There’s a lot to cover when it comes to supplement education and information; however, the areas you should be concerned with from a consumer standpoint include animal byproducts, shelf life, synthetic-level fill and heat vs. cold-pressed processing.

Animal Byproducts

It’s hard to find a supplement that doesn’t contain at least one animal byproduct. When you can go with the ones that have zero animal byproducts do it, but absolutely avoid the supplements with several animal byproducts.

Common animal byproducts are gelatin, which is derived from boiling the hooves, stomach and other tissue-linings of either pork or beef; magnesium stearate is a fatty acid that is found in pork, butter, chicken, beef, fish and milk (or cocoa or grains); lanolin comes from sheep and is often used in Vitamin D supplements; caprylic acid comes from goat, sheep or cow’s milk (vegan sources include coconut or palm oils); lipase can come from plants but mostly comes from calves or lambs; and pepsin, which is comes from the stomach lining of pigs.

Shelf Life

Generally, liquid supplements tend to be more fragile than pills and can lose their potency faster. If stored properly, vitamins can last four or five years, although the conservative recommendation is that they can easily last two years. Taking vitamins beyond their expiration date is generally safe.

Expired vitamins do not go bad like food does and they do not turn into poison or toxins. Many expiration dates are set very conservatively because it benefits the supplement company. It is not dangerous to take expired vitamins, but as mentioned, the vitamins will lose their potency.

Synthetic-Level Fill

Top Tip: The “dl” form of any vitamin is synthetic. If you see chloride, hydrochloride, acetate or nitrate on the list of ingredients, the manufacturer used synthetics for the product.

A vast majority of vitamins, even ones labeled ‘natural’ or ‘food-based’, you see in commercials (Centrum), at drug store chains, grocery chains, membership club stores (Kirkland brand), vitamin stores, and even Whole Foods are synthetic. Almost all vitamin brands are made by a handful of the largest pharmaceutical companies. They are just in different packaging for marketing purposes.

Synthetic minerals are derived from rocks such as limestone, coral, oyster shell, sand, and chalk. Yum. Although these materials have mineral profiles, our bodies do not absorb them properly. Humans are not designed to digest rocks and oyster shells. Ideally, we should get all our minerals from plants. Plants absorb these minerals from soil and convert them to a form that is bioavailable to your body. However, because the soils are so deficient in minerals, even on organic farms, we need to take mineral supplements. It is best to take chelated minerals, which are minerals bound to amino acids, for maximum absorption.

Heat vs. Cold-Pressed Processing

It’s key to know whether the supplements you are taking are heat or cold-pressed. It’s the difference between ineffective and effective. Heat-pressed supplements have lost all of their nutritional value, while cold-pressed retain nutritional value.

Exposure to heat, light, and air can cause vitamins to degrade faster. Most vitamins are sensitive to heat and water. Vitamins C, thiamin (B1), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), and folate (B9) tend to be the most vulnerable nutrients when subjected to heat and oxygen. Some vitamins are easily destroyed by oxygen, so cut vegetables or juiced vegetables should be stored in airtight containers in the refrigerator.

Cold-pressed supplements are made with a hydraulic press that uses thousands of pounds of pressure to extract the maximum amount of liquid from fresh fruits and vegetables. No additional heat or oxygen is used in the process, meaning that no nutrients are lost in the heat of traditional pasteurization.

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