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The Supplement Industry's Top 10 Hidden Secrets


The US supplement industry contributes more than $60 billion to our economy, yet it remains an almost unregulated frontier - creating what Time Magazine reports to be dicey or shady.

This dichotomy makes the US supplement industry an intriguing juxtaposition of trust and deceit.

It also creates a veritable minefield for consumers trying to determine which supplement brands to trust and what health products to purchase.

Contrary to popular belief, the FDA DOES regulate the supplement industry.

We’ve shared some of their regulatory findings and punishments in recent posts: protein powder contains 1814% more sugar than label claims, and CBD Oil Industry under FDA scrutiny, but this guide is designed to help you see past all the deceitful strategies used by those other guys.

We're Just As Frustrated As You

We've been supplement consumers since before starting Natural Stacks. It was our frustration with these loopholes and the lack of trustworthy, premium products that propelled us to launch our own supplement company - one that does things the right way and creates the type of supplements we want to put in our own bodies.

Here's another look at why we felt it was so important to start a supplement company with 100% transparency. (This may be WHY we started Natural Stacks - but's certainly not HOW we do things! You can see a video of our manufacturing facility HERE.)

**This clip is from the award winning documentary "Bigger. Stronger. Faster"**

**$24 Billion stat was from 2008** (The number has more than doubled to $60 Billion since then)

While the FDA does regulate the industry, this Fox News report summarizes it well:

"in a general sense, dietary supplements fall under the purview of the FDA – where there are regulations that pertain to labeling and “claims.”  However, when it comes to the measurement of safety and effectiveness – as prescription drugs must do – it is not the same.  The FDA does not ensure potency, purity or biologic activity of the ingredients in dietary supplements. There is no registration or clearance by the FDA before a dietary supplement goes on the market."

The FDA and the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) are starting to pay closer attention in an effort to protect consumers and shut down unethical, opportunistic companies.

The Supplement Industry's 10 Hidden Secrets:

Products Do Not Meet Label Claims

Many companies take advantage of the fact that the FDA does not oversee purity or potency and will "claim" their product contains a certain amount of, say protein, for example - when in reality, it may only contain 1/2 that amount.

The FDA will test these products, but usually only AFTER given a reason to do so (someone does independent testing and files a claim). This gives unethical companies a window of time to cash in on sales to unknowing consumers.

Some recent examples:

Here's how to protect yourself: Look for companies (like Natural Stacks) with a third-party seal of approval from independent testers like Informed Choice or Open-Source Certified that assure you the contents match the label claims.

They Photoshop Their Spokesmodel Pictures

Those "Before & Afters" have always been lies. Today's social media boom and fitness craze on Instagram is making it worse!

In the days of print ads, the models were usually contest-ready bodybuilders who took their "after" photos first. Then they hit the buffet, sodium-loaded and bloated themselves to temporarily look worse - THIS became the "before" picture.

In other cases, the "Before & After" simply followed an out-of-season bodybuilder through their normal 12 or 16 week contest prep.

Now, with Instagram, it's not just the filters or photo swaps. Many "Insta-celebs" are simply photoshopping their pictures before posting them to Instagram. Most recently Shredz was busted for doing this with the famous model "Devin Physique". Now that the FTC is investigating them, Shredz employees are spilling their secrets, including "Devin Physique's" assistant.

How to Protect Yourself: A lot marketing preys on the consumer's emotional desire to look or feel a certain way. Make decisions regarding health supplements based on science - not what a half-naked person in spandex says on Instagram.

They Hide Behind Proprietary Blends

As mentioned in the video at the top of this post, proprietary blends are ways for supplement companies to hide the exact amounts of the ingredients in their products.

The video provides an extreme - yet sadly accurate - example of how this can been done. The example shown was a little bit of creatine plus a lot of rice flour, then sold as a "trademarked" or "proprietary blend" of creatine.

This was one of our biggest frustrations and it's precisely why Natural Stacks is 100% open-source. With open-source companies, you'll always know the exact amount of every ingredient in your products.

What to look for so you can protect yourself: Look for the Open-Source Certified seal or simply avoid any product that hides the amounts of their ingredients with "proprietary blends".

They Use Cheap and Inferior Ingredients To Save Money

Just like the food industry, supplement companies that care more about their profit margins than the quality of their product will use mass-produced, low-quality ingredients to cut costs at every possible opportunity.

Let's be honest, undenatured grass-fed colostrum from New Zealand is more expensive for us to acquire than food-grade whey protein from the American industrial machine. But we want the best quality in our body and in our supplements. 

This one is a personal choice. You need to think for yourself about what matters most to YOU. For US, quality is most important and that's why we choose to use the most premium version of every ingredient we source. We only want the absolute best going into our bodies.

What to look for so you can protect yourself: Read the ingredient list first. Forget the front of the package and go straight to ingredients - this will tell you exactly what's in the product and lets you see what the company truly values. Look for the highest quality version of every ingredient: grass-fed dairy products, wild-caught fish, non-GMO produce, etc.

They Stuff Their Packages

"Stuffing" in the supplement industry refers to using cheap fillers to add bulk to products so they take up more space in a pill or package.

A prime example of this is in "Mass Gainer" products. Many companies will use corn powder (maltodextrin) or other cheap flours and bulking agents (no pun intended) to help their formulas occupy more space. The less "good stuff" they have to use, the higher their profit margins.

