What Supplement Certifications Matter? - Amandean

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February 03, 2022 8 min read

In this article:

  • Do supplement certifications matter?
  • Tests and certifications to look for when you buy
  • Other factors contributing to supplement quality

Do Certifications Matter?

The very nature of supplements can make it difficult to know how well they are working. And with an ever-growing market for supplements said to have every health benefit from weight loss to lowered blood pressure, it is becoming harder and harder to know which supplements to buy. Even within a single type of supplement, like prenatal vitamins, for example, it's hard to tell which ones are better suited for your individual health conditions or concerns and which ones have an inflated and unjustified price. These factors all make finding the right supplement a real headache.

The FDA regulates the food industry but when it comes to supplements, consumers need to learn to read labels carefully to make sure they are prioritizing quality ingredients, transparent sourcing & processing practices, and of course purity & safety testing. Just like food, supplements run the risk of contamination or compromised benefits when standards aren't adhered to.

If you're taking a supplement for a specific health problem or goal, you certainly don't want to run the risk of added or unexpected side effects. That's why third-party certifications were made. These certifications not only help keep supplement manufacturers "in check" and ensure that they are following good manufacturing practices, but they can also communicate to the buyer that the products are safe, supported by science and that they come from sustainable or pure sources. Some certifications are required by law in order to sell on larger online platforms or in certain shops (like organic, for example). Consumers are also holding brands accountable for higher and higher standards which is good news for all of us.

The trouble is that other certifications are nothing more than a monetary investment for the brand and don’t enact change.

Above all, ingredient transparency is king. Even if the product may be processed at a certified facility, if they don’t start out with pure ingredients in the first place, it is a lost cause. A good indicator of a supplement with high-quality and scientifically proven ingredients is the ingredient label. If the product contains a variety of artificial coloring, flavoring, and sugars, it could be a sign that they are being used to mask an inferior quality product. A simple and ideally short ingredient list is best. Today's leading & most successful brands respond to the customer's curiosity to know where ingredients come from and how the product is made. This information should be readily available and if it's not...ask a product expert before you 'add to cart'! It’s okay to put brands in the hot seat! If they have a clean, pure product they will be more than happy to answer your questions.

Tests and Certifications To Look For

Since supplements aren't regulated by the FDA, other regulatory groups or non-profits are stepping in. Four of the most respected regulatory groups in America include ConsumerLab.com, NSF International, U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), and GMP. The aim of these bodies is to ensure that supplement ingredients comply with their labels, are free of contaminants, and are processed in a clean, safe, and trusted facility. Specialized certifications also indicate the absence or presence of ingredients like gluten, fat, sugar, soy, dairy, lactose, GMO’s, animal products, etc.

  • Consumerlab.com:In order for a supplement to become "approved quality" and bear the Consumer Lab Seal, they have to be tested through their "Quality Certification Program". According to Consumer Lab, "testing is conducted in the same manner as Product Reviews with test samples not accepted directly from the manufacturer." This type of certification is valuable because the testing methods and requirements are customized by supplement type. For instance, supplements marketed to improve certain medical conditions like heart disease would be tested differently than supplements for osteoporosis. You can review how they evaluate and test each type of supplement on their website.
  • NSF International: According to NSF's website, they were "founded in 1944 as the National Sanitation Foundation to help standardize sanitation and food safety at a time when the United States had no national sanitation standards." While any supplement brand can seek to earn this notification, it is especially common for sports supplements. Today, they have a three-part Supplement and Vitamin Certification that includes:
    • Label claim review to certify that what’s on the label is in the bottle
    • Toxicology review to certify product formulation (they don’t test for efficacy)
    • Contaminant review to ensure the product contains no undeclared ingredients or unacceptable levels of contaminants
  • U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP):With over 200 years of experience, "USP is an independent, scientific nonprofit organization focused on building trust in the supply of safe, quality medicines." This certification is found on a range of supplement types, provided that the brand adheres to the requirements outlined by the USP Dietary Supplement Verification Program:
    • Contains the ingredients listed on the label, in the declared potency and amounts.
    • Does not contain harmful levels of specified contaminants.
    • Will break down and release into the body within a specified amount of time.
    • Has been made according to FDA current Good Manufacturing Practices using sanitary and well-controlled procedures.
  • Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP): GMP certification is a complex system designed to ensure the safety and consistency of pharmaceutical products, including supplements. GMP guidelines differ by manufacturing country but cover everything from start to finish including materials, premises, equipment, personal hygiene, and training. CGMPor Current Good Manufacturing Practices is another certification enforced in the US by the FDA. These practices ensure that medicines and supplements will consistently meet quality standards so that they will be safe and effective. Amandean’s full range of plant and animal-based supplements are cGMP certified to ensure consistent quality and efficacy.
  • Non-GMO:Supplements can also earn a non-GMO certificate to show that they are free of genetically modified organisms, or living organisms whose genetic material has been artificially manipulated in a laboratory through genetic engineering. There are lots of reasons to avoid consuming GMOs. According to the Non-GMO Project, “More than 80% of all genetically modified crops grown worldwide have been engineered for herbicide tolerance. As a result, the use of toxic herbicides, such as Roundup [glyphosate], has increased fifteenfold since GMOs were first introduced.” These herbicides (which eventually make their way into food and water) are a probable carcinogen and may have long-term, negative effects on the body. At Amandean, all products are non-GMO certified.
  • Plastic-Neutral: It’s stunning how many everyday products are made of plastic. Unfortunately, for now, many supplement brands need to use plastic containers to safely store and ship their products. That’s why when you see that a brand is certified plastic-neutral, it makes a big difference! When a brand (or even individual) is plastic-neutral, it means that they remove as much plastic waste from the planet and its oceans as they use. Movements like rePurpose Global help brands to calculate their “plastic footprint” and pair them with organizations to offset all new plastic production used in their products. Doing so enables you to become certified plastic-neutral. Hint: Look for Plastic Neutral certification on Amandean products.
  • Ocean-Friendly: Supplements may be considered ocean-friendly if they have a reduced or minimal impact on our ocean’s ecosystems. Alternatively, brands can take action to work against ocean pollution. While there is no certification for ocean-friendly supplements, certain practices such as lab-growing algae for vegan algal oil vs. extracting algae from the ocean, supporting sustainable fisheries, supporting plastic-neutrality initiatives, or making use of by-products of fishing may make a supplement brand more ocean-friendly. If a brand uses this phrase, consider checking out their website to see all the ways in which they support the health of the ocean and planet at large.

