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The best supplements: how to choose the right one for you.
In recent years, the consumption of food and energy supplements has grown enormously in all industrialised countries, including Italy.
Consumers therefore need to make a decision, especially when deciding to buy a product for the first time, which can be difficult given the incredibly wide choice of products available.
It always comes down to the same question: what are the best supplements on the market and how do you choose?
It is difficult to provide one simple answer to this question, because there are several factors to consider, including a person’s individual needs.
In this article, we offer a few tips so that consumers feel prepared to make their own decision.
Let's take a look:
1) check the label to ensure that the supplement is authorised by the Ministry of Health: it may seem trivial but there are a few supplements on the market of dubious origin, without the required authorisation, which should be issued within three months of the product being placed on the market. Why is this important? Because that’s how safety standards are guaranteed when producing the product that we are going to buy, and in the ingredients used, which must be authorised for use in the European Community.
2) check who produces the supplement you want to buy: our number one tip when analysing a product is to look at the label to see who produces it. On said label you will find the name and registered office of the operator responsible for placing it on the market, which, if Italian, must be registered with the regional ULSS. Anyone who produces and markets a product must be given special authorisation by the Ministry of Health.
3) always read the nutritional table and ingredients: remember not to be fooled by names, slogans and phrases used to get your attention and designed to get you to buy a product. A catchy name does not equate to a more effective product. A supplement’s true effectiveness is down to its composition and ingredients, which you will find written on the label under the "Ingredients" section and in the "Nutritional Table." The ingredients must be listed in descending order of quantity. Advertisements often boast about ingredients that appears near to the end of the list, so pay attention to the ingredients that come first and are not advertised but appear in the product in greater quantities.
4) what are the product claims: these sentences are used to describe a product’s properties and physiological effects. Claims can be distorted to attract a consumer's attention, sometimes even in a misleading way (e.g. ‘100% protein’ suggests that the product contains only protein, when it might only contain 70-80%, with the remaining 20-30% being made up of carbohydrates and fibre). In Europe, health claims must be authorised by the European Commission, which confirms their truthfulness based on a series of verified and approved scientific studies.
5) a greater quantity is not always more effective: when choosing a supplement, you might assume that the higher the quantity of the active ingredient, the greater its effectiveness. Think again! First of all, you should follow the instructions regarding the method of use. You should also remember that our bodies can only metabolise limited amounts of nutrients, normally corresponding to 0.3-3 times the nutritional values of reference (30-300% VNR). The rest is eliminated through faeces or urine, resulting in considerable work for the kidneys and liver and the consequent waste of money. For example, absorbing maximum doses of vitamins, which do not abide by the daily reference requirements (VNR), will only lead to their elimination, because vitamins contribute to physiological reactions in well-defined relationships, and relatively minor quantities of some vitamins can often limit the usable quantity of others.
6) product purity: the higher this is, the higher the quality of the supplement itself. This applies to proteins, which often come in varying percentages on the market, but also to amino acids. By looking at the percentage content column in the nutritional table, you can quickly establish the product’s purity level. Another useful indicator is the absence of artificial additives or hydrogenated fats and preservatives.
7) price shouldn’t be your primary discriminating factor: make sure not to base your choice exclusively on price. Of course, it’s important to save money, but remember that you are going to actually eat these products and they will have an effect on your health. Lower prices often go hand-in-hand with lower quality, which may be down to the choice of raw materials or the purity of the product itself. Remember, foods such as extra virgin olive oil or wine that are lower in price are usually made from poorer quality products – the same applies to supplements.
8) an additional further guarantee: this is not mandatory, but institutions often certify companies and their products, essentially providing an additional guarantee (e.g. ISO 22000 etc.).
We’ve provided a few tips based on our experience making our own products. They are not intended to be exhaustive, but we hope they provide some additional insight.