Let’s assume that you’re wanting to take a particular supplement either to ensure that you’re filling in whatever holes there may be in your nutrition OR we want some sort of compound to stimulate our bodies to perform better, such as improved sleep, digestion or stress relief.
It makes sense then that if you’re going to be ingesting some sort of supplement, whatever compound it is, like vitamin C or zinc or melatonin, that most if not all of it is actually being absorbed and used by your body. Otherwise you’re peeing your money away.
So how can we balance the quality and effectiveness of the supplements we buy with other concerns such as cost?
It’s a good idea to consider whether the price of a compound is a true reflection of the cost of what goes into the supplement. The price could also be a reflection of marketing costs and the company’s efforts to position themselves in the market. For example, companies can position themselves as a flashy, hip, top shelf product in which case they may inflate the price artificially to psychologically convince you that paying more for something means that it’s better quality. It also costs them more to be on the top shelf in the stores.
The company may also position themselves at the bottom of the market as the cheapest form of a particular supplement with the most cheapest ingredients (not necessarily of the highest quality) while trying to appeal to those people that value a deal.
When certain compounds are made in a lab, what kind of quality control process does the lab have? Are they making sure that certain allergens (such as bacteria, viruses, mould, dairy, nuts, soy and sugar) do not get into the mix?
Those companies that have very stringent production processes typically charge more because of the increased cost that’s involved.
Some products are more involving to make. For example, you can have a compound such as probiotics put into a capsule (to help the bacteria survive the highly acidic stomach environment) that is made of gelatin (of animal origin). The capsule could also have a vegetable origin which could be “cleaner” or it may appeal more to vegetarians.
You can also have the compound put into a bubble of fat called a liposome, which is easier for the body to absorb and therefore, you get more of the compound in your body as opposed to it being excreted as waste.
How much of a product actually gets absorbed and is usable? There are many things that affect bioavailability such as the chemical nature of a compound. For example, Magnesium is vital to our bodies. It’s present in and helps with muscle and nerve function, protein synthesis, blood glucose control and blood pressure regulation.
There are different forms of Magnesium. There’s magnesium malate, citrate, glycinate, oxide and carbonate. Each form of magnesium has its special focus. Some are more bioavailable than others. And some forms are cheaper to make than others.
Making a balanced choice involves considering not only the cost of a product, but also its quality, bioavailability, and its designed function.