You may already be aware of the recent investigation by the New York attorney general's office that uncovered a massive herbal-supplement scam. According to the New York Times, as part of its investigation, 78 bottles of the leading brands of herbal supplements from a dozen Walmart, Target, Walgreens and GNC locations across New York State were analyzed using DNA bar coding, a type of genetic fingerprinting that the agency has used to root out labeling fraud in the seafood industry. The tests found so many supplements with no DNA from the herbs on their labels but plenty of DNA from unlisted ingredients, which could be detrimental for people with certain health conditions.

According to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, as amended, Section 201(g)(1), the term drug is defined as an "article intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease." Technically, vitamins, minerals, trace elements, amino acids, herbs, or homeopathic remedies are not classified as drugs and can easily reach consumers without accountability or oversight. However, these substances can actually have significant effects on physiology and must be used rationally. Use of nutritional supplements may be safely recommended for patients alone or already using pharmaceutical medications (drugs), but some potentially harmful interactions may occur. For this reason, it is important to understand exactly what is in your supplements, herbs and other over-the-counter products.

Unlike the over-the-counter (OTC) brands, there are many reputable pharmaceutical-grade supplement manufactures who have considerable research and predictable results behind their products. Quality is determined by considering: 1) the quality of science behind the product; 2) the quality of the ingredients themselves; 3) the quality of the manufacturing process, and 4) the synergism among product components. While these supplements may come at a higher financial cost than those found on the shelves of pharmacies or health food stores, the value must also include assurance of their purity, quality, bioavailablility (ability to be properly absorbed and utilized by the body), and effectiveness. The chief reason these products are made available is to ensure quality. You are not guaranteed the same level of quality when you purchase your supplements from the general marketplace.

In summary, here are the 7 reasons why pharmaceutical-grade supplements are superior to over-the-counter products:

1. Supplements, vitamins, and herbal products are NOT regulated by the FDA.

2. Studies have found that the majority of OTC (over-the-counter) products did not contain exactly what was listed on the label.

3. The active ingredient in OTC products may not be present in every capsule in the quantity listed on the label so the expected benefit may not be realized and the money spent on the product is wasted.

4. More concerning: The contaminants not listed on the label are frequently present. This is especially problematic for people who may have an allergy to or may be taking another medication or supplement which interacts with the contaminant.

5. Many of the OTC products contain cheaper, less effective ingredients, such as cyanocobalamin instead of methylcobalamin for vitamin B12, magnesium citrate (laxative) instead of magnesium lysly glycinate, or calcium carbonate (chalk) instead of calcium malate.

6. In contrast, pharmaceutical-grade or prescription standard supplements are made by professional companies which dedicate great resources to scientific studies and continuing medical education and guarantee that every single capsule contains all of the active ingredient and no contaminants or allergens.

7. While at first glance, pharmaceutical-grade supplements may appear to be more expensive than the OTCs, closer examination reveals that in actuality they are not, since it may take multiple OTCs to equal the benefit of one pharmaceutical-grade supplement-with the added risk of contaminants and allergens.

Author's Bio: 

Cheryl Winter is a board-certified family nurse practitioner and registered dietitian with advanced training in diabetes and weight management. She is President of DiabeteSteps Rx®, a full-service onsite and virtual integrative diabetes and weight management clinic. By "integrating" both a functional & conventional approach to diabetes and its associated medical conditions including hypertension, high cholesterol, overweight and obesity, there is the potential to REVERSE these metabolic conditions. Let her help you "transform" your weight and health. Access her FREE E-Report at: and begin your transformation now.