I always advise against buying supplements from retail chain stores like Walmart or GNC. They rarely contain quality ingredients in the right doses and forms—meaning they can’t deliver the promised benefits. Worse yet, sometimes they don’t even contain the ingredients listed on the label…or they contain potential allergens or contaminants the label assures aren’t in their product.
So, today, I’ll tell you more about the scope of the purity problem in the supplement industry. Then, on Thursday, I’ll tell you how to avoid the junk and spot the safe, effective, science-backed dietary supplements on the market instead.
The good, the bad, and the ugly
The supplement industry invests a great deal of time, effort, and money into self-regulation. Yet, there are still deceitful manufacturers out there. And, unfortunately, those are the ones that make headlines.
For example, as I reported in the April 2015 issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter (“The Great Supplement Scandal Continues: Are you getting what you pay for?”), the New York Attorney General’s (AG) office led a major investigation into the retail supplement industry four years ago.
Specifically, DNA testing (used to identify each ingredient) found major problems with 24 popular herbal supplements—such as echinacea, ginseng, and St. John’s wort—sold at GNC, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart. In fact, four out of every five bottles tested didn’t contain any of the herbs indicated on the label. Plus, some of the supplements contained wheat and gluten, even when the labels claimed they didn’t. And some even had contaminants that can cause serious (sometimes fatal) liver and kidney problems.
The AG’s office ordered the retailers to immediately stop selling the problematic supplements—and charged the manufacturers that actually made the supplements.
Over the next year or so, there was a great deal of back-and-forth between the dietary supplement industry and these New York government bureaucrats. Then, in 2016, the AG’s office announced the retailer GNC and the brand Nature’s Way® had agreed to make some important reforms to their practices to hopefully improve quality control.
In addition, The Nature’s Bounty Co. (formerly known as NBTY)—one of the major manufacturers under investigation—agreed to:
- Begin using DNA barcoding to authenticate herbal ingredients and invest $250,000 in herbal genetic research
- Begin conducting independent testing to detect allergens (including peanuts and soy)
- Require ingredient makers to submit to third-party certification
- Begin conducting double on-site audits of major suppliers
All of which is great…but it’s truly a shame that there are unscrupulous manufacturers out there that need this type of micromanaging. Because some of the industry does a good job regulating itself. In fact, in 1993 Congress passed the Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act (DSHEA), with the help of my friends Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA).
And today, DSHEA remains a critically important piece of legislation that affects the health of all Americans. Basically, the law states that manufacturers must ensure their dietary supplements and dietary ingredients are safe and pure before they market it to the public. The law also gives the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to take action against any product that does not meet standards for identity, purity, quality, strength, and composition after it reaches the market.
But Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), who is one of big pharma’s lackeys in the Senate, seems intent on upending DSHEA completely. (Those three little letters [D-IL], in my opinion, have done more damage to this country in recent years than almost any other three-letter government acronym. And Dick Durbin is still around raising all kinds of mischief for the people in Washington, D.C., who are trying to get big, crony corporatist government under control, despite the deflections and misdirections by him and his cohorts.)
In the end, it’s nice to see some of these changes take place—even if the companies had to be forced into it. But, it still doesn’t change one basic fact of life…
Be your own advocate. You still need to do your own research, and you still need to avoid buying mass-produced, low-quality supplements from big box and retail stores.
And if you’re not sure where to begin, tune back in on Thursday. I’ll give you all of the important things to look for when buying a dietary supplement.
P.S. Not yet a subscriber to my monthly newsletter, Insiders’ Cures? Click here to sign up today! As a subscriber, you’ll have access to all of my past content in the archives—and you’ll stay on top of the latest breakthroughs in natural medicine!
“A.G. Schneiderman Announces Major Nationwide Agreement With NBTY, Herbal Supplement Maker for Walgreens And Walmart.” NY Attorney General, 9/26/2016 (ag.ny.gov/press-release/ag-schneiderman-announces-major-nationwide-agreement-nbty-herbal-supplement-maker)
“The NY AG’s herbal probe so far: From GNC to devil’s claw.” Nutraingredients, 9/10/2015 (nutraingredients-usa.com/Article/2015/09/11/The-NY-AG-s-herbal-probe-so-far-From-GNC-to-devil-s-claw)