CONSUMERS ARE “IN THE DARK” – What You Need To Know Before Buying Nutritional Supplements


Most people have heard the expression that “something” “doesn’t stand a snowballs chance in hell” to succeed.  Well that analogy comes to mind when I think of well-intentioned, partially informed, people going into a health food store to buy a supplement they have read about on the Internet or elsewhere.

Today, more and more people are turning to natural supplements for answers to their health issues and needs.  One reason is the realization that for many conditions prescription medicines and over the counter medicines are ineffectual.  Another reason is the need to protect ourselves from disease and improve our overall health.  Natural medicine in the form of natural health supplements is the solution to many health problems.  But only if those supplements are safe, high quality, correctly dosed and proven in well-designed, clinical trials, to be effective. 

Due to the public shift toward preventative and alternative medicine, thousands of different supplements have surfaced on the market in recent years. With this comes deception and fraud.  Natural health supplements are not comprehensively regulated by any authority.  In other words, over-the-counter dietary supplements do not have to be proven safe or effective before they are sold.  Most come with all kinds of health claims while others are supposedly miracle cures.  Properly formulated nutritional health supplements can be powerful and effective. So how is a consumer to know if he is purchasing a safe effective health product that will work as advertised.  

As in most everything else, when it comes to dietary supplements………you get what you pay for…….wait, I take that back!…….sometimes you pay a premium price and still don’t get what you really needed or thought you were getting!  

The expression “penny-wise and pound-foolish” also comes to mind. Remember you have made a decision to purchase a specific supplement because you read something you found “credible” that indicated a certain health benefit you were interested in was achievable by supplement “X”.  If you save a dollar or two purchasing an incorrectly made or formulated product, you will lose both your money and the health benefit you were trying for. You need to shift the odds in your favor by knowing the facts and pitfalls to avoid when purchasing supplements. 
First of all you should ask yourself why you are considering buying the supplement to begin with?  A potential and usual answer is that a friend told me that it works, or, I read about it or heard about it on the TV or radio.  Believe it or not, the friend telling you that it worked for him or her is in my mind, a far more credible referral than anything you will ever hear advertised on TV or radio.  The experience of others who have used the product, friends, relatives, discussion forums and personal testimonials are all good sources of information useful in discovering the efficacy of a supplement.

The best reason to buy a supplement (other than a multiple vitamin which I will discuss in a future article) is because it is backed by quality double blind scientific studies.  The efficacy of a supplement is only as good as the ingredients/raw materials used to make it (assuming efficacy has been satisfactorily demonstrated in human clinical trials).   A supplement can be made from all natural ingredients yet it may not be of top quality.  Reasons for poor quality may be that the herbs may not have been properly harvested or the soil may have been poor If it’s an extract, the extraction process may have eliminated essential co-factors and/or active ingredients, or the herbs may have been damaged during the manufacturing process.  

The only time I know for sure that a product meets each of the standards I described above is when I over-see the ordering of the raw materials that will eventually go into the product and the subsequent pre and post testing of the manufactured product.  Before any raw material goes into a product, I send it to an independent analytical lab that confirms the ingredient is chemically exactly what we thought we were buying from the wholesale companies supplying these raw materials.  Though the wholesalers provide us with their own certificates of analysis, they mean little or nothing to me and I go through the time and expense of obtaining INDEPENENT confirmation from arms length laboratories.  (Copies of these independent testing certificates are kept in our offices).

This brings me to something I call “label decoration” that is a misleading tactic that is widespread in the dietary supplement industry.  80% of the effort in this industry goes into advertising and marketing which sounds scientific but is, in fact, all to often pseudo-scientific. The science upon which most products are based is either no science, bad science or borrowed science. (borrowed science means good science from another product that you apply to your product even though it was not your product that was tested!)
Marketers and accountants run many of these companies.  If it’s too expensive to buy the ingredient that was tested, then buy something that looks similar to it!  If it’s too expensive to use the same therapeutic amount that was used in the study, then use a 1/5 or a 1/10 of it!   The name of the ingredient will still be on the label and the consumer will recognize the name and feel good that it’s included.  But often times it is included at an ineffective level that will probably do nothing to improve your health.

It’s similar to saying you go to the gym every day, but only perform, 5 minutes of cardio and one push up and leave.  The claim sounds good, but there is little health benefit behind it.  Another trick these supplement marketing companies use to make their products look more affordable is packaging the bottle with less than one months supply of the product.  A bottle that contains 30 pills, but the dosage is 2 per day, appears cheaper…until you run out in 15 days! 

So what’s the point of this article and how can it help you to locate the “real thing”?  As time goes by I will be recommending certain ingredients as part of anti-aging/anti-disease protocols that I will be writing about.  If there are companies that make the combinations of ingredients that we suggest you take, we will direct you to those companies and those products.

If the combinations we suggest are not available, then I will have them made and make them available to you at far below retail prices.  Our products will always be available direct to you at wholesale prices without the retail markups.  

In subsequent writings you will be reading about our migraine product that is aimed at prevention as opposed to treating the pain, MigreLief which has received 2 U.S. and international patents.  Additional AKESO products include Cal-Vantage for bone strength and health and Prosta-Norm for healthy prostate function.  Of course all of these products and those that you will be learning about in the “Aging is War at the Cellular Level” series are made under these stringent requirements that I have established. 

I look forward to this project and hope that many people find the topics I write about to be helpful guiding them onto the scientifically correct pathway to proactive health, anti-aging and disease prevention.  
                                                                                  Curt Hendrix, M.S., C.C.N, C.N.S

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