Counterfeit Supplements, Amazon and Your Health

By Samantha Gilbert, FNC, CHNP, CNC     Last updated on September 23rd, 2021

Counterfeit supplements, Amazon and your health. Buying supplements on Amazon is fast and easy. Who doesn’t want same or next day delivery? But the dark side of buying on Amazon is a wide variety of counterfeit products from questionable suppliers that can lead to devastating outcomes.

And to make matters worse, scarcity marketing and influencer hype create conditions that drive people to Amazon where counterfeit supplements thrive and are often tainted with questionable ingredients and phony labeling.

I’ve been noticing this trend for quite some time, which is why I caution buying supplements (including skincare and make-up) from Amazon. The Make-up Mayhem episode from Netflix’s Broken series details the dark side of this trend. Counterfeit makeup products thrive on Amazon and are often tainted with bacteria, lead, arsenic, and other toxic ingredients that come from cheap, filthy, “labs” in China and other parts of Asia.

In this episode, New York City dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe shares an alarming trend of skin conditions she didn’t see before the advent of counterfeit cosmetics, which is why I’m following suit with what I see in my own clients with counterfeit supplements.

Stories of dark grey magnesium powder, obvious bogus labels, and negative side-effects (that go beyond the scope of a normal detox response) are common things I hear from my clients. A few years ago I purchased a face cream from Amazon that looked “off” so I contacted the manufacturer and found out it was two years old with a label that was not their own. Even Amazon admits they sell fake supplements.

I appreciate that discounts are helpful when you are on a budget, but they are not worth it if they compromise your health, make your current condition worse, and sabotage the healing process.

There are five major categories of supplements: consumer-grade, generic, natural, professional-grade, and opportunistic (MLM). In general, each successive category is more expensive than the previous one. To a large extent, higher prices reflect better quality but not always – there is plenty of expensive junk, too.

Professional-grade supplements (nutraceuticals) are sold by doctors, nutritionists, chiropractors, dietitians, physical therapists, personal trainers, and others. Professional-grade nutraceuticals are the category I sell to my clients and are generally the only supplements I recommend.

The main reason is that the quality and purity of bulk raw materials are tested by an independent or internal lab with corresponding MSDS (material safety data sheets). For example, a company I routinely work with, Thorne Research, received a batch of fish oil. After internal testing, it was revealed that the fish oil contained toxic levels of mercury and other contaminants, so they sent the entire order back to the supplier.

Professional-grade nutraceuticals are free of the stabilizers, preservatives, excipients, glazes, sweeteners, artificial colorings, binders, deodorizers, and other substances consumer-grade supplements use to shape and hold them together such as croscarmellose sodium, hypromellose, crospovidone, FD&C Red #40 Lake, polyethylene glycol, resin, corn starch, titanium dioxide, and FD&C Blue #2 Lake to name a few.

The formulations of consumer-grade supplements are based on outdated Recommended Daily Allowances and are made from the cheapest, least efficient components in an effort to maximize profit, and are optimized for extended shelf life. To mask oxidation, spoilage, odor, and discoloration these manufacturers use artificial colorings, preservatives, and glazes. Centrum and Nature’s Way are examples of consumer-grade supplements.

It’s clear to me that professional-grade counterfeit supplements are being replaced with consumer-grade supplements at best, and who knows what at worst (dark grey magnesium powder, anyone?). When I switch clients to verified professional-grade nutraceuticals, they tend to respond better and heal faster. It also makes the process of helping them a lot easier because I know exactly what I’m working with.

In summary, I don’t recommend buying supplements (as well as skincare and make-up) from Amazon. It’s just not worth the risk. However, if this is your only option, be sure to check who the supplier is (that they are not a third-party seller or bogus supplement company) and what else they sell. For example, it’s questionable to see supplements being sold with electronics, dog food, and clothing.

If it’s a legitimate Amazon account the manufacturer is using as a selling platform, reach out to them for verification before making a purchase. The safer option is to buy directly from their website. It’s unfortunate we live in a world of bait and switch, but your health is worth the extra effort.


1 thought on “Counterfeit Supplements, Amazon and Your Health”

  1. Omg ! All I can say thank god for people like you who are out there to protect us from the cruel people out there !

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