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That’s not an imaginary pinch you’ve been feeling in your wallet lately. The cost of food has been on the rise, with everything from apples to zucchinis increasing in price. And as the energy crisis and weather calamities have caused decreasing crop volumes and a surge in food prices, they’ve also been causing some sticker shock among those who regularly rely on supplements to balance their diet.
In recent years, DSM, the largest manufacturer of vitamins in the world, announced it would increase the price of several products by up to 17%. Other companies have announced spikes in such nutritional aids as vitamin B2. So what’s a savvy and nutrition-conscious consumer to do? Clean Eating turned to several health experts to give readers advice on how to save if you’re currently supplementing, or planning to.
1. Examine your needs
“Why do you think you need that supplement?” asks Anatoly Belilovsky, MD, the director of Belilovsky Pediatrics in Brooklyn, New York. “The nutrients that most people lack are vitamin D and possibly A (rarely B or C); fiber; iron – especially young children and post-pubertal girls – and the essential fatty acids in fish oil. Although not a nutrient, strictly speaking, melatonin should be considered for people who have sleep-onset problems.”
See also The Best Options for Taking Omega-3s.
2. Seek outside advice
“It’s worth reviewing your list of supplements with an expert, ideally someone you can really trust, like a skillful doctor, so you can pare down your list,” suggests Michael Finkelstein, MD, the former senior vice president for medical affairs and chief of the departments of medicine and integrative medicine at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, NY. “That will produce the biggest savings.”
3. Purchase what works… for you
If a supplement doesn’t agree with you, don’t force yourself to stomach it – there are alternatives you can feel good about. “Unpurified fish oil is cheaper, but the ‘fishy burps’ it causes are disgusting enough to relegate it to oblivion at the back of the shelf,” says Dr. Belilovsky. “Fiber, if taken as a ‘tasty powder’ in a drink, is utterly unpalatable for most people, and for those who cannot take natural powdered fiber. Use either capsules, of a size you can handle, or a truly tasteless synthetic fiber.”
4. Stock up
“If you know you need 60 pills a month and you’ll be on the supplement for six months to a year,” says David Brownstein, MD, medical director of the Center for Holistic Medicine in West Bloomfield, Michigan, and author of The Guide to Healthy Eating and nine other books, “buy more. It’s often cheaper to buy in quantity.” Of course, check the expiration dates on each of the supplement containers to ensure your needs mesh with the supplement’s effective potency over time.
5. Look beyond your daily multivitamin
“A ‘just in case’ multivitamin is an inexpensive way to cover all the bases,” says Dr. Belilovsky. “But for people who are truly iron-deficient or vitamin D-deficient, for example, much higher doses are needed – up to 10 times higher than what it is in the multivitamins – usually for a few months.”
6. Go with known brands over super-cheap suppliers
“There are many inexpensive vitamins that do not test well,” says Dr. Brownstein. “Many are contaminated with heavy metals, and some do not contain the ingredients as listed on the label.” Dr. Finkelstein adds, “In the long run, ‘cheap’ supplements, if they are not of good enough quality, will not be any savings at all, since they won’t work! Some supplements can be generic, but I think that it’s always valuable to purchase supplements that are produced by manufacturers that are known to be reliable. If you’re going to spend money, it should be on high-quality items.”
7. Do your homework
When researching supplements, know that not all studies are created equal. “The gold standard is the double-blind study,” says Dr. Belilovsky, “looking at differences in outcomes for treated and untreated groups, where neither the patients nor the experimenters know who got what until the effects are evaluated. Testimonials such as ‘It worked for me!’ should be taken with a grain of salt the size of Massachusetts.” Price shopping can also be tricky; the sale price at your grocery store may still be more expensive than at your local drug store, and cheap online products often come with high shipping fees.
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