Are your vitamins actually vitamins? Meet the doctors prioritizing quality in an unregulated industry

  • The vitamin and supplement industry is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This lack of oversight means consumers can’t be sure whether a vitamin product contains contaminants or other ingredients not listed on the bottle.
  • Even if the product contains what it says it does, you might not need that particular vitamin. Taking too much of certain vitamins can lead to health problems.
  • Vous Vitamin analyzes clients’ individual needs using a short self-assessed online quiz. You receive a supply of a daily all-in-one vitamin selected for your personal needs, with the option of starting a subscription.

This episode is sponsored by Home Chef. Weekly recipe rotations for all skill levels means there’s always something delicious to cook. Click here for $100 off with code TECHNORI100

Step away from the vitamin A! Those vitamins and supplements you take could actually be doing more harm than good.

Spoiler alert: They might not even be vitamins. Products sold as vitamins and supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The manufacturers and sellers are responsible for ensuring that what they’re offering is safe and effective. 

“Not only are people making claims that are not true, they’re including ingredients that are not even listed on the bottle,” warns Dr. Arielle Levitan, co-founder of Vous Vitamin.

Here’s another surprising fact: even if you’re taking real vitamins, you might not need them. “We have different lifestyles, different diets, different everything and so we should not all be taking the same thing,” Dr. Levitan explains. 

If you’re now wondering what the bleep you should be taking or not, Dr. Levitan and Vous Vitamin co-founder Dr. Romy Block get it. They founded Vous Vitamin to help people buy safe, high quality vitamins in levels they actually need.

They source good quality raw materials and hold their manufacturing processes to high standards, so you know what you’re taking is safe. A customer takes a short, self-assessed online quiz to determine which of their premade vitamin products you could benefit from taking. 

Dr. Levitan and Dr. Block joined the podcast to air the dirty secrets of the vitamin and supplement industry and explain why taking too much of a good thing can be bad and how they’re doing it differently.

Interview Highlights — Dr. Arielle Levitan and Dr. Romy Block from Vous Vitamin

You’re not the only one baffled by vitamins

Dr. Block: As friends, we would discuss what was happening in our practices and the same thing kept coming up: people were confused about vitamins. We started to see that people were getting hurt by the vitamins and supplements they were taking. It’s a highly unregulated industry. We started seeing patients being admitted to the hospital for vitamin and supplement overdoses.

We thought it would be bodybuilders with protein shakes and drinks and things they were getting from the gym. But it was people who were just trying to be a little healthier, to have a little more energy — trying to do the right thing.

We started seeing that there was this huge issue out there with safety. That’s one of the things that prompted us to develop Vous Vitamin. The second part we do very well is really look at the evidence behind every vitamin and every supplement to say, why do you need this? Does it even have to be in that vitamin?

Dr. Levitan: Safety in the supplement industry is a huge issue. As physicians, that was very much on our minds because we realized that this industry is not regulated. There is nobody overseeing the manufacturing of these products. 

Not only are people making claims that are not true, they’re including ingredients that are not even listed on the bottle. It’s very scary when you can pull something off the shelf at Walgreens and find that it does not contain what it says it contains —  and what it does contain could be very harmful.

We were not comfortable recommending products to our patients when we couldn’t stand behind the quality, the safety, the purity. So when we started to make our own products, we took extreme measures. 

We are registered with the FDA and we have high levels of safety standards. All our ingredients are tested. That stemmed from people not realizing that the products can be unsafe — but they also don’t realize that even taking a good product in the wrong amounts can be unsafe.

Dr. Block: There are so many extra supplements in a standard multivitamin that are not necessary or could be harmful. So we pulled back on some of the standard supplements. 

For example, we’re not vitamin A-deficient in this country, and too much vitamin A is associated with osteoporosis or even cancer. So we’ve taken it out of our vitamins. There are a couple of other supplements that are ubiquitous in multivitamins, like chromium and aluminum. These metals may be associated with dementia. 

We’ve taken out a lot of ingredients you find in a standard multivitamin and added others in different personalized levels so that we can meet people’s unique needs.

This time it’s personal (thankfully)

Dr. Levitan: There are a lot of personalized solutions out there that are way too complicated and probably not actually that good for you. There are a lot of situations where people are giving you handfuls of vitamins because they make money on every vitamin they sell you. You’re going to get 20 different pills recommended to you because why not?

People are talking to their friends or whoever about vitamins, so they don’t really know the science behind it. They’re also making assumptions that what works for one person would work for another. That’s why we feel so passionately about personalization. 

You probably don’t need the same vitamins that I do. We have different lifestyles, different diets, different everything and so we should not all be taking the same thing. We should all be taking safe things, that’s for sure: but they’re probably different things. That’s what led us down this path of custom all-in-one daily vitamins.

What the doctors ordered, right to your door

Dr. Levitan: We’ve tried to simplify the process of getting the right vitamins. After years of seeing patients we realized people truly don’t know what they should be taking. We decided that as physicians we could create a system where we could tell you what you should be taking and give it to you in a daily pill.

Our customers take a simple seven or eight-minute survey. It’s fairly in depth about your diet, lifestyle and health habits and any symptoms or medical conditions you may have. It even gets into some medications you may be taking and things that can interact with certain vitamins.

At the end of that process, you’re served a formulation of a daily vitamin. It’s two pills a day but they’re nice, small, easy-to-swallow pills that you can take to meet all your vitamin needs. You can feel safe and confident that these are doctor-created products that are tailored to your individual needs. You get a subscription: it’s just like any other online direct-to-consumer product.

When there’s no sheriff in town, you set your own high standards

Dr. Levitan: We have a manufacturer that we have created the products with, a group of biochemists. They’re our unique products, nobody else makes them. They’re sourced with incredibly high quality raw ingredients in a pharmaceutical-grade environment where they’re checked for purity and contaminants.

Dr. Block: We are very proud that not only are we self-registered with the FDA, we have something called GMP certification, which is Good Manufacturing Practices. An outside organization comes to the manufacturer and checks that what’s in the bottle is on the label and vice versa. Everything is pure and up to really high standards.

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This episode is sponsored by Home Chef. Weekly recipe rotations for all skill levels means there’s always something delicious to cook. Click here for $100 off with code TECHNORI100