supplements, the lack of adequate safety standards and testing, and the tricks manufacturers use to hide toxic ingredients, additives, and fillers.

The Top 5 Most Contaminated Nutritional Supplements

When it comes to nutritional supplements, not all are created equal. Some products on the market are contaminated with harmful substances that can pose serious health risks, and accumulate long term. The most commonly contaminated supplements are protein powders, fish oil supplements, herbs, weight loss substances, and synthetic vitamins.

  1. Protein Powders

Protein powders are a staple for many fitness enthusiasts, but recent studies have found that some brands contain heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, and cadmium. These contaminants can accumulate in the body over time, leading to potential health issues (Skibola, Zhang, & Riby, 2017). In general, prtoein powders greatly increase the need for the body to produce protein digesting enzymes, and are not needed except for extreme weighlifting. Even in that case, the best protein suppliment comes from undenatured goat whey, a very assimilable and nutritious protein. The best food sources are organic eggs and artisan cheese from grass fed animals.  

  1. Fish Oil Supplements

Fish oil is renowned for its omega-3 fatty acids, but it can also be contaminated with mercury and other pollutants found in the ocean. A 2014 study found that fish oil supplements can be contaminated with arsenic, cadmium, DDT, lead, mercury and PCBs (Burca & Watson, 2014). It's essential to choose high-quality fish oil supplements that undergo rigorous purification processes to remove these contaminants. Make sure your brand says that it is molecularly distilled to remove these contaminants.

  1. Herbal Supplements

Herbal supplements are often marketed as natural and safe, but they can sometimes contain harmful additives, heavy metal contamination, and pesticides. If not tested by a certified manufacturing facility, these herbs could not only be full of toxic substances, but also contain ineffective amounts of the active ingredients. Additionally, some herbal products have been found to be contaminated with prescription drugs and other synthetic toxins. For example, one popular herb used in Beligum was Stephania tetrandra, but when manufacturers used a different species, Aristolochia fangchi, is caused over 100 cases of kidney failure (Phua, Zosel & Heard, 2009).

  1. Weight Loss Supplements

Weight loss supplements frequently contain unlisted ingredients that can be harmful to your health. These include stimulants, laxatives, or even banned substances that are not disclosed on the label. Most are using the least expensive and therefore least effective forms of nutrients, or contain couter-productive ingredients, such as excess protein, or minerals that antagonize each other and inhibit absorption. This article published in the Journal of Toxicology, provides a handy list of the toxins and side effects of 7 commonly used diet supplements. For example, the use of laxatives can cause hypokalemia and cathartic colon, while the drug Ephedra/Ma Huang, can cause cardiac issue (Yen & Ewald, 2012).  

  1. Synthetic Vitamins

Known for decades by scientists with no conflicts of interest,  synthetic vitamins are less potent and efficacious than naturally-derived vitamins, and some are even harmful. In one study, the researchers tested the ability of Vitamin C to protect mononuclear leukocytes from oxidative DNA damage, and found that only the naturally-derived form of Vitamin C from oranges, was able to offer protective effect, while the synthetic Vit C offered no protection to leukocytes (Guarnieri et al., 2007). While the ascorbic acid form of vitmain c has many uses, it is recommended to take bioflavanoids with it when used as a deitary suppliment.

According to Dr. Hulda Clark, Dr. Ben Kim, and many other naturopathic physicians, the best form of vitamins are from natural sources, and contain all of the factors that make it useful to the body, such as  bioflavonoids, Factor K, Tyrosinase, and Ascorbinogen (Kim, 2015).

The Lack of Adequate Safety Standards and Testing

The major reason for concern with nutritional supplements is the lack of stringent safety standards and testing. Unlike pharmaceutical drugs, supplements are not required to undergo rigorous clinical trials before hitting the market.

The NSF, who issues GMP certifications allow identical certifications for manufacturers, warehouses, and distributors, allowing a manufacturer to claim GMP if it simply has a GMP certified warehouse! This tactic has caused the proliferation of trust icons that have no meaning, and do not verify the purity of the contents of a supplement, only the quality of the warehouse it is distributed from.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not review these products for safety and efficacy before they are sold, but relies on manufacturers to ensure their products meet quality standards.

Third-Party Testing

To address the lack of regulatory oversight, some reputable supplement manufacturers opt for third-party testing. These independent organizations evaluate supplements for quality, purity, and potency.

Look for products that carry certifications from high purity labs and third-party testing organizations such as NSF International or ConsumerLab. VeriGMP is a new standard dedicated to the highest purity, going beyond usual GMP standards, and is the same standard behind the manufacturing of Dr. Hulda Clark’s and Bernard Jensen’s products.

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