Updated: March 30, 2016
In the summer of 2015, CBC Marketplace, a Canadian consumer television program, contacted Labdoor to assist with an investigation into dietary supplement quality control. Labdoor was commissioned to test and provide detailed findings related to 25 popular Canadian supplements. In addition to chemical analyses, CBC Marketplace requested that products in this report be ranked according to active ingredient content per dollar, using itemized prices sourced from their own purchase receipts. Rankings in this report differ from Labdoor’s usual rankings which rely on a detailed assessment of multiple product characteristics including label accuracy, heavy metals, inactive ingredients, nutritional data, and efficacy.
Leading up to the report’s scheduled air-date in November 2015, Labdoor fulfilled CBC Marketplace’s requests with industry-standard testing at FDA-certified laboratories. An initial report was written that, among other details, revealed data pointing to low active ingredient content in GNC’s Lean Shake 25 and Pfizer’s Emergen-C.
Due to concerns expressed by Labdoor and manufacturers surrounding limitations in the original testing methods, Labdoor elected to retest the products with updated methods.
Initial testing estimated GNC Lean Shake 25 to have 24.4% bound protein content (as well as evidence of protein spiking), but GNC presented contradicting results with its own commissioned testing. Labdoor sent additional samples of the product to two third-party laboratories that worked together on a revised methodology. In this new analysis, data from the two labs were found to corroborate with GNC’s data (GNC Lab #1: 38.36% bound protein, Labdoor Lab #1: 38.16% bound protein, Labdoor Lab #2: 35.70% bound protein). There was no evidence of protein spiking in the retests. Labdoor updated value rankings based on this new data. GNC Lean Shake 25 remained the #5 product of five Canadian protein supplements based on quantity of bound protein per dollar.
Labdoor’s contracted laboratory initially tested Emergen-C and six other vitamin C products using AOAC 967.22, the most commonly cited method for validating ascorbic acid content in foods and supplements. One limitation of this method is that its results are prone to error as vitamin C quickly degrades. AOAC 967.22 itself relies on subjecting products to further oxidation and therefore, in many cases, products will have lost some of its originally measureable vitamin C to degradation in the testing process, making the final measurement an underestimate of the product’s original vitamin C content. Additional ingredients and various formulations may also affect final AOAC 967.22 measurements. Aware of these limitations, Labdoor elected to validate its original data using HPLC (high-performance liquid chromatography) at two separate third-party labs. Labdoor consistently found more vitamin C content in each product using HPLC vs. AOAC and updated rankings to reflect this new data. Emergen-C rose from #7 to #6 in rankings based on quantity of ascorbic acid per dollar.
Rankings based on active ingredient content per dollar for protein and vitamin C supplements remained nearly identical after retesting. Furthermore, it is of utmost importance that we stress that ALL other data from Labdoor’s original report pertaining to 25 Canadian supplements were accurate, as proven by additional testing performed at laboratories separately appointed by Labdoor and CBC Marketplace.
In every effort during its collaboration with CBC Marketplace, Labdoor maintained its principle of transparency, holding supplement products and its own testing and ranking methods up to this standard. Understanding the limitations in standard regulatory methods of supplement testing, Labdoor even initiated more accurate testing and provided better data to CBC Marketplace at Labdoor’s expense. This new data was not employed in CBC Marketplace’s coverage. Updated findings can be accessed in Labdoor’s official full report.
Labdoor has been consistently open to feedback and recommendations from manufacturers and consumers. When new methods of testing are found to be more precise and accurate, our data will reflect the change. We publish our data and reports with the highest sense of responsibility, and every report is our best-faith effort to provide the most accurate and truthful data possible.
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