Wednesday’s Ask Dr. Walt — Saving Money on Supplements

Dear Dr. Walt,

Is it better to buy supplements that are in combination formulas or buy them as single-ingredients? It seems like the combinations are less expensive.

—Frugal in Florida

Dear Thrifty,

According to Tod Cooperman, MD, the President of ConsumerLab.com, “It’s generally best to buy and use single-ingredient supplements.” He said that there are several reasons for this.

  • You are more likely to get what’s listed on the label with a single-ingredient supplement. Years of testing by ConsumerLab.com have shown that combination products are more likely to contain incorrect amounts of one or more ingredients — and they are more likely to be contaminated.
  • With a single-ingredient supplement, the recommended daily serving of that ingredient is more likely to be clinically relevant than if the ingredient is part of a combination formula, where a tiny amount may be included merely as “window dressing.”
  • Most combinations on the market have not been clinically tested. He also wisely points out that “using single-ingredient supplements gives you a better idea of which ingredients work and which do not, as well as which are causing side-effects. This allows you to adjust your supplements and dosage to better suit your needs.”
  • You may find it actually costs less to purchase ingredients as separate supplements than in a combination formula. Dr. Coopeman pointed out, “Many single-ingredient products of high quality and low cost are identified in the ConsumerLab.com’s Product Reviews.”

The only time I would recommend a combination formula is when that exact combination has been shown to work in one or more well-controlled clinical trials and it is less expensive to purchase (or much more convenient to use) than the corresponding collection of single-ingredient supplements.

Dr. Walt

© Copyright WLL, INC. 2018. This blog provides a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.
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