What’s the Difference Between Pharmaceutical Grade and Store Grade Vit Skip to content
What’s the Difference Between Pharmaceutical Grade and Store  Grade Vitamins?

What’s the Difference Between Pharmaceutical Grade and Store Grade Vitamins?

It might not make any difference to you, but it should. Vitamins, contrary to popular belief, aren’t the same everywhere. In fact, some vitamins are more healthful than others, even those purporting to have the same ingredients. Were you aware of the different grades of vitamins, and that pharmaceutical grade supplements are the gold standard? There is a huge difference between pharmaceutical grade and store grade supplements, which are, at the very least, formulated to standards fit for human consumption.

We’d like to share some of the main differences between store grade and pharmaceutical grade supplements, and, after reading the differences, we challenge you to decide which one you’d prefer for your health. First, though, what are the different grades of supplements?

The Differences Between Feed Grade, Store Grade, and Pharmaceutical Grade

Feed Grade:

Ingredients are suitable enough to feed to animals. While this isn’t the topic of debate for this blog post, questions have arisen as to what types of ingredients exactly are suitable for animals to eat, and are they, in fact, always suitable? Feed grade is the lowest grade.

Food Grade (Store Grade):

Ingredients are suitable enough for people to eat. Many over-the-counter supplements are food grade, and ingredients don’t have as rigorous a screening process as ingredients that are pharmaceutical grade.

Pharmaceutical Grade:

Ingredients are the highest quality and meet pharmaceutical standards.

So, now that you see that all supplements are not, in fact, developed to the same standards, does this change your opinion about supplements and whether supplements that you plan on buying are the best quality that they can be?

For this post, we’re going to focus on the differences between food grade and pharmaceutical grade. They are vast.

What Is Bioavailability, and Why Is It Important?

Bioavailability is the extent to which a drug absorbs in the body. When drugs are administered intravenously, or through your veins, the bioavailability is 100%. However, if a supplement is taken orally, for example, the bioavailability decreases because other factors contribute to the drug’s incomplete absorption. After being metabolized by the liver, a fraction of the amount of the drug might only reach the rest of the body.

So, when deciding to invest in a dietary supplement, consumers should think about how bioavailable a supplement is. How well will it absorb in your body? Is there a way to make sure that when you get a supplement, it will have a bioavailability that allows you to get the benefits of the supplement? Yes and no, depending on which dietary supplement you choose.

Pharmaceutical grade supplements have guidelines for bioavailability as set by the United States Pharmacopeia, while store grade supplements, on the other hand, aren’t required to follow these rules. Now that you know one difference between store grade and pharmaceutical grade supplements, we at camformulas.com would like to share a few more things that differentiate the two levels of dietary supplements.

What Are Some Key Features of Store Grade Supplements?

Hearkening back to the aforementioned difference, store grade supplements won’t necessarily break down in your body.

There isn’t a requirement for bioavailability—it may or may not dissolve in your body. So, a food grade Vitamin A supplement could just pass right through without ever providing you with the dose of Vitamin A that you needed. There is a possibility that if the supplement doesn’t dissolve, the detriment will be twofold—1) on your wallet and 2) on your body.

Store grade supplements have more fillers.

While pharmaceutical grade supplements have to include at least 99% of the active ingredients, store grade supplements aren’t required to by the FDA. What this means is that there is room for plenty of fillers that take up space and might save a company more money than say, using more of a high quality and more expensive nutrient. Fillers include cork byproducts, chemical dyes, propylene glycol, dextrose, and sodium benzoate. While many fillers are harmless, others can become toxic with prolonged use. It reminds us of how a cure can sometimes also make a person sick, except, in this case, there’s no guarantee that the supplement will be absorbed by your body (See #1.)

The exact ingredients listed on the label don’t have to necessarily match the contents of the supplement.

This can be problematic if you want a particular vitamin and aren’t completely sure of everything that’s included in the capsule, for example.

Now let’s take a look at the gold standard for vitamins, which does cost more.

However, because of the potency of the supplement and stringent guidelines used during the manufacturing process, you will be sure to get a high quality product. You’re not only investing in a product, you’re investing in consistency and accuracy as well.

What Are Some of the Key Features of Pharmaceutical Grade Supplements?

Pharmaceutical grade vitamins must absorb in your body within 45 minutes.

This standard surpasses standards set for store grade vitamins on two counts. First, the supplement must be bioavailable—it is standard a requirement that your body absorbs the nutrients. Second, there is a time limit, meaning if it doesn’t absorb within 45 minutes, it doesn’t make the cut.

Ingredients that are listed on the label must match products in the bottle or container.

