What Is In Your Vitamin Supplements?

18 Mar

It is with great fear and trembling that I approach today’s subject, i.e., vitamin supplements. It seems like every time I mention vitamin supplements I make someone upset—so here is the deal: If you think vitamin and nutritional supplements are a waste of time and money then please stop reading this article and come back in a few days when I have another product review. However, if you do take supplements then this article will probably be of interest to you. In an ideal world we would be able to get all of our needed vitamins and minerals through a normal, healthy diet. Sadly, I’ve never met anyone who has been to that ideal world, so, like many of you, I take a handful of supplements every day.

What Is In Your Vitamin Supplements?

What Is In Your Vitamin Supplements?

The problem many of us have with taking supplements is finding a place where we can read current, accurate information about the quality, dosage, and side effects of the vitamins we take. For the past several years I have subscribed to, an “impartial and independent third-party evaluator of health and nutrition products.” To put it simply, tests many different brands of supplements and then makes a report about how each brand stacks up. It is amazing to me how many times a company will sell of bottle of vitamins that claims, for example, to have 100 mg of vitamin C in each tablet, but after testing it is revealed that each that it only has 60 mg. of vitamin C per tablet. recently reviewed nearly fifty different brands of Coenzyme Q-10 (CoQ-10) and they found one brand that only had 3.8% of the amount of CoQ-10 that was listed on the label! However, under-reporting the active ingredients is only half of the story—many supplements also contain contaminates! Do you really want to take a vitamin supplement that has lead in it?

In addition to rating the contents of the supplements, also does a price comparison for all the brands they review. One of the biggest things I’ve learned from reading their reviews is that the price of a supplement has almost no correlation to the quality. Sometimes the most expensive brand of a certain vitamin will fail their tests, but one of the cheapest brands will pass with flying colors. Before they give you the test results for any vitamin or supplement they reviewed, will also tell you what the vitamin is supposed to do and how they evaluated to product.

The membership fee to join is $33 a year and this gives you access to all of their reviews (and there are a lot of them). I realize that many people will think $33 for an online subscription is pretty expensive, but that price is nothing compared to what some people spend on vitamins that are mislabeled, missing key ingredients or contain hazardous additives. As regular readers know, there are very few products that I have ever placed in the “highly recommended” category, but a subscription to is definitely one of them.


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48 responses to “What Is In Your Vitamin Supplements?

  1. Wild Juggler

    March 18, 2013 at 6:52 AM

    Good post. Discussions of supplements could use a lot more science and a lot less emotion and hype these days.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      March 18, 2013 at 9:17 PM

      Thanks! simply presents the cold, hard facts — they have nothing to sell and nothing to gain from a review.

  2. billgncs

    March 18, 2013 at 7:34 AM

    sounds like they provide a valuable service.

  3. College Tri

    March 18, 2013 at 9:35 AM

    That looks like a great service! I may have to sign up for that. I take a multivitamin as a type of “insurance.” I try to get it all from my food, but I know I have the multivitamin just in case. And I also take green tea (in addition to drinking it) and turmeric after talking with some of the international students in my dorm.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      March 18, 2013 at 9:20 PM

      I take a bit of turmeric as well. has reviewed a dozen or so turmeric and curcumin supplements as well.

      • thehomeschoolingdoctor

        October 14, 2013 at 9:49 PM

        Will they test my Penzey spices ground turmeric (joking)? I’ve been using it in my smoothies and pumpkin soup!

  4. MichelleK

    March 18, 2013 at 9:54 AM

    Do they review protein supplements?

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      March 18, 2013 at 9:21 PM

      Yes! They had a lengthy comparison of different powers, bars as shakes (they are not all created equal).

  5. cotharyus

    March 18, 2013 at 10:01 AM

    I’ve never heard of those folks, but it sounds like an interesting idea. I take a couple of supplements, a multivitamin, an amino acid supplement that helps with sustained energy production and recovery, and if I know I’ll be pushing, I’ll either drink beet juice if I can find any, or take a beet root extract supplement. All of my supplements come from the same place specifically because they back up all of their claims with the testing of independent labs. I’ll have to look and see if ConsumerLab has tested what I take.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      March 18, 2013 at 9:22 PM

      I’m at the point where if hasn’t reviewed a supplement I won’t buy it — I’ve been burned a few times before.

