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What You Should Know Before You Buy Another Supplement

Choosing the best supplements can be confusing

Written on August 19th, 2019

Supplement Buying Tips And Advise From An Ex-Supplement Buyer

I started working in the supplement industry in 1993 and today I share supplement buying tips to help you navigate through a supplement Industry that is severely flawed with more and more instances of products being found with inaccurate labels, and many with dangerous drugs or other ingredients hidden within.

Consumers now have to navigate through loads of fakes and counterfeits and just over-all low quality and low dose supplements.

It’s a buyer beware industry but we’re here to help.

Supplement buying tips from a professional supplement buyer

#1. Some Stores Sell Thousands Of Inferior Supplements: Some big supplement retailers brag about selling thousands of supplements and some even claim they have up to 30,000 products. I used to work as a buyer for a retail chain and bought millions of dollars worth of supplements and I can tell you the truth if that selling this many supplements means these huge retailers are selling thousands of inferior or useless supplements. 

Our research shows that it’s not uncommon to find hundreds if not thousands of products that really don’t have any substantial scientific proof that they even work or do not meet clinical study doses. 

Sure, having a huge selection is great when it comes to products that might have different flavors and tastes like protein shakes, or energy drinks or even protein bars, but when it comes to products that come in a pill or tablet form all you really need is that one great supplement tat has the most active ingredient and is 3rd party tested and made in a cGMP facility. And if if comes in couple of different sizes even better, but that it.

Having 300 versions of the same supplement when there is no flavor means you are likely looking at 290+ versions of inferior supplements.

On some websites we found over 390 options for Turmeric on one of the larger supplement websites? There is absolutely no need for 390 versions of this product.

After careful comparisons, I determined that over 95% of those Turmeric supplements I wouldn’t use even if they gave it to me for free!

Unfortunately having hundreds of different formulas from different brands like this is common on internet supplement websites and confuses and frustrates consumers.


Having so many different version of the same product is why myself and the team at SmartWays Health will spend hundreds of hours comparing hundreds of supplements and the scientific literature before we settle on that one best supplement.

For more information on where to buy the best supplements and what to watch out for with retailers check our this article HERE . . . .

Supplement buyng tips that may prevent you from buying banned supplements

#2. The FDA Provides Supplement Buying Tips But . . . .

The FDA does not regulate the manufacturing or the sale of most supplements. This means anyone can slap together a bunch of ingredients in a powder, capsule or tablet without prior proof of safety or effectiveness and then start selling it. The FDA does provide some FDA guidelines to help supplement users but our research clearly shows tons of useless and supplements and scams all over the internet.

Because the FDA does not require regulation of manufacturing processes or regulate the sale of supplements this opens up the supplement industry to thousands of inferior, fake counterfeit and possibly harmful products. It’s a buyer beware type of market and consumers could be at risk. 

Generally the only time the FDA looks into a supplement is if they get enough complaints about it or someone gets seriously sick or dies.

The FDA has even reported over 800 supplements found to contain illegal, banned or unsafe substances and that is after they’ve been on the market for undisclosed amount of time. See that story HERE . . .

We have found many articles on supplement companies and supplement manufacturers that have been charged for not following the FDA guidelines or for selling illegal or dangerous products.

The FDA also cannot keep up with all the fake and counterfeit supplements showing up and some reports claim that in some cases 1 in 3 supplements are fake and even big retailers like Amazon have been found to be selling fake supplements.  See story HERE . . .

Preventing people from buying these inferior products is one of the primary reasons we started SmartWays Health.

#3. GMP and cGMP Manufacturing:

One of our most important supplement buying tips is to look for Made In The USA or Canada supplements that are made in cGMP facilities.

What is GMP Certification: GMP means Good Manufacturing Practice and is an FDA regulated system for ensuring that products are consistently produced and controlled according to quality standards set by the FDA. It is designed to minimize the risks involved in any supplement or health food production that cannot be eliminated through testing the final product. Unfortunately companies are not require to be GMP certified to sell supplements legally.

cGMP means Current Good Manufacturing Practice which means these companies are up to date with their certifications.

