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The dietary supplement market is huge. We’re talking over 50,000 products with 55% of Americans using them regularly. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve supplements like they do medicine. This means some supplements that may have lower-quality ingredients. And they're often not backed by clinical evidence.

This can make you ask: do any supplements work? How can you find the most trusted supplements that are truly effective?

Why is it so hard to find vitamins and supplements that work?

The supplement industry has grown a lot over the years. With this growth comes the question: "Do supplements work?"

Research in 2024 continues to support the benefits of certain supplements. They can help fill nutritional gaps and enhance overall health. But it's important to note that not all supplements are created equal. How well a supplement works depends on what's in it, how good it is, and what a person needs. So, it's not a one-size-fits-all situation.

Regulation and Approval

Contrary to what most people believe, there are no FDA-approved supplements. The FDA has an aftermarket policy. This means they get involved only after a supplement is on the market and issues arise.

Plus, there are thousands of dietary supplement companies (and more launching every year). The industry is just too large to govern effectively. This lack of regulation leads to questions like, "Are supplements fake?" or "Do vitamins work as claimed?"

Key Ingredients

It’s hard to believe, but supplements might not contain exactly what you think they do. A peer-reviewed study from the functional mushroom space, found that 74% of reishi mushroom supplements did not contain reishi mushrooms.*

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You want a supplement for a specific benefit. But sometimes, the product may not have the right ingredient or enough of it to actually work. This is a big deal, especially with functional mushrooms. Some brands sell mushrooms in a form that doesn't really do much, like mycelium on oats. So, it's crucial to check if you're getting what you're paying for.


Most people are not aware of what an “effective dose” is. First off, the effective dose is different for each supplement. And it can also be very individual. Each body is different and needs different doses to feel the effects.

As a starting point, you can look at research-determined effective doses. Compare that against supplements on the market to see if they offer an effective dose. Many supplements do not have enough of the active ingredient to hit an effective dose.

For example, functional mushrooms have an effective dose of 500 mg. Most studies use 500 mg of extracted mushrooms as a benchmark for research.

Even if you know the effective dose, dietary supplements can hide behind proprietary blends. (AKA a black box secret mix of ingredients.) Manufacturers have to list all the ingredients in their blend in order of amount from most to least. But be cautious! Long proprietary blend ingredient lists usually mean none have an effective dose.

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A supplement might have the real ingredient at an effective dose. And yet, it still does nothing for you! It also needs to be in a form your body can break down and use (aka bioavailable). Even more confusing, each supplement is different. You may need to take it with or without food.

With functional mushrooms, you need to make sure the supplements are extracted. (Key word here: extracted!) You will see lots of companies putting 1,000-2,000 mg of “mushrooms” in their products. But if it is not extracted it will not be effective. Check to make sure “extract” is on the label.

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Extraction breaks down a compound found within the mushroom cell wall called chitin. Chitin is the same compound found in crustacean shells like lobster, crab, and shrimp. Our bodies don’t contain the enzymes to break down chitin. So we need to extract the mushroom to break open that hard cell wall. This releases the beneficial nutrients into a form our bodies can use.

So, if a functional mushroom supplement isn't extracted, your body can’t access any of the benefits. Check for mushroom “extract” when buying functional mushroom supplements. Functional mushroom supplements that are “double extracted” contain even more beneficial nutrients.

Fillers & Quality Control

Occasionally you hear stories of athletes getting caught using illegal substances. And it turns out that it traces back to a “tainted” supplement they were taking. Because there’s a lack of regulation, some dietary supplements could contain illegal substances. Some companies cut costs by stuffing their products with filler ingredients. There can also be purity issues like contamination with heavy metals or other toxins. Many brands don't check for these issues because the rules aren't very strict.

There are only a few supplements that are certified organic. Even fewer test for things like toxins, molds, yeasts, irradiation, and heavy metals. We think that the purity of your supplements is just as (or maybe even more) important as the purity of the foods you eat. Being certified organic, 3rd party tested, and free of filler ingredients is really important.

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5 Tips to Find Vitamins and Supplements That Work

Here are a couple of tips to make sure you are getting the real (and safe) stuff.

  1. Opt for Certified Organic: This isn’t a foolproof method. But certified organic supplements are typically better quality. If they’re organic, it means that the company had to do research into their suppliers. They likely care more about quality than non-organic supplements.

  2. Buy From Brands With a Face: There's more accountability if someone stakes their personal reputation on their products. Bonus: they should take the supplements themselves. If they don't trust it, neither should you.

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3. Macro Dosing: If your supplements are legit, you should feel the effects at high doses. Please consult your doctor to determine the effective dose.

4. Taste Test: Effective supplements generally have a strong, intense taste. Bite into a tablet or open up a capsule and pour out the contents to taste the actual ingredients inside. If it's a medicinal supplement, it should have a strong, pungent taste. These are typically bitter and earthy. If it's bland or tastes a lot like rice powder (aka fillers), then it is likely not very potent or effective.

5. Shop Trusted Brands: Skip the long list and shop with brands that check the quality for you.

When dealing with supplements, it's crucial to be cautious and make informed decisions. While supplements can be helpful, it's important not to rely on them for a healthy lifestyle. Instead, use them as an addition to an already healthy lifestyle.

At Four Sigmatic, every product has an effective dose, bioavailable formats, and high standards.

  • All our products are USDA-certified organic

  • Every batch is 3rd party tested for mold, mycotoxins, and heavy metals

  • Herbalist formulated with at least 500mg of mushrooms and adaptogens per serving

  • All our functional mushrooms are dual-extracted (aka bioavailable)

  • Absolutely no fillers! Our products are free of mycelium or filler grains

Another bonus, we have supplements in all types of formats too. Prefer capsules? Try our Focus Mushroom ComplexCalm Mushroom Complex, or Memory Mushroom Complex. You can also supplement your diet with your daily coffee or shake. Drink your Four Sigmatic functional mushrooms in coffees, creamers, protein powders, and so much more.

You can find Four Sigmatic products at FourSigmatic.com as well as in-store at retailers like Sprouts, Whole Foods and other natural retailers.

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Tero Isokauppila is the founder of Four Sigmatic. Tero’s roots (or mycelium, if you will) are in Finland, where he grew up growing and foraging natural foods on his 13th generation family's farm. He later earned a degree in Chemistry, Business, and a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition at Cornell University. An expert in all things related to nutrition, health, and wellness. Tero is the author of two best-selling books: Healing Mushrooms and Healing Adaptogens.

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