Health supplements are almost mainstream these days; it would be hard to find anyone, doctor or layman, who would question the importance of Omega 3, vitamin C, calcium and many other vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids to the healthy functioning of the human body.

By Christina Lim

Despite that many people are put off taking health supplements because they think good quality supplements are too expensive for them and that cheaper versions are of poor quality but the truth is that price alone is not the best indicator of quality or value for money.

There are a lot of factors that affect the final price of a product apart from its quality, packaging, freight, where it’s sold, the volume the manufacturer trades in, and many more. Sometimes leading brands will simply sell one of its top products at artificially low prices to either maintain market share or to break into new markets and not because the product is of inferior quality.

There are quality and affordable supplements out there and consumers just need to be discerning.

Tip #1

It pays to do a little research before you buy a supplement; whether it is visiting the many online resources or simply reading the labels in the store. The more you know about the supplement you are shopping for the more likely you are to make a good buy.

Tip #2

Always buy your supplements from reputable pharmacies not markets or non-traditional sources. Stick to reputable brands, preferably ones that are members of Health Supplements Industry Association Singapore (HSIAS) as their members are bound by a code of ethics.

Respectable manufacturers will have Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) to ensure that its every batch of products is of consistent strength and effectiveness.  Proper Quality Assurance (PQA) procedures will ensure that products are safe for consumption and that consistency and taste of product remains the same from batch to batch. However, for natural ingredients such as cordyceps, there may be slight variations in colour and smell from batch to batch.

The better manufacturers also have stability study programmes in place so the products remain safe for consumption up to the expiry date. They should also offer some kind of product warranty against factory defect, carry an adequate Product Liability Insurance (PLI) to protect the customer in the event of any unfortunate severe side effect, and comply with the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) Health Supplements Guidelines.

Tip #3

Just because one product is cheaper than another, apparently similar one, does not necessarily mean it is of inferior quality; the manufacturer may be making savings in another area that they are passing on to the consumer. For instance if one of the products comes in a simple plastic container and the other is sold in a glass bottle packaged in a fancy cardboard box then the price difference might be going into extra packaging rather than the actual product.

Tip #4

Make sure you are comparing like with like. Many vitamins and minerals come in different forms and some of those forms are more easily utilised by the human body than others.  Also some products might have added benefits such as buffering or time release which might have added to the cost but also increased its efficacy or suitability.

Tip #5

Check that the amount of the active ingredient per pill or capsule is the same when comparing products. Many consumers are unaware that there is a difference between per tablet / capsule content as opposed to per serving content. If the product description is based on per serving, consumer must look for the serving size. If the serving size is more than one, the consumer must be able to do the math to determine the real cost per day.

Tip #6

Beware of supplements promising too much; sadly there are unscrupulous manufacturers of supplements, folk remedies, and supposed TCM products who over-promise or make ridiculous claims. Consumers should be wary of exaggerated claims, if a product is claiming to cure cancer or some other serious disease it is not to be trusted; if the cure for cancer had been found it would be headline news and not being sold on a market stall or in the back of a convenience store. They should also look for signs that manufacturers are honest and reliable, clear labeling with no grandiose claims, membership of HSIAS, and provision of liability insurance are good indictors.

Remember, there are a lot of factors that affect the final price of a product, and it doesn’t necessarily have to do with quality. Happy shopping!


CEO Christina Lim is the founder and CEO of Ocean Health, one of Singapore’s leading health supplement companies. A qualified pharmacist and MBA graduate Christina has been using her professional training and experience to develop health supplements for 20 years.