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    You Ask, I Answer: Vitamin Supplements (Redux)

    Natural-Vitamin-E-SoftgelIs a vitamin in [soft] gel form more easily absorbed in the body than in tablet form?

    Also, does that list of 10 USP-approved companies you shared with us by definition invalidate all other companies such as Solgar, which also produces vitamins?  In fact, there are a whole lot of very big companies not on the list.  Is there a reason?

    Lastly, my doctor says all vitamins are regulated by the DEA; it that correct?

    – Barlow (Last name withheld)
    Westchester, NY

    Vitamins consumed in softgel form are absorbed more quickly than those in tablet form.

    That said — “so what?”.

    Supplements are not medication.  When you have the flu, you want to take something that will alleviate symptoms as soon as possible.  If you’re looking to boost your omega-3 intake, quick absorption is not a priority.

    Keep in mind that even vitamins in tablet form have undergone a significant amount of testing to ensure they dissolve as quickly as possible.

    As for the list of supplements tested and verified by third-party public heath organization U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP) I shared recently — a company’s absence does not mean their supplements are not high quality.

    USP testing is completely voluntary.  Some companies — especially well-known ones — are confident of their popularity, and may therefore not see any added benefit to being USP approved.  It is quite a shame that the average consumer is not aware of what USP testing is or what a USP logo on a supplement bottle means.

    Remember, too, that there is a fee to be USP-tested.

    Lastly, I think your doctor is confused.  The Drug Enforment Agency (DEA) has nothing to do with vitamin supplements.

    Perhaps he is thinking of DSHEA — the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994.  That is the infamous ruling that allows supplements to bypass testing by — and regulation from — the Food & Drug Administration, since they are not considered “conventional food products.”

    The only way in which supplements are regulated (and I use that term very loosely) is that, as of June 2010, manufacturers will be “required” to formulate products that abide by “good manufacturing practices”, are accurately labeled (good luck enforcing that!), and free of contaminants.

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