I get asked a lot of questions, not only about supplements but about this website too. So, let me try t0 help answer some of those questions here. If you have any questions I missed, just email me and I’ll be glad to help you.
How Does Your Site Make Money?
As mentioned in my About page, no supplement company pays me to write the reviews on this website. I also do not accept free products in exchange for reviews either. As you read the reviews on my site, you will see ads embedded into the reviews. The ads you see at the top, middle and bottom of the reviews are from Google. The ads you see are based on what Google thinks you are interested in. If you click on an ad to learn more, then I make a little bit of money. If you don’t click an ad, I make no money.
Within the reviews as well as in the side bar at the right of the site, you may also see links to products on Amazon. If you click on an Amazon link and buy something, then I also make a little bit from Amazon.
Since I do not accept direct sponsorship from anyone (and never will), the google ads, as well as the Amazon links you see help keep this website going. I personally write all the reviews on this site and while I LOVE doing it, it takes a massive amount of time and effort. I have reviews on this site that have taken me a month to write.
The ads and amazon links help me keep this website maintained and updated, pay bills and even allow me the time to personally respond to your private emails. Without the ads/links, I would not be able to do all I currently am. I respect that some people may not like this, but there is no other way at this time – unless I hit the lottery or get left a bunch of money from a long lost relative (and that ain’t going to happen).
Please understand that neither the ads or amazon links influence me in any way. They never have and they never will. My main goal is to help YOU better understand the supplements you use. See my Affiliate disclosure page for more info on this.
Can I Donate To Your Website?
I appreciate people wanting to donate to me but it is not necessary. If you want to help this website, when you buy stuff on Amazon, just use my Amazon associate link. By clicking on that link and buying stuff you need, Amazon will reward with me a little bit of money. Please know that doing this costs you nothing. If only 1% of the people who visit this website did this, I could write more reviews – much faster – than I currently do.
The links to Amazon in my reviews also help me keep this site going. If you want to know more about this see my Affiliate Disclosure page. Please know that money I make from Amazon never influences the outcomes of my reviews. My main goal will always be to help you understand the supplements you take better.
Are You A Doctor?
No I’m not. On the About Page of this site, I tell you that I am not a doctor, pharmacist nurse or dietitian. I have a BS in chemistry and biology and a MS in exercise science. I have been investigating supplements since the 1900s and have written a book about dietary supplements.
The opinions expressed on this site are my own and I will always encourage people to speak to their doctor before taking any supplement.
Are You Against Supplements?
Not at all. I actually take some supplements myself. I know some people think I am because I say things that most others don’t say -like the stuff about potential side effects. I do this because I never know who reads what I write. We are all different and have different needs and health issues and there might be someone who may need that information. I know not everybody goes to their doctor or pharmacist with questions when it comes to supplements (even though I highly recommend it). My goal is to give them the best information I can and hopefully encourage them to go to their doctor/pharmacist/ dietitian, and speak to them for more specific insights.
Can I Leave A Link In My Comment?
When you leave a comment on this site, there is a space for your personal website, if you have one. People who advocate/sell various dietary supplements have unique insights and their comments are very welcome. Because I know there are spammers out there, I reserve the right to edit/remove contact information and other links from comments. This is to reduce spam. Links to G rated websites that are not associated with dietary supplements are always allowed and encouraged. I like looking at your websites too 🙂
What Is An FDA Approved Lab?
Since the FDA does not “approve” labs, this phrase is meaningless. Labs can register with the FDA but they don’t approve labs.
Does The FDA Inspect Labs?
Yes, the FDA does inspect some labs that make dietary supplements. This is likely the reason some companies say they make products in an “FDA inspected facility.” When considering this slogan, remember that being inspected by the FDA does not always mean the lab passed the inspection. See this page of the FDA website for more info.
Why Do You Link To Research Studies?
I link to clinical studies in my reviews because I want you to have the opportunity see the research for yourself. This can help you better understand where I’m getting my information from. I also hope that the links to clinical studies help others who are doing their own research.
How Do I Contact The Better Business Bureau?
Here is the page on the BBB where reports can be filed https://www.bbb.org/consumer-complaints/file-a-complaint/get-started
How Do I Report a Supplement To The FDA?
The FDA has an Adverse Event Reporting form that people can use report side effects and other things that they believe were caused by supplements. The form to use is called FDA form Here is the link to get to that form and contact the “FDA Form 3500.” Here is the link to the form:
You can mail or fax the form to the FDA. To fax the form, here is the # : 1-800-332-0178
To call the FDA about dietary supplements call 888-723-3366. They can give you more information about filing a report about a supplement also.
