Fake pharmaceuticals are a big problem, Pharmaceuticals in the U.S. are required to go through Food and Drug Administration (FDA) testing before they can be brought to market. They are designed to treat a specific problem with controlled substances, and manufacturers need to back up their claims with research.
Supplements, on the other hand, do not need FDA approval to get to market, as long as they don’t contain a controlled drug or substance. People who purchase supplements take it in good faith that the product works in the way the company claims it does, whether it’s a weight loss pill or vitamin.
This presents a unique opportunity for counterfeiters and bad actors. The global supplement industry was estimated to be worth $123 billion in 2019 and growing. Specific products often spike in popularity when they are endorsed by celebrities or powerful marketing campaigns. Counterfeiters then ride the wave with fake products, the contents of which are a mystery.
Magnesium, an abundant mineral in the body, is naturally present in many foods, added to other food products, available as a dietary supplement, and present in some medicines (such as antacids and laxatives). Magnesium is a cofactor in more than 300 enzyme systems that regulate diverse biochemical reactions in the body, including protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation.
Magnesium is required for energy production, oxidative phosphorylation, and glycolysis. It contributes to the structural development of bone and is required for the synthesis of DNA, RNA, and the antioxidant glutathione. Magnesium also plays a role in the active transport of calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes, a process that is important to nerve impulse conduction, muscle contraction, and normal heart rhythm .
An adult body contains approximately 25 g magnesium, with 50% to 60% present in the bones and most of the rest in soft tissues . Less than 1% of total magnesium is in blood serum, and these levels are kept under tight control. Normal serum magnesium concentrations range between 0.75 and 0.95 millimoles (mmol)/L . Hypomagnesemia is defined as a serum magnesium level less than 0.75 mmol/L .
Intake recommendations for magnesium and other nutrients are provided in the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) developed by the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies (formerly National Academy of Sciences) DRI is the general term for a set of reference values used to plan and assess nutrient intakes of healthy people. These values, which vary by age and sex.
There are a lot of worrisome articles circulating about counterfeit supplements being sold on Amazon.com. The truth of the matter is, there’s little Amazon can do to protect you against fake products and fake reviews. Though they have a process for reporting and banning counterfeit third-party sellers, these can pop up overnight and it takes time for them to be reported.
Fortunately, you can buy directly from manufacturers on Amazon, manufacturers who are verified and should have a detailed manufacturer profile. You don’t need to fear buying from Amazon if you only buy from verified manufacturers.
Should You Buy Supplements from Retail Locations?
It’s not enough to blindly trust retailers because fake vitamins are sold in stores as well. Large retailers such as GNC, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart have been caught red-handed with fake supplements. The New York Attorney general’s office accused these four retailers of selling fraudulent products.
Here are some of the shocking findings from the NYC attorney general’s report:
- A ginseng supplement sold at Walgreens contained only powdered garlic and rice.
- Six herbs sold by Target tested negative for the herbs listed on their labels. Instead, these supplements were made up of rice, beans, peas, and wild carrots.
- GNC had supplements with ingredients missing from their labels. These hidden ingredients included peanuts and soybeans, which can be very dangerous for anyone with allergies.
The bottom line is this—neither Amazon nor retail stores are sources you can blindly trust when it comes to supplements.
How to Avoid Fake Magnesium Supplements
- Buy Directly from Reputable Manufacturers
Once you’ve found a reliable manufacturer of a particular supplement you want to buy, you can go right to the manufacturer’s website and purchase directly from them. This is the number one method you can implement to ensure your supplements are not only real, but high quality.
Sure, it may be a bit more expensive because you might not get the free shipping that comes from your Amazon Prime account. However, you’ll have the guarantee of product coming straight from the manufacturer without passing through any unnecessary and potentially dangerous third parties.
Keep in mind, it’s often possible to buy directly from a manufacturer using Amazon. Many manufacturers recognize how convenient it can be for the consumer to use this e-commerce platform and set up an account to sell from their site.
- Buy Directly from Reputable Sources
This strategy differs slightly from manufacturers in that there are many doctors, nurses, and wellness leaders who sell their own private label products. These are often blends of vitamins, minerals, nutrients or herbs that have been developed from their personal clinical experience and research. There are actually many successful blends that were developed by health professionals to support their own patients in their practices. Many of these supplements are unique or personalized health solutions and shouldn’t be overlooked just because they aren’t from the manufacturer themselves.
In the case of supplements sold by reputable sources, be sure to use a similar mentality as you do when you buy from reputable manufacturers. Once you identify the product and source as high quality (from your excellent sleuthing), you should then only buy this directly from the source. Avoid third-party sellers, especially if they are selling the product at a fraction of the price.
- Check the FDA Tainted Product List
You can check the FDA’s tainted products list. This is a running list of potentially hazardous products but is by no means complete.
- Check for Red Flags
Major red flags include:
- If the product seems fake or too good to be true
- Supplements that are very cheap
- If the seller has no contact information
- Reviews that seem overly curated
- Check for Signs of Credibility
Signs of credibility include:
- Trusted certifications
- Third party lab testing
- Choose trusted brands that have been around for many years
Ultimately, just like anything else you buy, you run some risk of it not being exactly what you paid for—especially when you get it online. You can check for red flags and signs of credibility but keep in mind many of these can be forged, and so it’s better to stick with a manufacturer and source you trust.
With supplements you should be extra vigilant and spend a little extra time researching, along with possibly a few extra dollars to ensure you are getting exactly what you’re looking for—it pays off in the long run. READ: How to Spot Fake Whey Protein Supplements