Health enthusiasts don’t always know how to find a quality supplement. With countless options on the market today, some individuals simply choose the one with a brand name they know and hope for the best. However, doing so isn’t wise. Consumers need to understand what a supplement is, how the product is manufactured, and its formulation.

Understanding the Definition of Supplement

A consumer may go to get more details from about a particular product and then read reviews on other sites only to become confused by what they find on the sites. They see the term nutritional supplement on one site when referring to the product. However, another site refers to it as a dietary supplement. What is the difference?

The United States Food and Drug Administration refers to supplements of this type as dietary supplements, and that’s where the confusion may occur. When they use the term dietary, they are referring to a product that contains a dietary ingredient, such as a vitamin, mineral, or probiotic rather than a weight loss product. These products work to supplement an individual’s existing diet.

However, they are still nutritional supplements, so the terms refer to the same thing. Knowing this, how can a consumer choose the right product for their needs?


When choosing a supplement, review the manufacturing process, as this plays a key role in the quality of the supplement. The FDA released the Current Good Manufacturing Practices guidelines, also referred to as the cGMPs, for dietary supplements in 2007. Three years later, the agency made adhering to these practices a requirement for selling the products in the country.

As a result of this change, consumers know they are getting a product that meets certain quality standards, and the processing, labeling, and packaging remain consistent with all products. The rules put into place help consumers feel confident that they are getting a nutritional supplement that is of high quality.

Do You Need to Take Dietary Supplements?

Independent Verification

Third-party organizations, however, provided certification and verification programs for nutritional supplements prior to the release of the FDA’s Good Manufacturing Practices.

They offered these programs to companies creating supplements, including those who made the ingredients used in the products and those who distributed the finished goods.

The programs address two areas when testing a supplement. A third party inspects the manufacturing plant and determines whether it meets certain requirements before it provides its approval.

The second portion of these programs looks at the product label and ensures it provides accurate information to allow consumers to know what they are putting into their bodies. They verify the claims made on the labels by independently testing the material in the supplement.

Several third-party organizations now offer this independent verification. This includes names like United States Pharmacopeia (USP), Consumer, NSF International, and Natural Products Association (NPA). Request test results from a third-party organization before purchasing a supplement to ensure you know what you are purchasing.

Facility Certification

Furthermore, reputable supplement manufacturers have a third party certify their facilities. Look for a company that uses standard operating procedures similar to those found in drug manufacturing facilities. This is only one of several ways a consumer can know they are working with a reputable provider who puts their safety and wellbeing before profits.

USP Certification

Certain supplements come with a USP mark on the label. What exactly does this mean, and why is this mark only found on certain supplements? When a person sees the USP mark, they know they are getting a quality product. However, simply because a product lacks this mark doesn’t mean it is inferior. Some companies opt to skip the USP certification process due to the associated expense.

Furthermore, the USP has standards in place for only a small group of supplements. A manufacturer may use individual ingredients that have undergone the USP certification process in their product formulations. When this is the case, the mark will be present on the label.

Ingredient Verification

Companies that comply with the current good manufacturing practices must use standard operating procedures when it comes to verifying the ingredients and their integrity. For instance, the company must quarantine any incoming raw material until quality control can review and approve it.

The facility must also routinely test the ingredients to ensure they have no metal contamination and test for bacteria and mold.

When the raw material passes the inspection, it then enters the inventory where it can be used to create the supplements. If the company rejects the material for any reason, they then destroy it or send it back to the supplier. This process ensures the product offered matches the label.

Product Formulation

Once the quality of a supplement has been determined, the consumer must learn whether it will work for their needs. For instance, a person won’t want to purchase a product designed to support their immune system if they are trying to improve the radiance of their skin. The immune system supplement isn’t designed to provide this skin benefit.

The nutrients needed to provide different benefits vary, and there is no supplement that can address every issue. For this reason, the consumer must know what to look for in terms of the product formulation.

Research the problem you wish to address and learn which ingredients will provide the most benefit. This varies significantly, and a person should turn to multiple sources to gather the information they need. Once it has been determined which ingredients will offer the desired results, it’s time to begin reading product labels.


A person won’t get a high-quality product if the manufacturer uses inferior ingredients. Keep this in mind when comparing products and consider the ingredients separately. Although this will add to the time needed to find the right product, consumers find the effort that is put into this part of the process pays off in the long run, as they get the desired benefits without wasting money on products that don’t live up to their claims.

Read reviews of various products before making any purchase.

Although most products will have at least one or two bad reviews along with some glowing ones, these bad reviews shouldn’t make you eliminate a product from your list of possibilities. The key is to find a product that gets consistently high marks from a wide range of consumers.

More reviews mean more feedback, so you get a better understanding of what to expect not only from the product but from the manufacturer. Keep this in mind when shopping and soon you will have the perfect supplement for your needs.