If a bottle says that it contains beta carotene as an active ingredient, the supplement will contain beta carotene. Therefore, you will know exactly what’s going into your body.

Raw ingredients have to be tested before production.

Testing helps to ensure that toxins and contaminants are removed from the supplement. Supplements are tested for bacteria, metal, and any other contaminants that can render it unsafe or impure.

The supplement must be “in excess of” 99% of the ingredients listed on the container and can’t have fillers, dyes, binders, or any unknown substances.

What Is the United States Pharmacopeia (USP)?

First, a pharmacopeia is a collection of drug information. The United States Pharmacopeia has the goal of promoting health through regulated guidelines. The USP regulates the “the identity, strength, quality, and purity of medicines, food ingredients, and dietary supplements manufactured, distributed and consumed worldwide.”These standards help to regulate the supplements for quality and potency. Both human drugs and animal drugs must conform to specifications set by the USP.

USP provides verification through testing of dietary supplements and ingredients. If a product meets tested requirements, they are able to display the “USP Verified Dietary Supplement Mark” on a label. If a brand, however, simply lists USP on its label, it is not an official verification and only means that the brand claims to use the USP standards for its products as well. There is no guarantee, however, that this is the case since the United States Pharmacopeia doesn’t test these supplements.

Taking Good Health a Few Steps Further

Now that we’ve shared the differences between store grade versus pharmaceutical grade supplements, we’d like to add a few more ways to make sure that you’re maximizing your search effort to find the supplements that will be most beneficial to you. Luckily, the United States Pharmacopeia helps to get the highest quality pharmaceutical grade supplements on the market, but there are still a few ways to take it one step further when looking for supplements:

Look for whole food-based supplements.

These supplements will be made from concentrated whole foods and, with the chelated amino acids, phytonutrients, enzymes, antioxidants, and coenzymes of these supplements, a person will be putting vitamins into their body that closely resemble the ones found in nature. Finding dietary supplements that are whole food-based is a great way to add to the effectiveness of the supplement.

Look for supplements whose minerals are chelated.

Supplements that are chelated have the minerals firmly attached to an organic compound, such as an amino acid, to increase absorption. Therefore, minerals that are chelated lead to a supplement with a higher bioavailability.

Take other high quality supplements along with the ones you already take.

You will increase the effectiveness of supplements you already take by combining them with those that are whole-food based, have high bioavailability, and use chelated minerals.

Pharmaceutical Grade Supplements with Camformulas.com

We offer a number of brands that specialize in pharmaceutical grade supplements. Pure Encapsulations, Metagenics, Genestra, Ortho Molecular Products, and Biotics Research are just a handful.

Pure Encapsulations

As a brand, Pure Encapsulations makes supplements that are backed by science and are hypoallergenic. Pure Encapsulations supplements don’t have any coatings, artificial coloring, or fillers—so the bioavailability isn’t affected. Formulas for Pure Encapsulations supplements also don’t have wheat, nuts, gluten, or hydrogenated oils. Consider keeping your joints functioning well with Pure Encapsulations Boswellia, which may also support the health of the colon. Two capsules should be taken per day.


Metagenics also formulates their products through research and uses plant derivatives in their supplements. OmegaGenics EPA-DHA will help your body to function at optimal conditions with the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. Take two softgels up to three times daily.


Genestra makes pharmaceutical grade supplements, such as the Orti C capsules, which contain an 833% Daily Value of Vitamin C. The Orti C supplement will help to boost the immune system and support optimal muscle and skin health. Each capsule includes Vitamin C, green tea, and bioflavonoids. One capsule should be taken three times per day.

Ortho Molecular Products

Ortho Molecular Products formulates supplements with the goal of promoting efficacy and uses high quality raw ingredients in their supplements. Don’t be confused when reading the ingredients of Ortho Biotic Capsules, which might read like a magic spell. Instead, lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacteriumbifidum are forms of gut bacteria, or microflora, that your body needs to function properly. The magic is instead in this supplement’s ability to improve digestion, and the health of the colon and intestine, which is research-based.Serving size is one capsule.

Biotics Research

Biotics Research develops its nutritional supplements with an expert melding of science and nature. The Cytozyme-AD Neonatal Adrenal Tablets offer support of the adrenal glands, enhancing the functioning of the endocrine system.One to three tablets should be taken daily.

These are just a few pharmaceutical and food grade products that we offer at camformulas.com. For dietary supplements, we do encourage you to pick the highest quality possible.

Given the differences between store grade and pharmaceutical grade supplements, we hope that it’s clear that if you’re looking for the highest quality supplement without having to worry about whether what the container says is what’s in the container, then pharmaceutical grade is certainly the way to go. It takes the worry out of good health.

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