What Are Supplements?
In America, supplements have a definition. This definition was born out of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA). that was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. One of the principle authors of this bill was Senator Orin Hatch of Utah. This is the official definition of a supplement:
- a product (other than tobacco) intended to supplement the diet that bears or contains one or more of the following dietary ingredients: a vitamin, mineral, amino acid, herb or other botanical
- a dietary substance used to supplement the diet by increasing the total dietary intake
- a concentrate, metabolite, constituent, extract, or combination of any ingredient described above
- intended for ingestion in the form of a capsule, powder, softgel, or gelcap, and not represented as a conventional food or as a sole item of a meal or the diet
- is labeled a “dietary supplement”.
It is because of this very wordy definition that a variety of things can be called dietary supplements.
Does The Government Regulate Supplements?
Yes, there is some government regulation of supplements but it is not the same as is required for prescription drugs. Supplements do not have to undergo rigorous testing or submit their products to the FDA to prove they are effective or safe before they are sold to the public. This means that supplement companies are basically on the honor system. We take their word that their products are safe and that they contain what the maker says. The FDA can take legal action against the makers of supplements that are deemed unsafe or which make illegal claims. The FDA does dictate what a supplement label looks like and what can be said (and not said) about what supplements do.
What Are Structure /Function Claims?
Makers of supplements cannot say that their products treat or cure a disease. That is illegal in America. But, companies can make “structure/function claims”. These statements discuss how the supplement may be used in the body. You can recognize these claims by looking for buzz words like aids, maintains and supports. For example, a product of vitamin C may say “immune support” or “supports a healthy immune system”.
What Does GRAS Mean?
GRAS stands for Generally Recognized as Safe. It’s a term used for any food additive or substance that has been in the food supply so long that if anything bad was going to happen from eating them (as they are intended to be consumed), it should have already shown up. To be GRAS, the substance has to either be proven safe through scientific studies, through the reasonable opinions of experts in the field or have been in the food supply since before 1958. Products labeled as GRAS do not need prior approval from the FDA before they are used in supplements. Supplements mostly contain ingredients listed as GRAS.
What Is An ORAC Value?
ORAC stands for oxygen radical absorbance capacity. It is a measure of how well an antioxidant can neutralize free radicals in a test tube. Higher ORAC values usually are taken to mean that the antioxidant is “better.” ORAC values are sometimes cited in advertisements as “proof” for a supplement but there is a problem with ORAC values.
But, ORAC values only tell us what happens in a test tube. Having a high ORAC value does not mean that the antioxidant would do the same thing in humans. Humans are much more complicated than test tubes.
What’s Published Peer Reviewed Proof?
As I mentioned in the “About” page, this is my litmus test for whether a supplement works or not. Peer-reviewed research is, the best research. To have a study that is peer-reviewed means that before the study was published in a scientific journal, it was first reviewed by other competent scientists (the “peers”) whose job is to look for mistakes or flaws in the experiment. Any errors in research that are discovered during the peer-review process must be fixed before the study is accepted for publication. The only downside of reading peer reviewed research is that for most non-geeks, its about as exciting as watching the grass grow. Hopefully, I can make it a little bit more enjoyable.
What’s An “Abstract”?
The term abstract is the geeky way of referring to a summary of a study. Abstracts are usually about a paragraph long. Supplement companies sometimes list abstracts as “proof” that a supplement works – but abstracts are generally not peer-reviewed. While they often appear in scientific journals, they hold less weight than a published peer reviewed study.
What Is Presented Research?
Sometimes a study, presented at a scientific convention is offered up as proof for a supplement. But, presenting a study is not the same thing as getting the study published in a scientific journal. While research that is presented does have value, I tend to view it carrying less weight than a published, peer reviewed study.
What Does “Clinically Proven” Mean?
The phrase “clinically proven” which is used frequently in supplement advertisements is actually a very generic statement that could mean almost anything. Saying that something is clinically proven does not say anything about the quality of the proof (was it a good study or a bad study?). The thing to ask yourself when you encounter this statement is whether or not the clinically proven evidence refers to a published, peer-reviewed study.
What Does “Emerging Research” Mean?