      • cotharyus

        March 19, 2013 at 8:08 AM

        I understand. Mostly, the brand I use is very athlete oriented, and it’s not something you’d generally find in stores. The fact that it’s used by athletes that are subjected to substance screens means that athletic regulatory agencies have tested it, and the results show the label to be accurate within a few tenths of a percent on everything, with very little variance. It’s manufactured in the US, and while it’s expensive, I figure my trust is worth something. I was surprised to see the brand in question is NOT listed as tested by ConsumerLab.

        • All Seasons Cyclist

          March 19, 2013 at 9:46 AM

          If the product is not found in store then it must have a very limited market. Testing drugs or vitamins is a very expensive task and I can see why they wouldn’t review items with limited distribution. On the other hand, maybe they just haven’t heard of the brand before — subscribers to can suggest that they review certain brands.

  6. spritesquadron

    March 18, 2013 at 10:40 AM

    wow! thanks for the review

  7. Zeus Adventure

    March 18, 2013 at 11:18 AM

    I can see where this topic can be difficult to approach. Too many diving lines and too few agreements. I for one did a some testing back in my college chemistry classes about the content of ‘complete’ multivitamins. Results where a but eyeopening to say the least. I aim to go the hard way, our bodies where designed to receive nutrients from our food, I have as balanced a diet as I can get from the surrounding big box grocery stores and the few farmers markets that we have around these parts. I eat as many fruits and vegetables as I can, and I try to stay away from processed food. Good rule of thumb, if it comes in a cardboard box, it’s probably not good for you.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      March 18, 2013 at 9:23 PM

      I would like to get all of my vitamins from food, but I am a distance cyclist and feel that I need additional anti-oxidants.

  8. Colin DeWaay

    March 18, 2013 at 11:38 AM

    I can’t lie I often tremble at the thought of what could be in our supplements since they aren’t monitored.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      March 18, 2013 at 9:24 PM

      Best advice: Don’t buy ANY vitamins made in China!

      • Colin DeWaay

        March 18, 2013 at 9:25 PM

        Got it! Thanks!

  9. tlsylvan

    March 18, 2013 at 12:09 PM

    I take a regular multivitamin and eat enough fruit and produce to be a walking famer’s market, but that’s scary to think that vitamins are mislabeled and can contain lead! Thanks for bringing this up!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      March 18, 2013 at 9:25 PM

      The amazing thing is that some brands are perfect in the labeling of one of their products and way off in another. I like independent testing to see what I am actually getting.

  10. Charles Huss

    March 18, 2013 at 6:04 PM

    It seems the more I learn about vitamins the less I want to take them. It is not because they are bad, in general, it is because they are manufactured with only profit in mind and most are of such poor quality that they do more harm than good. I learned that you should take only the expensive whole food suppluments and then I learned even those contain toxins from the manufacturing process.

    Much of this vitimin bashing comes from people who want to sell you their “better” product so it is hard to know what is true. If this ConsumerLab is truly non-partial then it would be a great service to all of us.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      March 18, 2013 at 9:26 PM

      I don’t mind people making a profit, but I do mind them being dishonest about what they put in the products they sell.

  11. bgddyjim

    March 18, 2013 at 7:37 PM

    Do m&m’s count? It is a tricky subject. I got my baby-blog-post toe off of the beaten path once… I’ll never make that mistake again.

    • Irish Katie

      March 18, 2013 at 8:46 PM

      M&Ms???? mmmmmmm. I think you should divide your M&Ms up and send some to each of us who rallied on your behalf in the last giveaway *grins*

      • bgddyjim

        March 18, 2013 at 8:51 PM

        That’s compelling for sure… However, if I remember correctly I’m already on the hook for writing your entry in the 1,000,000 giveaway (should one ever come about) – now I have to share my m&m’s?

        Would you accept my undying gratitude in place of my sorted m&m’s?

        • Irish Katie

          March 18, 2013 at 8:53 PM

          Uhhh, wasn’t that $10,000,000?

          But undying gratitude works haha … unless that $10,000,000 giveaway truely does come around … haha

      • All Seasons Cyclist

        March 18, 2013 at 9:27 PM

        A bribe after the vote? Hey, I am in Chicago was we are used to that up here — just ask out past two governors who are now in Federal prison.

  12. Jeff Katzer

    March 18, 2013 at 8:43 PM

    Chewable _______ from Costco

  13. Irish Katie

    March 18, 2013 at 8:48 PM

    I am similar to tlsylvan … multivitamin … lots of fruits and veggies …but oh, I take calcium chewies and Vit. D too. So nothing too exotic. But … labels are not always correct? That is a bit disturbing.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      March 18, 2013 at 9:29 PM

      As I mentioned to someone else, I will NEVER buy any vitamin supplement that was made in China — the junk they add to some of their vitamins is unbelievable!


