The Attorney General’s Office of New York recently conducted an investigation to determine if nutritional supplements sold by major retailers did indeed contain the ingredients on the label. Six different herbal supplements sold at the four major retail companies - Walmart, Target, GNC and Walgreens - were analyzed. A total of 390 tests were performed on 78 samples. Each sample was tested five times. Only 21% of the product test results verified that the plants listed were in the supplement. The majority substituted contaminants and fillers. Walmart was the worst offender, with only 4% verified ingredients.
The supplement industry in the US truly is a wild west with no sheriff and few laws. There are an estimated 65,000 dietary supplement products on the market. More than 150 million Americans regularly consume them. The FDA requires companies to manufacture supplement products that are properly labeled and safe, but unlike drugs, monitoring is not rigorous and sometimes non-existent.
-----Six “Spring Valley” brand herbal supplements per store were purchased and analyzed: Gingko Biloba, St. John’s Wort, Ginseng, Garlic, Echinacea, and Saw Palmetto.
-----None of the supplements tested consistently revealed DNA from the labeled herb. One bottle of garlic had a minimal showing of garlic DNA, as did one bottle of Saw Palmetto. All remaining bottles failed to produce DNA verifying the labeled herb.
-----Of the 90 DNA test run on 18 bottles of herbal products purchased, DNA matched label representation 4% of the time.
-----Contaminants identified included allium, pine, wheat/grass, rice mustard, citrus, dracaena (houseplant), and cassava (tropical tree root).
-----Six “Up & Up” brand herbal supplements per store were purchased and analyzed: Gingko Biloba, St. John’s Wort, Valerian Root, Garlic, Echinacea, and Saw Palmetto.
-----Three supplements showed nearly consistent presence of the labeled contents: Echinacea (with one sample identifying rice), Garlic, and Saw Palmetto. The remaining three supplements did not revealed DNA from the labeled herb.
-----Of 90 DNA tests run on 18 bottles of the herbal products purchased, DNA matched label identification 41% of the time.
-----Contaminants identified included allium, French bean, asparagus, pea, wild carrot and saw palmetto.
For Walgreens and GNC see:
And then there’s Alex Jones
Labdoor is a San Francisco–based lab that tests and grades dietary supplements. It ran comprehensive tests on six popular Infowars supplements zealously promoted by Alex Jones, who overnight suddenly became a self-styled health guru. Everything was tested three times and wherever possible, the results were cross-checked with at least two independent analytical laboratories.
The products tested were Super Male Vitality, Super Female Vitality, Anthroplex, Child Ease, Survival Shield, and Oxy-Powder. The results for the first two are below, with details on the others at the link.
Super Male Vitality, Super Female Vitality
“Both of these products claimed proprietary blends of 9+ herbal ingredients. Based on our review of clinical research, the aliquot of 1.25 mL per serving is not large enough to encompass effective levels of all 9+ ingredients. For the most studied ingredients in these products, these are some of the lowest dosages found to show effects in research:
-----Tribulus terrestris - Tribulus terrestris seems to increase libido in rats, and in one lone human study, improve erectile function, but this is at a dose of about 300 mg per serving.
-----Ashwaganda - There's some evidence for ashwaganda being effective for reducing anxiety and fatigue, but only at about 400 mg per serving.
-----Tongkat ali - There's possible evidence that this root might increase sperm concentration in men, but does little to increase testosterone. This effect has only been seen in limited research at about 300 mg.
-----Maca - There's limited evidence that maca root increases libido, but only at a very large dose of around 2500 mg per serving.
-----Horny goat weed - In research, 80 mg/kg was found to increase testosterone and improve erectile dysfunction in rats. This equates to 6350 mg for a 175-lb person.”
“The 6 products we tested are most likely free from spiked drugs and stimulants and are ‘clean’ in terms of the heavy metal contaminants we tested for. However, the science behind many of their claimed ingredients are questionable. In some cases, the dosing would too low to be appropriately effective. In other cases, specialized forms of ingredients turned out to be simple, and relatively cheap formulations, albeit effective in certain cases. As always, we recommend you consult a licensed health professional when beginning any new supplement regimen and do your research as to what is really inside each product and whether it's right for your health.”
