How to Choose a Vitamin Brand

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Medically reviewed by Mia Syn, MS, RDNMedically reviewed by Mia Syn, MS, RDN

You've decided to start taking vitamins. But with so many brands available, it's hard to know which one is best for you—especially since so many vitamin brands fly under the radar. That means your chances of choosing a subpar vitamin brand are greater than you think.

And, if you pick a product that's not what you thought, you could be missing out on the vitamins and minerals you had hoped to gain. The result is money and time wasted on low-quality or ineffective products, as well as a clear miss on your health goals.

Whether you're looking to replenish a deficiency or use a supplement for preventative medicine, choosing a vitamin brand that produces trusted, tested, and clinically effective products is essential for reaching your goal. Here's what you need to know about selecting the best vitamin brand for you.

Related: The 10 Best Vitamin Brands of 2024

Consider Your Health Goals

Your health goals and medical history play an important role in determining your vitamin needs. In fact, different vitamin brands may cater to different health needs, so it's important to identify your health goals and requirements before shopping for vitamins.

For example, older adults may need specific vitamins aimed at boosting energy, powering the immune system, and rejuvenating skin and bones. Meanwhile, someone with a history of heart disease may want to focus on vitamins that aid normal blood clotting and fluid balance.

Once you've nailed down your goals, research which brands offer the spectrum of nutrients that fit your needs. In the same sense, you'll want to ensure whatever vitamins you're interested in taking do not interfere with existing medical conditions or medications already in your regimen.

Talking with a registered dietitian or another healthcare provider about food and drug interactions that may pertain to you before purchasing any products can help you prevent health blunders in the future.

Related: 6 Things to Look for When Buying Dietary Supplements

Research and Evaluation

When looking for supplements, Leah Reitmayer, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, suggests asking these questions before making a decision:

  • Can you get the product in a food item instead of a supplement?

  • What is the effectiveness of the product?

  • Does the product have a nutrition facts label or a supplement facts label?

  • Is the product third-party tested?

  • Does the product have any proprietary or herbal blends?

  • How much does the product cost?

As Reitmayer mentions in her first point, a food-first approach is important for meeting your daily vitamin and mineral needs. But if you're having trouble filling in the gaps, a vitamin supplement is the next best thing.

Next, familiarize yourself with the existing research on the ingredients you're considering to determine whether they're effective and worthwhile. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Dietary Supplements offers helpful consumer fact sheets that list all the pertinent information you might want to know about a particular vitamin or mineral.

Tips for Understanding Vitamin Research

It's difficult to understand the data published in scientific journals, but learning key things to look for can make deciphering the material easier. Here are some tips to make your research more effective.

  • Avoid reading articles or blogs, as they can be misleading and inaccurate.

  • Use reputable sources like the National Institutes of Health and Pubmed when conducting a web search.

  • Find the original study or source.

  • Check who wrote, performed, and funded the study to make sure the information is not biased.

  • Look at the sample size of the study. (Larger sample sizes can provide a more similar representation of the population.)

  • Determine the type of study conducted and remember that randomized-controlled studies are the gold standard.

Quality and Testing

When shopping for vitamins, remember that supplements and their fact labels are not regulated. That means you may not know exactly how much of a nutrient you're putting into your body. Narrow down your vitamin brand search quickly by only focusing on products that have undergone third-party testing.

"The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has established good manufacturing practices (GMPs) that companies must follow to help ensure the identity, purity, strength, and composition of their supplements," says Maria Emerick, MS, RDN, LD.

Several independent organizations offer quality testing and allow products that pass these tests to display a seal of quality assurance, indicating that the product was properly manufactured, contains the ingredients listed on the label, and does not contain harmful levels of contaminants, she says. "These third-party companies include NSF International, U.S. Pharmacopeia, ConsumerLab, and Informed Choice."

When in doubt, Emerick suggests considering the four P’s of a quality supplement, including:

  • Positive identification: Third-party companies confirm that what’s on the label is indeed what’s in the bottle. This prevents you from buying falsely advertised supplements containing ingredients they don’t have.

  • Purity: Heavy metals, pesticides, and toxins are common substances that third-party companies check for, so you don’t buy supplements that contain unwanted ingredients that can harm your health.

  • Potency: Oftentimes, supplements don’t contain enough key ingredients to be effective. On the other hand, having too much of key ingredients can also negatively affect your health and cause harm.

