You can find almost anything online these days (supporting evidence found here and here)... but just because you can get something online, does that mean you should? Where do we draw the line?
I think the line should be our health and well-being.
A little about the online retailer Amazon.com
It's understandable why people want to buy supplements on Amazon- free shipping, convenience, and the best price make it hard to beat. Unfortunately, it's easy to mislead customers on Amazon.com. For example: Exhibit A (below).
This company is a Direct Sales company and ONLY sells their products via it's sales reps. Selling Nerium on websites like Amazon and eBay is strictly prohibited... So why does it appear that the company is on Amazon? What I've highlighted below is essentially a screen name, which are taken on a first come first serve basis like Twitter handles and AOL screen names. Just because the seller's name looks legit that doesn't mean it's coming from that company.
Knowledge nugget #1:
Seller IDs/screen names on Amazon DON'T mean anything.
Concerns with cheap/off brands
I'm going to take a moment to be ulta-honest with you readers on this one. A lot of my concern with cheap-o brands is self-serving. Go with me on this hypothetical journey:
You come to my office and want to get better. Our treatment plan involves several supplements or vitamins, which you start taking right away. After a few weeks or months you don't get better and what do you say? One of two things: either that I don't know what I'm doing, or that natural medicine doesn't work. Yikes. Neither of us is too happy in this scenario.
Because I can't assure the quality of those supplements, I'm simply not going to risk my reputation and your health on them. Some issues found with cheaper supplements (like those sold online and via Walmart, Target, and GNC) include:
Rancidity or age (fish oils)
Containing bad things (Lead, gluten)
Not containing enough (or ANY) of the claimed ingredient
Knowledge nugget #2:
You're not buying what you think you're buying when you buy cheap-o supplements
Concerns with practitioner brands being sold on Amazon
Much like the Nerium issue above, you just don't know who's selling you what on Amazon. Even when you think you're getting the same thing your chiropractor (DC) or naturopathic doctor (ND) is selling you might not be! Below: Exhibits 2 and 3. Notice anything strange?
In this case, this product is absolutely a fake product- Biotics Research doesn't even make this product in 500 count bottles! I wonder what is actually getting sold here. The optimist in me wants to believe that these people just took real Beta Plus and put them in a giant jar for a discounted price... but I doubt that's the case. Yikes.
My best guess when I see stuff like this is that it's either a doctor or naturopath's office selling excess stock before it expires.
Knowledge nugget #3:
Even though it looks like the same, good brand your doctor or ND is selling, you might not be buying what you think you're buying.
How to know what is safe to buy online
While it's not fool-proof, here's some general tips to steer you in the right direction and avoid dud products.
Is the product sold in stores? If so, it's more likely that the company would sell that product via online retailers.
Practitioner brands like Xymogen, Apex Energetics, Biotics Research, and Thorne generally make doctors sign forms stating that they will not sell on these websites, so I automatically question how they end up online.
Direct Sales/multilevel marketing/MLM products are never, ever sold (legitimately) outside of the MLM framework. If they were, the very fabric of that business model would collapse. Examples include Herbalife, Zeal for Life, Shakeology, and Amway.
Is the product in question sold in stores like Whole Foods or Sprouts? I have had better luck quality-wise at those stores than others like Target or Walgreens.
Consumer Lab is a good resource for independant testing of store bought supplements. If you're a patient at my office I always do a CL check with all of my new patients supplements, so I've got you covered.
I hope this helps you in your quest for better health,
If you or someone you know is interested in addressing their health concerns holistically and naturally, please call our office in Chapel Hill at 919-238-4094 to learn more.