You’ve probably seen product information statements on supplements sold online or in stores. Sometimes the terms used in those descriptions, or on the labels, can be unclear or downright confusing! Here’s a glossary of commonly used terms and their significance.
Bioavailability – The rate at which our body absorbs a nutrient. If the bioavailability is too low, the nutrient might be expelled from our bodies before we can get its benefit.
Clinically proven – The product/ingredient has tested in a clinical study to see how it works in people, and the results support the health claim(s). To evaluate a “clinically proven” claim, look for multiple double-blind, placebo-controlled studies using that specific brand, that were conducted by university-level experts in that research field. Be sure that the product includes the same efficacious serving sizes used in the clinical studies.
Human clinical research – Research done using people as subjects. Participants are generally within a subject group that researchers believe are likely to benefit from the ingredient or product being tested.
In-vitro research – Research conducted on organs, tissues or cells outside of the living body.
In-vivo research – Research conducted on organs, tissues or cells within the living body.
Pre-clinical research – A stage of research that begins before clinical trials (testing in humans) can begin, and during which important data is collected.
Efficacy – A measure of how effective an ingredient or supplement is at delivering its benefit.
Food grade – Meets standards set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for human consumption.
GRAS-approved – “Generally recognized as safe” means the U.S. Food and Drug Administration agrees with the opinion from an independent panel of experts, which has reviewed science and safety data and determined that an ingredient or product is safe. The FDA issues “no objection” letters when it reviews a voluntarily submitted self-affirmed GRAS dossier and has no objections to the finding of the GRAS panel of experts.
Kosher – Foods or food products that have been processed in accordance with Jewish Dietary laws. In addition to religious and ethnic considerations, a Kosher certification may also be perceived to indicate higher quality.
GMO – Genetically modified organisms. Some nutritional supplements are GMO-free or will specify they are non-GMO. This means that no alteration was made to DNA of the food product used in an ingredient or supplement. Some groups are concerned that there is too little known about the long-term health impact of eating genetically modified foods.
Immune boosters – Also known as immunostimulators, these are substances such as herbs, vitamins and minerals that can stimulate the immune system to grow and multiply the number of infection-fighting cells in the body.
Naturally derived – A product that contains ingredients derived from nature with minimal processing.
Naturally occurring – An ingredient that is delivered in its natural form.
Other Important Terms
Nutraceutical – A combination of the words “nutrition” and “pharmaceutical,” it refers to any substance that is a food or part of a food and provides medical or health benefits.
Non-allergenic – Will not cause an allergic reaction.
Pharmaceutical grade – A term commonly used to indicate that the ingredients used in a supplement meet the highest standards for purity and concentration. The product must be at least 99 percent pure, without additives or unnecessary substances.
Monograph – Official standards that specify the kinds and amounts of ingredients that a drug or substance may contain, the directions for its use, the conditions in which it may be used, and any reasons to withhold its use. Monographs are published by the United States Pharmacopeia (see below).
United States Pharmacopeia (USP) – The USP is a nonprofit, scientific organization that sets standards for the identity, strength, quality and purity of medicines, food ingredients and dietary supplements manufactured, distributed and consumed worldwide. More than 130 countries rely on USP standards.