    March 19, 2013 at 7:15 PM

    For my first bodybuilding competition I took so many supplements it was embarrassing. Now I’m just down to L-glutamine, BCAA and Casien powder. There are so many claims out there about growing muscle; it’s nice to know there is a resource out there that tells you the real deal.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      March 20, 2013 at 11:14 AM

      By nature I am a rather skeptical person — I like to read independent reviews for just about everything I buy.

  15. travelingmarla

    March 20, 2013 at 6:21 PM

    Awesome post. I didn’t know that site existed and I’ll be using it. Thanks!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      March 20, 2013 at 9:56 PM

      Thank you very much! Please let me know what you think of them once your tried them out.

  16. cynthia malinowski

    March 25, 2013 at 12:02 PM

    The supplement industry is not regulated. When the question came up in Congress, whether it should be, the supplement industry lobbied against it and blocked FDA regulating it. The federal government will only step in in extreme cases, after the fact. When they do, their reaction is often overboard, (ephedra), with the goal of making everyone 100% safe from any possible usage.

    For the consumer, that means no label regulation except for health claims, no ingredient regulation and no contamination regulation. As consumers we are on our own.

    Consumer Labs is the only independent reviewer out there. They make money by charging for subscriptions and charging the manufacturers. Some people object that they take money at both ends, but i appreciate the service. $33/year does not cover all of their testing. Remember that chemical analysis is very expensive, requiring trained lab personnel, lab equipment, chemicals, etc.

    Consumer Labs queries its subscribers annually what products do they wish to see reviewed. i have seen ones i am interested in reviewed the following year (HuperzineA) or articles applicable to my personal situation (generics). As they list citations, i can look up the original research and further my investigation.

    China actually manufactures some of the ingredients in the supplements you are currently taking. What matters is if the ingredients that are used are clean or not and are as they claim. I know this because i worked in the medical foods industry. Manufacturers are not all alike. There is nothing stopping one from just buying the cheapest product they can find and make a pill. Some do this out of ignorance, and some do this because of the economics. The better manufacturers have a quality assurance department that inspects the manufacturing plants, sets up contracts/specifications for quality (bacterial, handling, contamination), and tests the ingredients themselves after receiving them. in spite of this, things can happen. so you hope these companies have a good recall plan in place.
    There can be multiple layers from the ingredient manufacture, to the ingredient supplier, to the manufacturer, to the company that purchases from a manufacturer.

    There is no way for most of us to know this. You can try to choose companies that seem to have a good reputation, but looking at the testing at Consumer Labs, some of these occasionally have a problem. Hence the value of Consumer Labs.

  17. Jared

    April 4, 2013 at 5:20 PM

    I agree, in a perfect world we might be able to get all the vitamins and minerals we need from food. But rigorous exercise and a busy schedule makes that impossible. I always take vitamin supplements and consulted with my doctor about how much I should take each day.

  18. Mel

    April 19, 2013 at 6:00 AM

    It’s necessary that we know what’s in our dietary supplements because there could be hidden toxins in your vitamins and supplements.

  19. rantsrulesandrecipes

    April 22, 2013 at 10:47 PM

    So glad you wrote this post! I agree, getting our vitamins from food is ideal, but supposedly, veggies are ~ 39% less nutrient dense than 10 years ago because of soil content/pollution/etc.
    My go to supplements now are USANA–made in USA, meet the highest international standards

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      April 23, 2013 at 9:33 AM

      Thanks for the link! Their probiotics look very interesting (I take probiotics every day, but when I travel overseas I really increase the amount I take).

  20. Parabellum

    April 24, 2013 at 3:03 AM

  21. runnershealth

    July 11, 2013 at 8:59 AM

    Excellent post! Thank you.

  22. thehomeschoolingdoctor

    October 14, 2013 at 9:53 PM

    Will check it out! Thanks for the FYI! Was your probiotic listed? I would be interested in things like mercury levels in my fish oil and fermented cod liver oil.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      October 14, 2013 at 9:58 PM

      My probiotic was not listed. It’s kind of funny, but I think I’ve checked out every other supplement I take except that one. ConsumerLab also reports the results of current research on the vitamins and supplements they review — they’ve convinced me to stop taking a few supplements because there just wasn’t enough evidence that they worked.


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