Why You Shouldn’t Buy Supplements Online
With so many people experiencing mineral and nutritional deficiencies, feeling tired and stressed out, the supplement industry has quickly turned into a multi-billion dollar machine. Studies show that 50% of Americans take multivitamins and one in five U.S. adults takes an herbal supplement.
But how do you know what supplements to take and what brands to trust?
Are you really getting what it says on the bottle and the amount of the vitamin or nutrient specified?
Are you sure the retailer of the product is licensed by the manufacturer and the product is authentic and not a counterfeit?
If you haven’t heard, investigations into the vitamins and nutritional supplements being sold at a number of retailers including large, national chains like Walmart, Target, Walgreens, and GNC — as well as online retailers including Amazon and eBay — are not what the labels claim.
This isn’t the first investigation of it’s kind, and rather the curtains on supplement industry have been peeled back many times now. What’s on the other side can be not only concerning, but downright frightening.
Not only are many of the supplements that you might encounter on store shelves utterly worthless or fake, but some of them are even harmful. Dangerous imports from overseas have been found to be contaminated with heavy metals, which can lead to significant and adverse problems.
The unfortunate truth about most of the supplements you may find online, or on grocery and drugstore shelves is that they are not required to go through the same FDA testing for safety and effectiveness as prescription drugs. In fact, the FDA only tests 1% of the 65,000 dietary supplements that are on the market.
As a consumer you need to protect yourself, and know what to look for before buying vitamins, herbs and other nutritional supplements.
Many of these products are loaded with fillers and synthetic ingredients, with little to no active ingredients, allowing the supplement companies to reduce their costs and increase their profits. Many manufacturers are also cutting costs by putting in the inactive parts of specific herbs and botanicals, which don’t offer the same healing effects as the herb itself. So a supplement may say that it contains Saw Palmetto, but it doesn’t contain the part of the plant that actually has healing benefits, or worse yet Gingko biloba but it contains a mixed of fillers including black walnut, a potentially deadly hazard for people with nut allergies
In some cases, these fillers were the only plant detected in the bottle — a health concern for people with any number of allergies or sensitivities who in most case should be taking Hypoallergenic Nutritional Supplements — aka Free-From Supplements.
Another key issue with buying supplements online or off grocery store shelves is that most larger companies don’t have strict shipping and handling regulations, so before they even get to the store, they may have been been sitting in a warehouse for months before then being transported to the store or your door and through this process being exposed to heat, which can affect their quality.
Furthermore, many supplement companies have replaced their expiration dates with manufacturing dates, so there is no way for consumers to tell if the supplement they are taking is still good.
One of the easiest ways to make a dishonest buck in the health and supplement world is to create a pill that mirrors a name-brand pharmaceutical drug or health supplement. Create lookalike packaging sell your counterfeit product on the Internet for a “discounted” price.
Sadly, fake vitamins and “health” capsules have made their way into the general consumer market and counterfeit dietary supplements and incredibly prevalent.
These dangerous products masquerade as the real thing everywhere from the shelves of your local grocery store, to name-brand department stores – and they certainly are available on the Internet.
Here’s the bottom line: If an above-board supplement or pharmaceutical drug is popular, you can bet someone, primarily in China or India, is counterfeiting it.
Here is a recent article by a major news network regarding Amazon selling counterfeit items and destroying businesses who created the product!
an investigation by Natural News collaborates this and confirms that Amazon.com is functioning as a “retail front” for a rapidly-expanding list of dietary supplement counterfeiters who profit by exploiting the Amazon.com trust factor to sell fake products to unsuspecting Amazon customers.
and an article by the New York Times on an investigation of herbal supplements which found that many pills labeled as healing herbs are little more than powdered rice and weeds
Fake products rarely contain the active ingredient(s) or nutrients referenced, and even those that do never have the correct amount of the active ingredient they are supposed to contain.
Criminals are not moral, but they are often smart. They not only counterfeit health supplements, but also all of the paperwork that goes along with them. They have numerous distribution shell companies set up all over the world, so it is almost impossible to figure out the paperwork trail and the actual origins of these dangerous pills.
The real-world result is that there are virtually no legal consequences to selling fake pills, capsules or vitamins, and the criminals know it.
How prevalent are fake supplements? The IACC (International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition) estimates that brand-holders (the legitimate companies behind name-brand, non-counterfeit products) lose approximately $600 billion of revenue annually because of counterfeiting.