What to look for to protect yourself: Most instances of "stuffing" are hidden by proprietary blends. Avoiding these proprietary blends and sticking with companies that list exact ingredients and their specific amounts allow you to see exactly what you're getting - with no surprises. Some companies will still try to use fillers, but since you're reading the ingredients, you catch them before they get your money.

They Spike Their Products So You "Feel" Them

Another supplement industry secret, "spiking" or "pixie dusting" are terms given to the practice of adding ingredients that are not listed on the label to a product in order to "boost" it's effectiveness.

In a high profile example of this, Boston Red Sox pitcher Michael Kopech was suspended for 50 games last year after testing positive for methylsynephrine, although he insists he didn’t knowingly take it.

It turns out, the compound - also known as oxilofrine - is a stimulant that was included in his dietary supplement, but not declared on the label by the supplement manufacturer.

It's not just ONE company sneaking this compound into it's weight loss pills...

Last week, the FDA announced that it sent warning letters to seven manufacturers of dietary supplements that contain that stimulant: Nutraclipse, Inc., Swagger Supps, Total Body Nutrition LLC, Xcel Sports Nutrition LLC, M4 Nutrition Companies LLC, Line One Nutrition Inc., and Chaotic Labz.

According to their press release, "The letters stopped short of calling methylsynephrine a drug, although it is generally defined as a stimulant that mimics the effects on the heart of an amphetamine. The companies have 15 days to tell the FDA how they will bring their products into compliance with the law."

Here's how to protect yourself: Look for companies (like Natural Stacks) with a third-party seal of approval from independent testers like Informed Choice or Open-Source Certified that assure you the contents match the label claims.

They Use Artificial and Hidden Sweeteners

Evaporated cane syrup? Really?

If I told you I had some evaporated ocean syrup, what does that leave us...SALT! 

Sugar is sugar and no amount of fancy wording can change the way it impacts our bodies. Beware of cane syrup, brown rice syrup, evaporated cane juice and any other fructose, dextrose, ribose or hidden sugars.

As for artificial sweeteners, this is another area where you need to do some introspective soul-searching and determine where you want to draw the line. This is a spectrum, and YOU get to choose where on that spectrum you want to reside. There is no judgement, we're simply trying to inform.

Personally, I don't want to consume ANY added sugar or artificial sweetener.

At Natural Stacks, we don't add sweeteners. We believe you should be able to get a protein powder without sweetener if you want it. True to our "stacking" concept where you can combine products for synergistic effects, you can simply add your sweetener of choice should you desire.

By the way, high doses of sweeteners are usually needed to mask nasty flavors of inferior ingredients (see Hidden Secret #5)...just saying.

They Use Toxic Ingredients

In this CBS News report, a Congressional Investigation discovered that numerous dietary supplements contained arsenic (rat poison), lead, and mercury.

Glyphosate - or RoundUp - is found in GMO corn and other industrial crops and has been found in supplements that contain these crops. Glyphosate has been linked to autism, cancer, and more. It's banned in many countries, but not here in the US.

What to look for to protect yourself: Avoid corn or soy unless they are labeled as Non-GMO. 

Inconsistent Potencies Among Bottles and Batches

As Forbes reported HERE, several companies have been busted by the FDA recently for bottles or batches of formulas that did not meet standard dosages.

In other words, the formulas were not evenly distributed at the time of manufacturing and some pills and bottles contained stronger or weaker potencies than listed.

This is a manufacturing issue and a testing issue. Again, companies that fail in this area are cutting corners in order to lower costs.

GMP facilities - plants that have achieved "Good Manufacturing Practices" approval cost more to fill products that non-GMP facilities.

Testing products after they've been produced is also costly step. Obviously, some companies are skipping that quality control step altogether.

At Natural Stacks, we strive to deliver consistent results with every dosage and every bottle. In fact, we've submitted products from 3 separate manufacturing runs to third party testers in order to verify this exact scenario. 

How you can protect yourself: Companies who attain these third party certifications proudly display them on their packaging or website, so look for "manufactured in a GMP facility" along with Informed Choice, Open-Source Certified, or NSF logos to verify this.

They Claim Ingredients Are Natural, When They Are Actually Synthetic

While similar to using inferior ingredients, this industry secret is slightly more deceitful, since it involves an outright lie. Unfortunately many companies "claim" to use natural ingredients but they actually use synthetic reproductions in an effort to save money.

For example, one brand name company claims “100% NATURAL” on the label of its moisturizers but uses synthetic surfactants, preservatives and fragrance.

How can you protect yourself? As Always, read the ingredients. in the case of this synthetic surfactant, it was listed on the ingredients. You can also consult the Natural Products Association for a list of companies that have claimed to be natural and verified by this third party watchdog.

Why We're different

Natural Stacks is a small team of passionate health and fitness enthusiasts. We started this company with the intent to disrupt the supplement industry, raise the standard, and help change the status quo. Exposing these deceitful tactics used by unethical companies is one way we can drive that change.

Making high quality products with open-source formulas rooted in scientific research and being 100% natural and transparent is another way we're pushing the standard higher and providing you safer, healthier, more natural options.

Just like the organic and grass-fed movements, the consumer demand can - and will - drive this change to critical mass. We're confident the educated and informed consumer will demand better and push the supplement industry to become more transparent and quality-oriented.


Did we forget anything? Let us know in the comments below.


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