Certain words like "natural" or "verified" mean very little in regards to supplement efficacy and safety. Similarly, “vegan” is widely known to mean that a product does not contain ingredients of animal origin, but the FDA, USDA, or FTC do not regulate this term. If you want to make certain that's true, don't be afraid to reach out to the brand, product expert, or even send a DM to their social media account. A responsible brand will offer up this information straight away. To ensure that any/all of the qualifications above have been met, look for each respective certification's seal on the supplement label or examine the brand’s website to learn more. Of course, the ingredients label is also a great indicator of what is in the product and if it fits one’s dietary needs/concerns.

Other factors contributing to supplement quality

In addition to rigorous testing and strict certifications, there are other factors to consider when purchasing a high-quality supplement.

  1. What types of supplements should I take?:A balanced diet filled with plenty of whole foods is a safe and healthy way to get many vitamins and minerals, but rarely does consuming whole foods alone supply all the necessary vitamins and minerals, especially when eating seasonally or following a specific diet for weight loss, performance, or a chronic condition like diabetes. Incorporating vitamins and supplements can make up for deficiencies, especially when you’ve tested low for specific nutrients, like iron, for example.
  2. Is it a bioavailable form?: Not all supplement formulations are equally effective. Though multivitamin gummies may be easier to take, they aren't always as effective and may not contain enough of certain vitamins or minerals like calcium and magnesium. They also add unnecessary calories! For example, Vitamin C is most bioavailable(easily absorbed and effective) when in liposomal form. Collagen supplements are more bioavailable when they are hydrolyzed. They're also highly soluble so it's easier to add them to recipes and take them throughout the day.
  3. What dose do you need?: High doses of some supplements can be toxic (like iron) whereas megadosing may be a more common practice with others. Talk to your healthcare professional before altering your dose from the recommended daily intake.
  4. Pay attention to the claims:Supplements that make wild claims, like curing chronic diseases or promising miracles in a short amount of time, are often blowing smoke. People like simple solutions to their problems but a well-considered supplement protocol is only one piece of the puzzle. As always, spending a little time upfront to thoroughly research your supplements will spare you the frustration and save you money!

If you have questions about the certifications earned by Amandean, feel free to reach out to our team at any time. We're proud to offer non-GMO supplements that are plastic-neutral, manufactured in the USA at a cGMP tested facility, and always free of artificial sweeteners and preservatives. 

Summary Points

  • These certifications not only help keep supplement manufacturers "in check" and ensure that they are following good manufacturing practices, but they can also communicate to the buyer that the products are safe, supported by science and that they come from sustainable or pure sources
  • A good indicator of a supplement with high-quality and scientifically proven ingredients is the ingredient label
  • Four of the most respected regulatory groups in America include ConsumerLab.com, NSF International, U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), and GMP
  • Supplements can also earn a non-GMO certificate to show that they are free of genetically modified organisms, or living organisms whose genetic material has been artificially manipulated in a laboratory through genetic engineering



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