Supplements and Supplement Industry
As you know that scientists have an important role in making these supplements. But packaging, marketing, promotion and selling of these supplements are done by business houses. As we know, the only aim of these business houses is to earn profit. In this article, we will discuss those methods used by these companies to sell their supplements for more and more profit. By understanding these methods, you will learn how to choose good supplements for you.
What are supplements?
In simple words, supplement is a natural product which is designed to improve your performance. If you are a bodybuilder, a supplement can you help to build muscles. Weightlifters can lift more weights by using these supplements. If you are a runner, you can improve your speed and endurance with the help of these supplements. There are supplements for every sports.
"Dietary Supplement Health & Education Act" passed in 1994
Before 1994, the supplement market was very limited. There was nothing more special to purchase than just a protein powder. The "Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act" passed in 1994 and after that companies launched so many types of supplements.
Actually, before this Act... the supplement definition was very limited. But this Act changed the definition and scope of supplements. As per new Act's guidelines... companies could use all those ingredients in their supplements, which were available in natural diet. For example, milk contains protein... so companies can use protein as a dietary supplement.
Now lets talk about some special regulations and methods related to supplement industry.
There is no approval process for supplements
Companies don't need any kind of permission from government to launch a new supplement or product. How good the supplement is, either it is effective or not, either it has any side effect or not.... companies don't need any kind of test or permission for these issues. If there comes a complaint for any supplement then FDA will test that particular supplement. If FDA finds that there is any issue with that supplement, FDA will remove it from market, and charge penalty against that company.
This procedure is completely legal as per government because only those ingredients are used to prepare these supplements which are already present in our daily diet. For example, Spinach contains Zinc and Spinach is a part of our daily diet. So it means, companies can use Zinc in their supplement products. Now you can understand, how many ingredients companies can use to manufacture their supplements. The ingredient we are already taking thorough our daily diet... the same ingredient in pure form... and in higher dose... has almost no serious side effect on our health. This is the reason... the government does not force companies for approval or test before launching any product.
Mixing two or more ingredients
Companies use multiple ingredients to make a product. Multiple ingredients can make the supplement more effective, but one more reason to do so is to earn profit. If an ingredient is commonly available in market and different companies are making products using one and same ingredient... than that produce can not produce more profit.
For example... creatine is a common ingredient and available in pure form in market. Different companies are making creatine products using this one single ingredient. The is the reason creatine supplement price is very low compare to other supplements. No company can sell it on higher prices because it is easily available in low price.
If any company wants to get more profit from creatine... it has to add/mix some other ingredients in creatine supplement... so the consumer will think that it is some different product and will ready to pay more price. This concept is same as branded medicines and generic medicines.
Yes I agree that mixing two or more ingredients can make a supplement much more effective but sometimes the sole reason of doing so is to just get out of the price competition and earn more profit.
You must have seen "Proprietary Blend" written on supplement labels... given so many ingredients names under this "Proprietary Blend" name with a "total quantity of all ingredients". In such way companies don't provide quantity of each ingredient separately.
This is supplement label of ON Amino Energy and here you can see two proprietary blends named as "Amino Blend" and "Energy Blend". Amino blend is of 5 grams which contains almost 15 different ingredients. Energy blend is of 160 mg which contains almost 5 different ingredients. But no information about quantity for separate ingredients is given in this label.
This is completely legal and almost all companies do this. It provides two benefits to company. First benefit is... it becomes tough for other companies to copy such products because it is not easy to know the exact amount of each ingredient in blend. Second benefit is... consumer can not compare these products with other brands because he does not know the exact amount of ingredients.
In next article, we will learn how to make an estimate of ingredients' amounts in a proprietary blend.
Consumers get bored after using same products again and again. They want something new. It is not possible for companies to bring a new product every week because there are limited ingredients. So companies replace old products names with new and attractive ones.
For example... Creatine Monohydrate... a very simple and common name. Consumers have heard this name million times. So company changes its name as Cellular Creatine Monohydrate or Nano-Intensified Creatine Monohydrate to attract the consumer. But this is same creatine... only difference is name.
So you should check supplement label and ingredients... don't fall for name.
Highlighting common things
Sometimes companies present their common ingredients in a very strange way to confuse the customer.
This is the label of ON Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein. It says that it has 24 grams of protein, 5.5 grams BCAA and 4 grams Glutamine in one serving scoop. The total is 24+5.5+4=33.5 grams but scoop size is only 30.4 grams. So is it possible to adjust 33.5 grams in 30.4 grams scoop. Even there is also flavour, sugar and other ingredients.
I explain you. It is just a word game and nothing else. Glutamine and BCAA is a part of protein. These are amino acids and all amino acids together make protein.
For example, a 200 ml cup has... 200 ml of tea, 95 ml of water and 95 ml of milk. Almost all companies do this trick.
In the name of science
Science is really awesome... and everyone loves science. So companies use this science to sell their products.
Companies launch new ingredients and make up stories about them as what they are and from where they are. For example, "American Tribulus" or "Korean Ginseng" etc. Such tricks attract consumers.
For example, a company came to know about a new ingredient. A study says that after giving "TOO MUCH OF THIS INGREDIENT" to "RATS" for a period of "SIX MONTHS"... rats testosterone level increased 10%. This is just a very tiny clue for science about that ingredients but supplement companies will promote it as biggest discovery in the human history.
Supplement companies will say "Biggest discovery in human history... scientists proved that... this magical ingredient can boost up your testosterone by double digit." So here companies will not disclose the quantity of ingredient, test subjects (rats) and time period (6 months) etc.
So in this way, companies use name of science, different kinds of charts and graphs, reports and research papers... to promote their products to influence their customers.
Before and after picture
Companies use before and after pictures to promote their products. Before taking this particular supplement or product... this person was like this (thin and weak)… and after using this product only for 3 months... this person has become hulk.
In this marketing propaganda, companies don't disclose... which other supplements are used with this product... how was his diet plan... steroids and all... and workout also. Companies also use photoshop filter and other digital editing tricks for these photos. Sometimes there 3 months before and after photos are taken on same day.
Bodybuilding is a very hardworking game... it takes too much energy, discipline, time and money. But after investing too much in this field... bodybuilders don't get enough income. To recover all these expenses, bodybuilders sign endorsement contracts with different companies. Bodybuilders promote these companies' products and earn money. It is not necessary that these bodybuilders are taking same supplements that they are promoting.
Discover or making new ingredients for supplement products is a very difficult task. Sometime it takes years to find a new ingredient.... so companies create new ingredients by mixing up two or more ingredients.
Have you seen Universal Nutrition Animal Fury pre workout. Read its supplement fact label and you will find a name "Citrulline Malate". Citrulline Malate is not a new ingredient but a mix up of Citrulline and Malic Acid. After taking Citrulline Malate... you body will break down this ingredient to Citrulline and Malic Acid... and so it will digest.
Sometimes companies add drugs (or illegal drugs like steroids etc.) to their supplement products to make them more powerful and effective. This is completely illegal. On someone's complaint government tests these supplements... and ban these supplements. Adding drugs is not common but it happens.
What to do?
After reading all these points... you must be confused about supplements. There are many good and effective supplements in market... but there is also bad and ineffective ones. So what should you do? Right information is the key. Read and educate yourself about nutrition, ingredients and supplements etc. Read supplement facts label and list of all ingredients very carefully... while purchasing. So you will understand which supplement is good for you.