How to Read Supplement Labels

This morning on Edmonton's CTV Morning Live, I chatted about how to read supplement labels. What's important on the label and how do you know if you're getting a quality natural health product?

1) Natural Product Number - The "NPN" is issued by Health Canada after a supplement has gone through an application process. Products with NPN's contain ingredients that are deemed to be safe and legal in Canada and are of a certain degree of quality. The NPN also allows the consumer extra protection if anything goes wrong with the product. Health Canada has a reporting system for products with an NPN that cause unexpected reactions or allergies. 

2) Additives - good additives include things like Soy Lecithin. This isn't the scary soy that messes with your hormones, this is the specific lecithin molecule that can aid digestion and bring down cholesterol. Lecithin increases absorption of antioxidant compounds in the gut by 15%. My favourite product with lecithin? Greens Plus Organic by Genuine Health. 

3) Extracts - good quality products will have standardized extracts in them. Plants have many active ingredients in them and the ingredient that has the most research for a given health effect is usually what the extract is standardized to include. When you get standardized extracts in your supplements, you're ensuring that you're getting exactly what you paid for and of a reasonable amount, not just something that's on the ingredients list so that it can say it's on the ingredients list for fun. I call this fairy dusting. No fairy dusting allowed, ONLY standardized extracts with known quantities of active ingredients.

4) Additives - BAD additives are things like artificial flavours or colours. "Artificial flavour" as a term could mean anything. The term is regulated to include a variety of chemicals that you DO NOT want in your body! Artificial colours can be carcinogenic depending on what dyes they include. 

5) Health washing - this is marketing labelling designed to trick you. The word "natural" is not regulated. Sugar is "natural" and that does NOT mean it is good for you. Regulated terms include organic, fair trade and sometimes gluten free. Don't get fooled by excellent marketing. Only allow your buying decisions to be influenced by products carrying third party seals of approval certifying these products are "organic" or "gluten free". 

Buying and choosing supplements is tricky. Your Naturopathic Doctor or health care provider can help you decide which supplements are best for you based on your unique health condition and your needs.