The following products were not lab tested by Labdoor, but they were reviewed by the lab's research team:
Joint Formula (pills) "Almost all of the listed ingredients are not supported in research for joint health."
Caveman True Paleo Formula (shake powder) "They're using fancy ingredient names for what are really simple ingredients."
Lung Cleanse (spray) "It's maybe like a spray liquid cough drop in your throat — temporarily effective, but not worth $50."
DNA Force (pills) "There's no way to definitively test 'DNA health', so having a claim of supporting DNA and/or mitochondrial function seems far-fetched."
Myco-ZX (pills) "This product's ingredients are unsupported in research and there's very little guidance on safe dosing."
Secret 12 Vitamin B12 (liquid) "There's nothing really 'secret' about this product's main ingredient."
Heavy metals found in 40 percent of protein powders tested (sold at numerous retailers and various providers online):
“Healthy eating enthusiasts may want to reconsider their protein powder choices in light of a new study that shows 40 percent of 134 brands tested have elevated levels of heavy metals, with certified organic products twice as likely to contain heavy metals as non-organic powders.
“The 2018 study by the Denver-based Clean Label Project used the independent analytical chemistry laboratory Ellipse Analytics to test the animal- and plant-based protein powders. Clean Label selected and purchased the powders from retail store shelves and from online sources……..
“The specific products tested in the Clean Label study are ranked the top sellers, according to statistics from Nielsen and the Amazon.com best-seller list. According to the research report released today, of the 134 products tested, 53 were found to have ‘substantially elevated’ levels of the following heavy metals.”
Last Word by Scott Gavura, BScPhm, MBA, RPh
“Without reliable, consistent supplements, consumers don’t get what they pay for, and health professionals can’t advise on their safe use. Given the limited evidence of efficacy for supplements, and the repeated concerns about product quality, I continue to advise that consumers approach supplements with great caution. The potential benefits need to be pretty compelling to justify their use. There’s a lack of good evidence to suggest most supplements offer any meaningful health benefits. While the supplement market continues to grow, it’s becoming harder to identify products that are truly safe and effective. We need better regulation and product quality standards to ensure the consumers that purchase supplements can do so with confidence, and use them safely.”
Spike in Harm to Liver Is Tied to Dietary Aids https://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/22/us/spike-in-harm-to-liver-is-tied-to-dietary-aids.html?_r=1&
Tainted Products Marketed as Dietary Supplements https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/sda/sdNavigation.cfm?filter=&sortColumn=3a&sd=tainted_supplements_cder&displayAll=true
What 'USP Verified' and Other Supplement Seals Mean https://www.consumerreports.org/vitamins-supplements/what-usp-verified-and-other-supplement-seals-mean/
The Safety Reporting Portal https://www.safetyreporting.hhs.gov/SRP2/en/Home.aspx?sid=e057a985-26e5-46b9-97d1-9bd5260a8763
Examples of FDA Warning Letters that cite unapproved or unsubstantiated claims, tainted products or other health fraud related violations https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ProtectYourself/HealthFraud/ucm255474.htm
Enough Already! The Great Dietary Supplement Scam http://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2016/12/enough-already-great-dietary-supplement.html
8 Alarming Truths That Make Supplement Marketers Squirm http://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2016/08/8-alarming-truths-that-make-supplement.html
Do Supplements Really Work? 8 Crucial Guidelines http://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2013/10/do-supplements-really-work-8-crucial.html
19 Vitamin & Mineral Supplements: What Works And What’s Bogus http://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2014/09/19-vitamin-mineral-supplements.html
9 Quick Ways to Detect Online Supplement Scams http://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2015/06/9-quick-ways-to-detect-online.html
Testosterone Supplement Hype: Misguided Masculinity http://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2014/11/testosterone-supplement-hype-misguided.html