Like clinically proven, you may also hear statements like “emerging research suggest that…” . The phrase emerging research basically means that somebody did a study (it may not be peer reviewed) that found that a supplement (or ingredient in a supplement product) may be needed to help or do something. Emerging research basically means that “we have a little proof but we are not really sure”. Emerging research sounds “cutting edge” but it’s really just a fancy phrase to make you think something is special. In reality, the truth may be just the opposite.
What Does “Clinical Strength” Mean?
Products that are said to be “clinical strength” may have more of something in them, but does that mean the extra stuff makes them work better? I view this phrase the same as “clinically proven” – basically meaningless.
Does Natural Mean Safe?
We often hear statements like “a safe, natural alternative” in supplement advertisements. But, does natural mean safe? Lightening is natural. Earthquakes are natural; cyanide and hemlock are natural. But are they safe? Natural does not always mean safe or safe for everybody. Most supplements on the market in the US are safe (if they weren’t people would be dropping like flies!).
But it’s also true that many things have side effects. Most side effects are mild but some can be devastating. For example, smokers who take beta carotene supplements have an increased risk of lung cancer. This fact has been known since the 1990s but why have most people never heard about it?
Can Supplements Interact With Drugs?
Yes. The “grapefruit effect” is probably the most famous interaction and is the reason why your doctor may have told you to not use grapefruit while using certain medications. I would also not use supplements that contain grapefruit while using medications either (Tip: grapefruit is found in many weight loss supplements). The interactions between supplement and medication can vary widely and could range from:
- The supplement reducing the absorption of the medication
- The supplement increasing the absorption of the medication
- The supplement combining with the medication, producing a greater effect than the medication alone
Can Supplements Interact With Other Supplements?
Yes. Supplements that have similar properties could, in theory, produce a larger effect than either supplement could if used by itself. For example, both vitamin E and ginkgo have anti-blood clotting (“blood thinning”) properties. Taking both together, in theory, might “over thin” the blood resulting in a stroke.
Who Should Avoid Supplements?
As a general rule the following people should not use supplements unless prescribed by a physician
- Pregnant women or nursing mothers
- Small children and/or teenagers
- People with medical conditions
- People about to undergo surgery
This is because nobody really knows what supplements do in these groups. It is unethical to experiment on pregnant women or children and those who cannot legally or intellectually accept the risks of research. This is why you usually see disclaimers at the bottom of supplement advertisements pertaining to pregnant women, those with health issues and children.
Does the FDA Regulate Supplements?
The FDA has some regulation over supplements but they do not study supplements for safety or test whether they are effective either. This is why you always see this disclaimer in ads for supplements:
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
This is the US government’s way of saying to the consumer that the government is not endorsing the claims made about the supplement . It’s also reminding the people that in spite of the structure/function claim (e.g “aids in prostate health”), the supplement should not be used in place of any conventional medical treatment.
Are Natural Supplements Better?
Not necessarily but I do believe that it’s best to get most nutrients from food when possible. For example, your multivitamin probably contains folic acid. Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate -the natural form of the vitamin. Folic acid is absorbed better than the natural form.
Folic acid does help reduce birth defects and that’s good. However some research also shows that folic acid supplements (and food that is fortified with folic acid) appear to increase the risk for prostate and colon cancer! Just as babies need folic acid to grow, so too does cancer.
This doesn’t happen when people eat food in its natural (not fortified) state. As you see, things can be very complicated. While folic acid supplements may be best for pregnant woman, they may not always be the best for everybody else.
Do Colon Cleanses Work?
Many people take colon cleanse supplements for weight loss. When you look at the ingredients in these supplements, what you often see is fiber and things that cause the colon to contract (like senna). This means that colon cleanses are laxatives. Here’s the thing; laxatives (and colon cleanse supplements) work in the large intestate – where the poop is. They do not work in the small intestine – where we absorb calories.
Because of this, the weight lost using colon cleanse supplements is mostly poop and water. Because of that I suggest not wasting your money on over-priced, over-hyped colon cleanse supplements.
Do Testosterone Supplements Work?
I’ve reviewed several testosterone booster supplements and the thing that I see is that none of the companies I’ve looked at have shown me any published peer reviewed proof that their products actually raise testosterone levels in humans. Most products contain the herbs fenugreek and tribulus terrestris as well as others.
For more on Fenugreek and tribulus see my reviews of Ageless Male, Mdrive and Nugenix. For those who want to try a T booster supplement, I think they should first get their testosterone levels measured by their doctor. Then try a product for a month. Then, retest their testosterone levels to see if it changed. That is the only way to really know if a product works or not.
Do you have a question not mentioned here? Email me so I can add it to this list.