Michael Danel, the secretary general of the World Customs Organization, has said that if terrorism did not exist, counterfeiting would be the most significant criminal act of the early twenty-first century.
There are three main ways that supplements end up on the market at unbelievably low prices:
- They are counterfeit and probably dangerous.
- They are useless expired products that have been repackaged as new.
- They are stolen products released on the black market without any quality control.
The fact is, it costs money to make quality dietary supplements such as vitamins, protein powders, fish oil capsules, energy bars, herbal blends, or sports nutrition products. “Bargain” vitamins and capsules are worthless at best, and at worst may cost them and their children their health, and possibly their lives.
If you read our recent post on the Best Supplement Brands, you may have noticed, most of the top supplement brands aren’t easily found in local stores, are tightly regulated and only available for purchase through doctors and online through the manufacturer or a small number of licensed retailers. These companies devote a tremendous amount of time and money into the development of compounds for specific health concerns and in an effort to protect consumers and their brand, they restrict their distribution channels to reduce the risk of the issues referenced above. What this means is that while perfectly legal to purchase without a prescription, you won’t find these supplement brands at your local retailers or health food stores and if you find them online you’ll want to check with the manufacturer to confirm that the retailer is licensed.
Avoiding the Scams
- If you find a price that is significantly lower than the manufacturer’s price, or what others are charging the product is likely counterfeit or expired. Retailer margins on high-quality supplements are very low, and thus they don’t have much ability to discount these products.
- Never buy from multi-level marketing companies. If a product is good, why would you need everyone in your family and neighborhood to sell it in order to buy it? It makes no sense. In my many years of experience, I have yet to find a good MLM company product.
- NEVER buy supplements off of Amazon or Ebay. You really do not know what you’re getting.
- Stay away from supplements that are owned by big pharmaceutical or personal care companies. Sometimes a small company puts out a great product, then they’re bought by big business and the formulas often change.
What You Can Do to Find Safe Supplements
With all this going on, what are health-conscious people to do?
After all, we all know that ideally it’s best to get our nutrients from food, however, today’s Standard American Diet is void of a multitude vitamins and minerals our bodies need. And even if you are eating a healthy diet rich in vegetables the soils these crops are grown in are nutrient depleted making getting sufficient quantities from food virtually impossible. Supplements, as the name implies allow us to enhance our nutrient intake supplementing for the inadequacies of our modern food crop. Vitamin D to boast / balance immune function, a Vitamin B Complex and/or PQQ to increase energy production enhance mitochondrial function, Glutathione to improve detoxification, St. John’s wort to even out mood swings, or Ginkgo Biloba to boost circulation and cognitive performance.
Take the following seven steps will help you increase your odds of actually getting what you’re paying for.
- USP Verified: Look for this label on your product. It indicates that the product has been independently tested and found to contain the ingredients listed in the declared potency; that it does not contain harmful levels of certain contaminants like lead, mercury, pesticides, bacteria, and molds; that it will break down within a specified amount of time in the body; and that it has been made according to FDA good manufacturing practices. Find more information here.
- Location of Manufacturer: Check the label to see where the supplement comes from. Though tests on U.S. products have shown defects, those coming from other countries, including China, Mexico, and India, have been found to contain toxic ingredients and prescription drugs. Best bet: choose supplements manufactured in California, as the state has more stringent safety standards compared to other states, particularly concerning contaminants in supplements.
- Check for Tainted Supplements: The FDA keeps an updated list of tainted supplements you can check here.
- Check with ConsumerLab: ConsumerLab regularly provides independent testing of dietary supplements. When you become a member, you receive updates on test results.
- Look for the NSF Label: NSF International is an independent, not-for-profit organization that provides third-party certification for dietary supplements. Find more at nsf.org.
- Choose Reputable Companies: Some companies have a good reputation for providing quality vitamins, minerals, herbal and nutritional supplements, Like Pure Encapsulations or any of those included in our post on the Best Supplement Brands.
Ask Questions: You can contact the manufacturer and ask key questions that should give you some idea of how they produce their products. Can they provide lot-specific certificates of analysis for every ingredient they use? Are raw materials purchased from distributors or directly from the farms that grow them? Are the products submitted to a qualified laboratory for independent quality testing?
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