Insider Info: Get To Know Your Supplements

Ever wonder if your supplement contains all of the nutrients stated on the label? When in doubt, check out www.consumerlab.com. Tod Cooperman, MD, started Consumer Lab in 1999 with a mission: to help consumers, academia and the natural products industry objectively determine the best quality products on the shelves. With the help of William Obermeyer, PhD, formerly of the FDA and an expert in pharmacognosy (the science of natural products), Cooperman and his staff began a systematic evaluation of the best-selling vitamin, mineral, and herbal supplements. Using independent labs throughout the country, CL tests a randomly selected list of supplements (manufacturers can also pay for testing) both for what they contain—the appropriate amount of active ingredients—and what they do not—such as contaminants, including lead and pesticides.

Fish-oil supplements were the focus of recent testing. Of the 20 products examined, only six were lacking in specific omega-3 oils, and none of the products contained mercury. Other products tested have run the gamut from St. John's wort to energy bars. The results of the testing (updated every 36 months) are posted on the Web site, but you can also get the full list of products and additional consumer tips with an annual subscription ($16).

—Barbara Hey