GMP covers all aspects of the production from the raw materials, the premises, and the equipment and even as far as to the training and personal hygiene of the staff. Detailed written procedures are essential and must be followed for each process that could affect the quality of the finished product. There is also systems to provide documented proof to the FDA that the correct procedures have been followed at every step in the manufacturing of the product each and every time a product is made. The FDA does GMP inspections on these manufactures and if they pass they become an GMP certified Facility.

WARNING! Any company can put a GMP symbol on their product and say they follow GMP procedures even if they don’t and that is especially true for counterfeiters and scammers. If a company claims they follow GMP guidelines or claims the use GMP procedures that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are actually GMP certified. It may mean that they do or they try to follow the same procedures that an actual certified cGMP facility would follow but it does not necessarily mean their facility or their products are actually GMP certified and that they are regulated by the FDA. 

Why is third party testing so important

#4. Third Party Testing: Third Party Testing is likely the most important supplement buying tip I can give you simply because a supplement that has been third party tested will have exactly what the label claims so you know exactly what you are getting.

Unfortunately many review websites will recommend supplements that are not third party tested meaning they and you don’t really know for sure what is in that supplement.

Third party testing means that after a product is manufactured it is sent to an independent testing company for purity and label accuracy.

Third party testing is not a requirement by the FDA and unfortunately most Brands will only rely on the manufactures testing which can be wrong which is why having a product 3rd party tested is considered the gold standard in supplements and why we rely on this to accurately and confidently provide supplement reviews.

Products not tested by a 3rd-party testing facility might have little to no active ingredients, or have more or less than the label claims or it may even have other ingredients or impurities in it.

We have found many examples of supplements that do not meet label claims. As an example ConsumerLabs reported that Ashwagandha samples they tested in 2014 showed that only 2 out of 8 Ashwagandha passed their tests.

Because so many companies are not GMP or 3rd Party Tested this could be a reason why big companies like Walmart, Walgreens, Target, GNC and Amazon have been caught or accused of selling bad supplements. Read that story HERE. . .

It’s not uncommon for smaller or newer supplement brands to not do 3rd-party testing simply because it’s so expensive. I hear it can be over $3000 per batch.

Other companies won’t 3rd-party test because they know most consumers don’t know to look for this on the label so why spend $3000 per batch when they don’t need to.

Discount brands that use cheap raw ingredients and cheap supplement manufactures also wont 3rd-party test because it’s likely that their products wont pass the testing and they know that if they spend that money on their marketing of their products instead they will still sell even without the extra testing.

Our research shows us that it usually only the big reputable companies that have the confidence in their products and have the money to get 3rd-party tests done. This is why one of our supplement buying tips is to stick with reputable brands.

Check out one of our favorite websites which is because they are an independent testing website and you can see for yourself how many brand name supplements they found that have inaccurate labels. 


#5. Misleading Marketing: This is a subject that makes me angry. I have seen many number one selling supplements on big retail websites and one that are recommended by other supplement review websites that I believe are not actually the best supplement based on the effectiveness of their formula. How are these supplements getting to number 1?

Cheap Low Quality Products, Bigger Marketing Budget: In today’s world it’s never been easier to start up a supplement company and start selling products. Unfortunately there seams to be a trend of more companies choosing to spend more money on marketing then they do on the quality, manufacturing and testing of their products.

These companies know that they can save money using poor quality ingredients from cheap production companies and use that savings to sell their supplements at a cheaper price and put more into their marketing budget and still sell thousands of supplements to people who don’t know any better. 

Tricky and misleading Marketing: Some supplement companies use tricky and misleading marketing on their labels, on their websites, and on their advertisements because they know the majority of people either won’t know any better or won’t spend the time researching and comparing products anyways. 

