Liquid Supplements Not Superior to Pills

Dear Dr. Blonz: In a discussion a friend and I were having about taking a dietary supplement such as Centrum, my friend declared that taking pills was useless, and that a truly beneficial dietary supplement has to be in liquid form. Her argument seemed to be that pills pass out of the body pretty much as they went in. As for powerful digestive juices, well, if they were really so powerful, they would destroy the benefits of pills even as they dissolved them. Is there any support for my friend's position?


San Diego

Dear A.H.: It is simply not true that supplements have to be in liquid form to be beneficial. Supplements in pill form are supposed to dissolve, but as there can be great variance in price, so too is there variability in quality. Standards for strength, quality, purity, packaging and how well a supplement dissolves are set by the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), an independent, nonprofit body of medicine, pharmacy and manufacturing experts. According to USP, a pill should dissolve within 30 minutes if it is uncoated and 45 minutes if it is coated.

USP standards for supplements became official in 1993, and a number of manufacturers display a USP on the label adjacent to the product's brand name. This insignia indicates that the product has met or exceeded formulation and dissolution standards. If you have an option, I would encourage you to buy products with the USP label. Another alternative might be to contact the supplement company directly and ask for dissolution information. Information about the USP can be found online at


Dear Dr. Blonz: I read your column every week and learn a great deal from it about nutritional information. My current physical report shows that I am slightly anemic. I would like to know what foods I can eat that are high in iron but won't raise my cholesterol. Your answer will be greatly appreciated.


Dear N.L.: There are plenty of options for iron. Foods that come to mind include dark-green leafy vegetables, legumes, tofu, baked potato (with skin), raisins, prunes, sunflower seeds and iron-fortified cereals.


Ed Blonz is the author of the "Your Personal Nutritionist" book series (Signet, 1996). Send questions to: "On Nutrition," Ed Blonz, c/o Newspaper Enterprise Assn., 200 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016 or e-mail to: Personal replies cannot be provided.

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