Buyer Beware: Understanding Supplement Panel Labeling
As a consumer, it is important to differentiate and dose accordingly when utilizing supplemental magnesium. Because manufacturers choose to bind magnesium with different stabilizers (which is fine to do), different magnesiums will have different molecular weights as well as different absorption rates, which is useful to know when reading a supplement label. Here are some quick guides to help you navigate the supplement panel and decide which supplement is right for you:
- % Daily Value: The Supplement Facts panel on a dietary supplement label declares the amount of elemental magnesium in the product, not the weight of the entire magnesium-containing compound.(1) When you look at a supplement label make sure to take into account the elemental magnesium amount which is then translated into the percentage of your daily RDA in the “Amount Per Serving” section of the table.
- Serving Size: Not all servings are created equal and can lead to under - or over-supplementation if misinterpreted. Depending on the supplement, 1, 2, 3, or sometimes 4 capsules are needed to fulfill the listed elemental magnesium dosage. If the product is powdered, the amount may be listed in terms of scoop size or in teaspoonfuls.
- Purity: After taking into account serving sizes, continue reading below the table in the “Other Ingredients” section to see if any other additives or fillers are present. These ingredients are often in the form of ‘excipients,’ or inactive synthetic or semi-synthetic agents, that do not contribute any form of nutritional value or benefit. Excipients that are typically utilized in manufacturing include fillers, flow agents, binders, preservatives, as well as artificial colors, fragrances, and flavors.
- Absorption: Absorption rates depend on the molecule that the magnesium is bound with, as mentioned earlier. The body tends to absorb, utilize, and recognize organic and natural compounds over synthetic compounds. Organic substances are those that are found in nature, those that are not man-made. Many products claim to be all natural substances, but in fact are hiding some synthetic components of their products.
After assessing all of this information, the next step in leveling the playing field, in terms of which magnesium is right for you, is to assess cost. This is where your discovered information about serving size (and by extension how many servings are available per bottle) and elemental magnesium dosage can start to reflect real savings or expense when evaluating competing brands. By making sure to be an informed consumer you can avoid spending needless dollars or falling prey to misleading marketing.
(1) NIH Magnesium Fact Sheet for Professionals, 2019: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/