The fierce rivalry these days in the vitamin supplement business is a war between retailers who struggle to differentiate themselves through style rather than substance. Mainstream brand name vitamin supplement companies usually assert that their products are vastly superior to their competition, with superior ingredients used to manufacture their products.

But in reality, these mainstream vitamin supplement companies all purchase their essential ingredients from a core group of wholesale sources that operate behind the scenes and are generally unknown to the public. So while there may be hundreds of vitamin and supplement companies, there is really a relatively small number of primary sources manufacturing the critical nutritional ingredients. In short, most vitamin and supplement companies purchase from the same source. They amount to the same product in different packaging.

This is common in the retail industry. General Motors, the once great American car company, has subdivisions like Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac, and used to have Oldsmobile (not your parents Oldsmobile). Many people who drive Chevys don’t know that the guy driving the Cadillac next to them is driving a car made by the same company. These private label manufacturing companies often supply the packaging and labeling, as well as manufacture the key ingredients in the vitamin supplements for most of the big names in the vitamin industry like One A Day, Centrum, Flinstones, Vitamin World, The Vitamin Shoppe and GNC.

Private label companies also manufacture vitamins for many smaller companies who vend their products through multi-level networks, smaller retail outlets, the Internet, TV advertorials, magazine ads and other marketing sources. So be careful you don’t get duped by a product you see in a magazine ad claiming unique, proprietary, age-old, long-lost, newly discovered formulas and secret ingredients based on traditional, thousand years old cultures with special, ancient wisdom.

Chances are, they bought their stuff from the same huge private label manufacturer everyone else does. Or a distributor of one. Same source, different label. Under the hood, a Chevy and a Buick and the now defunct Oldsmobile rode on the same frames with window dressing and plastic fenders added to make them look different. They’re basically the same car.

Private label companies such as Ion Labs, Nutricap Labs, GMP Laboratories, Health Products Corporation, National Vitamin Company and others similar produce and package a large percentage of the popular supplement companies heavily advertised in the mainstream media and retail markets. For example, at least 22 supplement companies that distribute to the MLM industry derive their “proprietary” formulas from Vitarich Laboratories. Now that doesn’t mean that these companies can’t purchase the same basic ingredients and formulate them in unique and creative ways. Some companies do, but I wouldn’t bet on most of them.

These facts may shock some people, and it does seem a bit deceptive on the surface. And you would think that at least you know the ingredients you’re buying are manufactured by reputable, competent companies most of which have been around a long time, and their products are of a decent quality and subject to the same quality controls as other mass produced vitamin sources. It’s important that people know what’s in and behind the supplements they buy, so you should research thoroughly the companies you purchase from. Its your hard-earned money so know what you’re getting.

Unfortunately, it seems many of these private label manufacturers are of poor quality. Although published 4 years ago, here’s what MSNBC reported: “Of 21 brands of multivitamins on the market in the United States and Canada selected by and tested by independent laboratories, just 10 met the stated claims on their labels or satisfied other quality standards.” Ouch. The article goes on to report,

“Most worrisome, according to president Dr. Tod Cooperman, is that one product, The Vitamin Shoppe Multivitamins Especially for Women, was contaminated with lead.

I was definitely shocked by the amount of lead in [this] woman’s product,” he said. “We’ve never seen that much lead in a multivitamin before.”

Other products contained more or less of a particular vitamin than listed on the label. And some did not dissolve in the correct amount of time, meaning they could potentially pass through the body without being fully absorbed.”

The Vitamin Shoppe women’s product contained 15.3 micrograms of lead per daily serving of two tablets.

This amount of lead is more than 10 times the amount permitted without a warning in California . . . On average, most American adults are exposed to about 3 micrograms of lead through food, wine and other sources, he said, and while 15.3 micrograms of lead per day may not be immediately toxic, the mineral is stored in the body and could build up to dangerous levels with time.

“I would be concerned about a woman taking a multivitamin that contains 15.3 micrograms of lead per daily serving,” said Judy Simon, a dietitian at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. . .

The same product also contained just 54 percent of the 200 milligrams of calcium stated on the label.

The analysis also showed that Hero Nutritionals Yummi Bears, a multivitamin for children, had 216 percent of the labeled amount of vitamin A in the retinol form, delivering 5,400 International Units (IU) in a daily serving. That’s substantially more than the upper tolerable level set by the Institute of Medicine of 2,000 IU for kids ages 1 to 3 and 3,000 IU for those 4 to 8.”
— updated¬†1/19/2007

So another issue is not only vitamin quality but quantity. The popular over the counter vitamin brands like Centrum don’t have enough ingredients to provide any anti-aging or disease prevention benefits. They merely help prevent severe vitamin deficiency and malnutrition, and that’s all they were ever designed to do. The public, however, has been mislead to believe that these cheap, usually synthetic vitamins will promote good health. They don’t, unless as I said, you suffer from severe malnutrition.

Of course this is not true of all companies. Some distinguish themselves and are heavily involved in research and development.

The best vitamin company I have ever seen is NSI, which has an incredible array of products for the one-a-day crowd all the way up to fanatical anti-aging specialists who spend hundreds of dollars a month (and you should if you have the money. My estimate is that lifespan can be extended by about 50% using all of today’s known technologies). They are on the cutting edge of scientific and anti-aging research. Life Extension Foundation also offers superior products and research but at a higher price.

But you don’t need to load up on vitamins from a bottle to get significant anti-aging and disease fighting ammunition. The new trend in whole superfoods offers a more natural way to supercharge your nutritional intake that is the perfect complement to supplements. Boku Superfood is one of the very best on the market. Try them and be amazed.

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