The short answer: no. Even if the claims that are printed on your supplements are correct, many popular supplements contain extra ingredients that aren’t listed on the label. These can include potentially dangerous doses of chemicals that can harm your liver or other parts of your body.
A recent study conducted by Dr. Victor Navarro examined the contents of several popular weight loss and bodybuilding supplements. When chemical analysis was conducted on the supplements, the researchers found that more than two-thirds of them contained chemicals not listed on the label. Additionally, Navarro claims that half of the bodybuilding supplements had undeclared anabolic steroids.
This study was only just presented at the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, so it’s important to take the findings with a grain of salt. There hasn’t been an adequate chance for peer review. Still, it echoes common sense. Since the supplement industry is self-regulated, it’s easy for companies to “cheat” and use off-label ingredients to make their supplements more effective. To avoid this, you should exercise caution and try to only purchase supplements from reputable, certified brands.
But why is this the case? For one, the supplement industry is largely self-regulated. The FDC doesn’t evaluate claims that are made on the labels of supplements, and there isn’t a lot of outside quality control that makes sure that pills and powders contain the ingredients that are on the label. This means that you’ll have to look for supplements that are produced to a third-party standard in order to avoid faulty labels.
One popular standard is called cGMP, or current good manufacturing practice. cGMP provides a strict set of guidelines that supplement manufacturers have to abide by, and there are hefty fines if even one bad pill slips through the quality control process. While there are other standards out there, cGMP can apply to food and pharmaceuticals as well and it’s enforced in multiple countries. This makes it an easy standard to look for.
But what about the claims on the label? The FDC doesn’t regulate these, true, but what does that mean in practice? In effect, the result of the lack of outside intervention is that supplement companies can print basically whatever they want on their products. The so-called “positive effects” of the herbs, vitamins, and minerals in many supplements vanish completely in the setting of a double-blind clinical trial. This means that even if a cGMP compliant supplement has only the ingredients listed on the label, it still might not do what you want. Some of the ingredients may even have additional negative effects that the manufacturer doesn’t want you to find out about.
So what does this mean? It means you need to do some research to figure out what the best weight loss pills for men are or what the best protein powder is. Look for products manufactured to cGMP standards and spend a bit of time researching any notable ingredients. Try to find at least one peer-reviewed study that backs up each claim. If you can’t validate most of the claims on the label this way, you’ll probably want to find a different supplement.