  • Performance: Consider whether the supplement does what it's intended to do. In addition to not getting your money’s worth, this can be potentially dangerous for people relying on supplements to help meet their essential nutrient needs.

"If you're at the store comparing products, supplements that have been third-party tested usually have a certification symbol somewhere on the package," says Grace Scarborough, RD. This is your sign that the product meets the FDA's manufacturing practices.

Ingredient Transparency

Have you ever read a supplement label and discovered "proprietary blend" as a listed ingredient? Vitamin manufacturers use the words proprietary blend most often for these reasons:

  • When there is an unreliable percentage of ingredients in the product

  • To increase the perceived value of the product

  • To protect a blend or formula from competitors

Proprietary blends aren't always a negative thing on supplement labels. If a brand or company has put a great deal of time and money into innovating a product, it's understandable they would like to protect their recipe from copycats. That's why third-party testing will always be your ally.

On the other hand, there is value in transparency. When you can see what's in the bottle, you can feel confident your purchase won't result in low-quality, ineffective products.

The problem with proprietary blends is you never know what's in the product. This can put you at risk of consuming ingredients that may not be safe for human consumption. Or, if you have a sensitivity to a particular ingredient and it's not listed, it could cause unintended consequences.

Customer Reviews and Feedback

Almost 90% of consumers read reviews before purchasing a product, and 88% trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Product reviews and consumer testimonials can make or break a vitamin brand's success.

Unfortunately, studies suggest that a large portion of reviews published online are fake. Aside from using an app to check for fake reviews, Sharon Puello, MA, RD, CDN, CDCES, suggests meeting with a healthcare provider, such as a dietitian, to help you pick a good supplement that will align with your goals, unique health history, current bloodwork, and response to previous supplements.

"When this isn't an option, a subscription to Consumer Lab is your next best bet," says Puello. " reviews the research on supplements and indicates what health claims are backed up by research and which are not. They also test a variety of supplement brands to determine if they provide what they say they do, and in some categories, also test for the presence of contaminants such as heavy metals. Using this resource improves the likelihood of selecting something safe and effective until you can collaborate with a dietitian to ensure you're on the right track."

Sometimes, reviews need to be taken with a grain of salt. They're not the gold standard. The best way to determine if a product works is to try it for yourself. "We all love to read consumer reviews for products, but when it comes to supplements, what works for one person may not work for another," adds Puello. "The placebo effect is also very real."

Personalization and Customization

The one-size-fits-all approach to vitamin needs is easily accessible; however, you may not need all the extras in the bottle. Many vitamin brands offer ways to personalize and customize your vitamin purchase.

Consider a vitamin brand that offers personalized packs where you decide what is included. They're then packaged in individual daily pouches for easy use and transport. Some brands will quiz you to help determine your needs, while other options are a la carte. Many customized vitamin brands also include a subscription service so you never run out.

Price and Value

Budget is a major component when making purchases. If a product is not within your budget, it won't work for you. Luckily, there are plenty of vitamin brands offering valuable products at all price points.

When considering a brand, look at the cost per unit and the value provided compared to the price. Pay attention to the suggested serving size. For example, some vitamins suggest taking four pills per day, while others suggest one pill per day. If both bottles contain 100 pills, you'll be out of the former far sooner than the latter. Over time, this is a higher price point.

Cost-effectiveness is equally important. If a product does not help you, the money is not well spent. If the vitamins you're taking prevent you from a trip (or more) to the doctor or emergency room, it's cost-effective.

If you choose a higher-ticket item, it's important to factor that into your analysis of whether it saved you money in the long run. If you've spent a lot of money on a product and you still end up with poor health outcomes, it was not cost-effective, and the value is not there.

Bottom Line

Choosing a reputable vitamin brand that provides the nutrients you need can help you fill in the gaps your daily diet may be missing. But it's easy to get lost in the sea of vitamin brands. Narrowing down your choices by creating a checklist of importance can prevent you from swimming in circles.

Start by writing down your health goals and nutritional needs, your budget, and whether you prefer a customized option. From there, begin your research by evaluating ingredient effectiveness, looking at products with GMP seals, and reading customer reviews. Once you've got a few you're strongly considering, talk with a registered dietitian or another healthcare provider to ensure the product will work well for you.

Read the original article on Verywell Fitness.