Should all vitamins and supplements I take be USP approved?

USP stands for the United States Pharmacopoeia. USP approval means you can be assured of purity, potency, stability and disintegration. Essentially it ensures that the product contains the ingredients listed on the label and that it has been made according to FDA Good Manufacturing Practices.

What the USP label doesn’t tell you is whether the product is effective and what dose is appropriate for the treatment you seek. It also does not give you information about overall safety of the supplement. If you are considering using vitamins and supplements, it is a good idea to talk with your doctor before taking them to help you decide if that product is safe for you.
Marjorie Nolan Cohn
Nutrition & Dietetics

The USP is a dietary supplement verification program. It’s a voluntary testing and auditing program that ensures the quality supplements for consumers. Seeing the USP verified mark on a label indicates that the dietary supplement product has been tested and meets industry standards. The USP specifically tests to ensure the supplement

  • Contains the ingredients listed on the label in the declared potency and amount.
  • Doesn’t contain harmful levels of specified contaminants.
  • Will break down and release into the body within a specified amount of time.
  • Has been made according to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) current Good Manufacturing Practices using sanitary and well-controlled procedures.
Neal Spruce
Neal Spruce on behalf of dotFIT
It's not a bad place to start but it's certainly not a guarantee you are getting the best product. USP stands for The United States Pharmacopoeia. The USP was developed so that synthetic compounds (drugs) have an established manufacturing and testing protocol that when followed the finished product will yield consistent results. Since then there has been a supplement manufacturing/testing program that sets guidelines for manufacturing, but those guidelines only assure you of purity, potency, stability and disintegration, not overall effectiveness of the product claims. So at the very least the USP stamp gives you the ingredients you were looking for. But proper dosages, ingredient forms and delivery systems (getting the ingredients to the right tissues at the right time in the right amounts) often goes away from USP guidelines in order to make the product better. And these innovative manufacturers hesitate to disclose their trade secrets.

If the consumer looks for the USP as a stamp of approval when purchasing dietary supplements, they have only eliminated the bad guy that may not be following the minimum available guidelines that everyone should adhere to. Unfortunately they may have also decreased their chances of acquiring a product that had incorporated the latest science and technology during manufacturing, giving the compound the greatest potential to yield the desired result.

Your best bet to assure what you are purchasing has the greatest potential to work is to have the manufacture supply the following:
  • Best, current clinical research supporting use of active ingredients (evidence-based)
  • Show data supporting safety and efficacy including long-term empirical data
  • Identify proper ingredient dosage and forms matched to positive outcomes from clinical data
  • All dietary supplement products and powders should be manufactured in a FDA-registered pharmaceutical facility, in compliance with Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP)
  • Ingredients all tested for purity, potency and delivery from raw materials to finished product
Doing the due-diligence on formulations and the manufacturing processes is something most people don’t have the time or expertise to perform. Therefore if you are looking for health and fitness support through supplements, click the link below to the dotFIT Supplement Reference Guide (SRG)

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.