Things to Know Before Buying Supplements Online: An Insider‘s Guide

As an entrepreneurship consultant who assists countless small business owners and entrepreneurs in starting and expanding their health and wellness companies, I always emphasize the importance of "walking the walk" by making your own health a priority. As the saying goes “health is wealth” – caring for your body and mind will enable you to show up as your best self to serve your business and community.

In my consulting practice, I‘ve seen supplement companies thrive, even exponentially growing 175% year-over-year during the pandemic as more consumers focused on wellness. However, the online supplement space can also be filled with pitfalls, from questionable manufacturers to products making unfounded claims. My clients often ask me for advice on safely buying quality supplements online, so I‘ve compiled the top 10 insider tips:

1. Verify Safe Manufacturing Standards

Reputable supplement makers adhere to Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMP) regulations enforced by the FDA, as well as often getting third-party certifications:

  • NSF International: Confirms safe limits of contaminants and truth in labeling
  • ConsumerLab: Rigorously tests popular supplements for proper dissolving rates, ingredients, etc.
  • USP: Verifies supplements meet quality, purity, and potency standards
  • BSCG: Specializes in testing for banned substances in sports nutrition

Without proper oversight, unsafe contaminants have been found in 51% of supplement brands. Stick to CGMP and third-party tested!

2. Research Ingredients Extensively

With over 50,000 supplement products on the market making a wide variety claims, being an informed consumer is key. Use reputable databases like NIH’s Dietary Supplement Label Database to look beyond the marketing and verify:

  • Clinically-backed benefits: Confirm ingredients are proven to help with your health priorities
  • Safety: Check for reactions with medications or pre-existing conditions
  • Effective doses: Match amounts used in successful clinical studies

3. Read Between the Lines on Reviews

Reviews can provide helpful insights, but about 20% of online reviewers have admitted leaving fake positive reviews. Watch for:

  • Details backing up claims vs vague, over-the-top language
  • Mix of ratings (all 5 stars is suspicious)
  • Grammar mistakes or repetitive phrasing

Genuine reviews mention specifics on customers’ experiences and results.

4. Don’t Fall for Outrageous Claims

The FDA warns against getting duped by online ads touting supplements as “quick cures” or miracle solutions. Declaring a product treats, cures or prevents disease without extensive clinical evidence is illegal. Legitimate brands make factual, science-backed statements on how ingredients engage the body’s natural processes.

5. Start Small with New Brands

When sourcing from a new supplement brand, first purchase just a one-month supply until evaluating its quality and results. Minor side effects like indigestion or headaches are possible even with natural ingredients. Ensure your body tolerates the new supplements before buying multi-month bundles.

6. Prioritize Transparent Business Practices

Quality supplement brands focused on science and safety over profits will display transparent business credentials like:

  • Contact info beyond just an email
  • Leadership bios
  • Clear return policies
  • Evidence of ethical practices like B Corp certification

These signal the brand respects consumers as valued partners in health.

7. Safeguard Your Personal Information

Unfortunately, buying supplements online can expose you to cyber threats if brands don’t properly secure systems and servers against hackers. Before handing over personal and payment details, ensure the site has SSL encryption, indicated by “https://” in the URL bar or a padlock icon. Vigilantly monitoring credit card statements also helps catch suspicious charges.

8. Keep An Eye Out for Recalls

While many prudent supplement brands thoroughly test products before selling them, the FDA still announces 30+ recalls annually often due to undisclosed drug ingredients. Checking the FDA’s safety alerts database lets you cross-reference your supplements against any recalled products as an extra safety net.

9. Understand Restricted Sport Categories

Athletes competing in high-level sports like MMA, the Olympics or NCAA championships are subject to strict anti-doping policies. An athlete’s reputation and eligibility can be damaged if merely accidental ingestion of banned substances occurs via supplement contamination. Utilizing Informed Sport or NSF Certified for Sport certified supplements reduces this risk.

10. Monitor Developments in Testing Technology

Technologies enabling supplement testing are rapidly evolving to bolster safety and purity assurances. For example, Bernoulli System’s AI-powered monitoring can automatically shut down production when unwanted substances are detected. Emerging advances like graphene sensor strips will enable on-the-spot testing. Staying abreast of innovations helps guide purchasing decisions.

While the online supplement industry still faces some ongoing challenges, consumers willing to thoroughly vet manufacturers, products, certifications and business practices can feel confident in purchasing high-quality, effective supplements suited to their individual health needs. With insider insights like these guiding your approach, buying supplements online can be simple, safe and rewarding.