By Jennifer Kohler MS, FNP-C, CLC
With the increase in online shopping, there are numerous options for purchasing supplements and vitamins. It can be very overwhelming with the number of options out there, different price points, third-party sellers, free shipping, and “customer reviews”. There have been some companies who have explored this and performed testing on various products with concerning and unfortunate results.
Third-party sellers are becoming increasingly common online, and it is often not noticed by many consumers. When dealing with Amazon there are usually 2 types of third-party sellers. The first one will be noted as “Sold by Third-Party, Fulfilled by Amazon”; these items are owned by an independent, third-party business and are shipped ahead of time to Amazon’s warehouses. When you buy them, Amazon ships them to you. The second type is “Sold and Shipped by Third-Party”; these items are owned by a third-party business. They will be shipped to you directly from that third-party business’s location. The first part of the problem is you do not know if you are receiving a genuine product or know the source of the products. The second piece is not knowing if the facility they are being stored in and/or distributed from is climate controlled or certified by NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) International, earning Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) registration. Facilities that meet these standards have controls to monitor storage, security, contamination, stock rotation, temperature, and traceability.
Another issue is customer reviews. If you are like me, I often head over to read the most recent reviews for products in general before buying them. What if the reviews are fake? In order to sell the product, you need to have visibility and rank higher up to show up in search results and this is determined by a product’s “reputation”. This reputation is a combination of price point and customer reviews/feedback among a few other factors. Vendors will often hire friends, family, or even complete strangers to set up an account for the sole purpose of leaving a good rating and positive testimonial. You can typically identify these when you look to see what other reviews the individual has written. There are numerous red flags to look for when reading reviews.
Counterfeit products have taken the internet by storm. According to Consumerlab.com in April 2023, two supplement companies, NOW Foods, and Fungi Perfecti, separately reported counterfeit versions of their products sold on Amazon. Fungi Perfecti discovered 23 different sellers on Amazon selling counterfeits of its Host Defense brand mushroom supplements and NOW Foods discovered 11 different counterfeit NOW supplements. Some manufacturers purchase various brands from Amazon to send them for quality testing in-house and third-party testing. One example of a quality control test regarding ALA (Alpha Lipoic Acid) found that six out of 13 brands tested were under 75% potency; these were found to be legally unacceptable as cGMPs (current Good Manufacturing Practices), which require a minimum of 100% potency tested at label claims. Some products even contained heavy metals and contaminants they should not have.
The price of supplements can vary dramatically and in addition to the above factors, another factor to watch for is how many capsules/drops/tablets are needed to receive the full dose (serving size) recommended. When looking at supplements with patients sometimes they note that a certain bottle has 90 tablets and is much more affordable than a bottle that contains 60 tablets in a different brand; however, if the 90-count bottle notes to take 3 daily and the 60-count bottle requires you to only take 1 daily, you will be better off buying the smaller count bottle.
To Get access to information on high-quality vitamins and supplements that have been researched in clinical trials (there is a subscription fee) see www.consumerlabs.com.
Please be cognizant when purchasing vitamins and supplements due to the above concerns. In order to feel better or maintain wellness we want you to use good quality and authentic products. We stock a selection of various supplements and vitamins that are directly sourced from reputable companies and manufacturers. Our supplements are kept in the conditions that the manufacturer recommends. If we do not carry a specific supplement or vitamin that you may be looking for, we invite you to use Fullscript, through IMOFCNY which is an online platform that carries provider-grade vitamins and supplements. These are high-quality supplements that meet numerous quality control standards. You can use our home page with the shop link https://www.imofcny.com/shop-integrative-medicine-cny to order from Fullscript and our other trusted partners or https://us.fullscript.com/welcome/imofcny?preview=true to sign up just for Fullscript.
As a reminder, our in-office supplements and online access are available for BOTH patients and non-patients! If you have any questions, please call us at 315-741-5774.