In the United States, dietary supplements are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the category of food. This means that they do not have to meet the same standards as drugs and over-the-counter medications for proof of safety, effectiveness, and what the FDA calls “good manufacturing practices.”
Vitamins and other nutritional supplements created for human consumption are made from two different grades of raw materials:
- Pharmaceutical Grade: Meets pharmaceutical standards
- Food Grade: Meets standards for human consumption
The main difference with each grade is quality and purity. During the manufacturing process various substances are added, so no product is 100 percent pure. Pharmaceutical grade vitamins must be in excess of 99 percent purity containing no binders, fillers, dyes, or excipients (substances used as diluents for a drug). Regular food grade vitamins are available over the counter (OTC), whereas pharmaceutical grade vitamins are only available through prescriptions and health care professionals.
Pharmaceutical grade vitamins are formulated to yield a higher degree of bioavailability; the degree to which the vitamin is absorbed into a living system. As these vitamins can be absorbed into your body quickly, they improve and enhance the quality of your life rapidly.
Supplements with enteric coatings can also have better bioavailability An enteric coating is a coating put on a pill or capsule so that it doesn’t dissolve until it reaches the small intestine. For example, enzymes without enteric coatings are basically ineffective. Enzymes can be easily be destroyed by stomach acids, making them unavailable for metabolism in your bloodstream. The enteric coatings protect the enzymes from being dissolved in your stomach acids so they can be released into your bloodstream.
Transportation and storage can have a significant impact on the bioavailability of certain supplements. Like many oils, fish oil processed under high heat conditions, or exposed to heat and light during transportation and storage can easily becomes rancid, destroying bioavailability.
To make sure you’re getting the highest quality supplements possible, opt for pharmaceutical grade vitamins available through health practitioners. Pharmaceutical grade vitamins are more rigorously tested for quality and ability to provide consistent results. When you purchase pharmaceutical grade vitamins, you know that they’ve been tested by a third party to confirm that they contain the amount of nutrients they profess to contain.
About This Excerpt
The above excerpt is reprinted from Dr. Randi Fredricks’ book Healing & Wholeness: Complementary and Alternative Therapies for Mental Health © 2008. No part of this article may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Dr. Randi Fredricks as articles often present the published results of the research of other professionals.