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5 Things to Look for on a Supplement Label

February 25, 2022

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The more carefully you read the label, the more confident you’ll feel purchasing dietary supplements.

You might pick up a supplement bottle because names like adrenal support, PMS support, or blood sugar support capture your attention but it’s important to take a closer look at a dietary supplement label before making a purchase.

A supplement label provides important information about what’s inside the bottle. It lists details ranging from serving size and calories to ingredients and warnings. The next time you pick up a bottle of dietary supplements, use this guide to how to read a supplement label.

Serving size

Just like your favorite foods, supplements have a recommended serving size. Check the “supplement facts” section of the label to see how many capsules, tablets of soft gels are recommended.

The serving size also gives you information about how much of each ingredient is included in the supplement. In other words, if a supplement lists 2400 mg of ultra-pure fish oil per serving and the recommended serving is two soft gels, each serving contains 4800 mg of the ingredient.

Labels also list the number of servings per container; a supplement with a recommended serving size of two capsules with 45 servings per container contains a total of 90 capsules.

Calories

Not all supplements include listings for calories but those ingredients containing fats, including fish oil, do include calorie listings. In addition to listing the total calories in each serving, the label will also list the calories from fat.

Ingredients

A dietary supplement label lists all of the ingredients (in the order of the amounts per serving from highest to lowest). Some supplements such as grape seed extract, feverfew and glutamine contain a single active ingredient while others contain multiple active ingredients.

You might also notice that labels include details about the nutrients found in each ingredient. In a fish oil supplement, for example, the label breaks down ultra-pure fish oil into the amounts of EPA, DHA and other omega 3 fatty acids in each serving.

Information about the active ingredients allows you to evaluate the potency of the supplement and compare different supplement brands. Less expensive supplements may contain lower amounts of active ingredients, which would require you to increase the serving size to get the recommended dose and experience the health benefits. 

A list of “other ingredients” includes things that might have been added to supplements as preservatives, binders, or flavorings. This is the section to look for possible allergens such as gluten, dairy, or eggs.

The supplement label will also note whether the product is vegetarian or vegan to ensure that those with dietary restrictions know whether a specific dietary supplement meets their needs.

Safety warnings

Read the supplement label to check for warnings, which could include recommendations to consult with a physician before taking a dietary supplement. These warnings often apply to pregnancy or giving supplements to children.

Safety warnings also recommend keeping supplements out of reach of children and only using supplements from a bottle with its safety seal intact upon purchase.

Storage tips

This information is critical to protect the potency of your dietary supplements. Look for recommendations about where to store the bottles; some supplements can be stored in a cool, dry location while others may need to be refrigerated.

Check the label to see if the supplement has an expiration date and make sure not to take dietary supplements that have expired[10] .

Manufacturing and testing disclaimers

Supplement manufacturers may include information about the location of the manufacturing and testing facilities. This information, while not required by law, demonstrates that the ingredient lists, including information about the amount of active ingredients and allergens, have been verified by an independent third party.

Look for supplement manufacturers that partner with independent labs for testing. This process provides reassurance that the manufacturer is committed to quality assurance and ethical lab practices exacting specifications are used to make (and test) the products you depend on.

Before you make your next supplement purchase, take a close look at the label. The more you know about how to read a supplement label, the more confident you’ll feel in purchasing dietary supplements that meet your expectations for potency, safety, and good manufacturing practices.

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