What’s in your supplements? And are you telling the person who needs to know the most?

Biotin, melatonin, collagen and evening primrose are among the current supplements trending on social media.

“The collagen is super popular,” said cosmetologist Briana King. “Everybody always wants to try the collagen, especially for your skin.”

Doctors advise you to share information about what you’re taking when it comes to adding vitamins and supplements to your routine.

Terri Simon, a mom of two, said she just visited her doctor recently and was caught off guard. “I just went to the doctor last week, and he asked me that question if I’m taking any supplements? And I did tell him, no, I am not,” she said. “I had one thing on my mind that I wanted that to be solved, and I wasn’t thinking about supplements.”

Before you grab a bottle off the shelf, you should do thorough research, according to University of Pittsburgh Assistant Professor of Medicine and Clinical & Translational Research, Dr. Holly Thomas.

“You do have to be cautious as a consumer because these products are not as tightly controlled as FDA-approved pharmaceutical drugs,” said Dr. Thomas. “The quality control may not be as strong. Often we don’t have the same sort of detailed information about these supplements that we do about pharmaceutical drugs because pharmaceutical drugs have to go through a process to prove to the FDA that; they do what they say they do. They actually work, and they’re actually safe, and the side effects are tolerable. Often pharmaceutical drugs also have to show that they don’t interact with other medications, which supplements don’t always have to do.”

Dr. Thomas found two concerning studies about collagen and melatonin while preparing for our interview. A 2017 study from the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine showed 75% of melatonin supplements didn’t have the amount claimed on the bottle.

You can find that study HERE. ]

Another study, completed in 2020 by the non-profit “The Clean Label Project,” looked at heavy metals found in Amazon’s Best Sellers List of collagen products.

“This other study I found that really got my attention was they took several common collagen supplements, and they found that about a third of them were contaminated with lead,” said Dr. Thomas.

She suggests people concerned about what’s in the product they are taking check out certified USP products.

“There is a group called the USP or the United States Pharmacopoeia that does work to certify certain supplements,” said Thomas. “So they will actually do the testing to ensure that what it says on the bottle is actually what’s in there. Some supplements will come with a USP seal of approval, but only about a small fraction, like 1% of supplements have actually gained that USP approval.”

All supplement products come with a warning on their bottles stating they are not FDA approved like other drugs. Dr. Thomas says they can cause interactions with medicines.

“One thing to keep in mind about biotin, in particular, is that it can interfere with some types of blood tests, particularly thyroid testing,” said Thomas. “St. John’s wort, which some people take for depression and anxiety symptoms or stress. That one we actually know can interact with birth control, so it just reminds us how important it is to let your doctor know about any and all medications and supplements that you’re taking.”

No matter what you take, doctors advise that you make sure you’re taking the recommended dosage and share the information with your physician.