Some of the legal misleading marketing tricks they use:

  • Big Numbers, Big Word Tricks: They put big numbers like ” 1500mg” Or “Super 2000″ Or Maximum 1000” on the front of the labels to make you think it has more then their competitors when often it doesn’t. As an example, we just reviewed a supplement that had a label called “Curcumin 10,000mg”. Anyone shopping for a curcumin product would think that sounds like a lot since most curcumin supplements are showing numbers like 1000mg to 1500mg on their bottles. After further inspection we found out the 10,000mg meant that they were using a 95% concentrate formula (which many do anyways), but they say that it’s the equivalent to 10,000mg of regular un- concentrated curcumin so that’s why they put 10,000 on the front of the label leading people to believe they have more then a competing brand. The reality was this brand had less active curcumin then many other formulas on the market yet is being sold at a popular and trusted retailer.
  • Bigger Serving Sizes: They use bigger serving sizes so they can use bigger per serving size numbers on their labels, which makes them look like they have more than their competitors who may actually have the same amount or more per bottle but who just have smaller serving sizes. Sayings like “3000mg Per Serving” is great, until you find out you have to take 6 capsules to get that much.
  • Proprietary Blends: Companies are required to list ingredients by the most abundant ingredient first and then in order down to the least amount ingredients. Proprietary blends allow them to lump and bunch of ingredients into a blend so they don’t legally have to disclose how much of each ingredient there is.  
  • Misleading Words: A company can put contains 100% WHEY ISOLATE in large in a starburst or in bold on their products front label to attract consumers. To someone looking for a Whey Isolate product this could be perceived as the whole bottle is 100% Whey Isolate and a great product but by using the word “contains” it could mean that there is 100% Whey Isolate in the formula but doesn’t necessarily mean 100% of the bottle is Whey Isolate itself, and in reality the Whey Isolate could be only 1% of the entire bottle. 
  • Bait and Switch: Companies often use big numbers claims like “1500mg of Curcumin”  on the label and marketing and and use a popular more concentrated or better form of an ingredient like “we use 95% curcumin” to confuse you into thinking that it’s 1500mg of 95% curcumin when in reality part or most of what your buying is a lessor or cheaper version of curcumin. Buy saying “1500mg of curcumin” and “we use use 95% Curcumin” in two separate lines it doesn’t have to be 1500mg of 95% curcumin. A common example of this would be to claim 1500mg and say they use of 95% curcumin extract on the front of the bottle, on their website or on advertising, but when you look at the label you’ll see 1300mg of the cheaper or non-concentrated ingredient and only 200mg of the 95% concentrated ingredient that they brag about on the front of the label. For some products, including #1 best sellers on many big supplement retails this is a popular and misleading way to confuse people and sell more products.
  • Additional Ingredients: It’s not uncommon for companies to add 3 or more great or popular ingredients to their formulas to attract more buyers. An example would be to have a joint formula with one or two primary active ingredients and adding 4 other ingredients to make them look like they have a lot of great ingredients all packed into one great product. Unfortunately a quick inspection of the label and you may quickly realize the pill sizes and serving sizes are not any bigger then normal, which means the additional added ingredients are likely so low a dose that they would literally do nothing for you and because they are there in the ingredients list there is less room for the primary ingredients making them less effective then other similar supplement that don’t have the added extra ingredients. So what looks like a better supplement because of all those added ingredients might end up being a worse supplement for results.


The supplement industry is a buyer beware industry.  It’s unregulated and full of scams, useless products, fakes and dangerous products if you don’t know what to look for. The good news is there are legitimate companies making and selling useful supplements that could work for you.

At SmartWays it’s our pleasure to put our many years of knowledge in the supplement industry to work by sorting through, comparing, finding and selling only the best products proven to work to our customers. 

It’s time to stop researching and comparing hundreds of products and let us do the work for you. Shop our best products now.

Graham - SmartWays Supplement Expert

In pursuit of health and wellness!

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