Immune Supplements on Amazon Are Lying about Their Contents, Says Researchers in 2022 Study
Supplement companies lie on their product labels all the time. This, we know.
But just how deceitful are they?
Do they leave out one, a handful of, or all of their listed active ingredients?
What contaminants are they knowingly hiding?
And their health claims—are these based on credible research or poorly conducted ‘clinical trials’ (or, worse, concocted out of thin air)?
If you’re thinking, “Oh, it can’t be that bad. Supplement companies are, for the most part, still honest on their labels,” well … a 2022 study published in JAMA Network Open suggests you’re overly optimistic.
Tell me more about this study?
Of course, we’re more than happy to.
So, in this study, the researchers selected and purchased 30 featured immune dietary supplements from Amazon in May 2021.
Selected products met the following criteria:
Featured the keyword “immune”
Rated four stars and above (under customer reviews)
The researchers then subjected a sample of each selected immune supplement to liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS), a laboratory technique widely used to separate, identify, and measure the amount of different substances in a liquid mixture.
This helped the researchers determine:
What each selected immune supplement contains in terms of compounds or ingredients (including the dosage)
The accuracy of each selected immune supplement’s product label by comparing actual compounds/ingredients vs. what’s stated on the Supplements Facts label
How inaccurate were the product labels?
And disappointingly enough, this crucial LC-MS step revealed that out of the 30 select dietary supplement products, 17 (i.e., more than half!) had inaccurate labels. Here’s a list of the mislabeling issues found:
Missing labelled ingredients (13 out of 17 products): "Missing ingredients" refers to ingredients listed on the labels but were not detected through analysis. Ingredients missing from products ranged from one to six ingredients from any single product. The missing ingredients were mainly plant extracts, including (but not limited to) aloe vera leaf, garlic bulb, and slippery elm bark extract.
“Bonus” ingredients (nine out of 17 products): Undeclared ingredients include black rice seed, flavonoids, pantothenic acid, polyethylene glycols, glycyrrhizin, and berberine derivatives.
What about the immune health claims?
Beyond analyzing the immune dietary supplements' Supplement Facts accuracy, the researchers also examined each product's health claims, and what they noted is sobering:
Most appear to toe the line of what would be considered allowable claims (per statute and/or FDA regulations).
Some claims, despite sounding scientific, thanks to terms like “research-based”, “scientifically proven”, and “supported by … gold standard clinical studies”, failed to cite any credible, peer-reviewed publication. I.e., they’re not substantiated.
Um . . . but so what?
While we cannot generalize the findings of this 2022 study to all dietary supplements available on the market (30 immune supplements from Amazon is undoubtedly a teeny-weeny sample size), it hints at widespread product mislabeling in the industry.
This means you can never discount the possibility that any dietary supplement you fork hard-earned money for may:
Not contain advertised active ingredients: Meaning? Your supplement won’t be as effective as it claims, or worse, it might not work at all.
Be contaminated with harmful compounds or ingredients: Technically speaking, none of the undeclared ingredients found in the immune supplements are inherently toxic. For example, pantothenic acid is simply vitamin B5. That said, this doesn't mean undeclared ingredients aren't problematic. For example, what if you are allergic to an "everyday" ingredient, like black rice seed? You wouldn't know what you're reacting to until it's too late. Also, who’s to say your supplement is free from harmful contaminants like metals, toxins, and pesticide residues?
Fail to live up to its “research-backed” health claims: Does “clinically/scientifically proven to [insert health claim]" mean anything? Given what we know now, it doesn’t, unless substantiated with a credible, high-quality study.
Imagine if you knew exactly what your supplement contains (without the hassle of a costly lab analysis)
Well, that sounds good, and you'd appreciate the peace of mind, for sure … but how?
Sounds like an intimidating and overwhelming endeavor?
Our Do-It-Yourself Supplement Guide for Beginners proves that it doesn’t have to be. With its comprehensive, step-by-step guidance, you’ll be recreating all your supplements—plus knowing they're now 100% truly good for you and effective—in no time.
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