By 2027, the worldwide market for dietary supplements will reach $231 billion. That is more than double where the industry was in 2019. In the online supplement market, Amazon supplements make up 77% of sales. That’s more than the top five specialty vitamin sellers combined. While customers do benefit from Amazon’s convenience, there are a few things they need to watch out for.
The main thing customers need to avoid are low quality supplements. According to the National Poison Control Center, there were 39,112 incidents involving vitamins, and another 48,537 incidents involving dietary or herbal supplements, reported to Poison Control in 2019. According to the US Drug Induced Liver Injury Network, 20% of liver injuries are attributed to herbal and dietary supplements. Nearly 1 in 3 people who take both supplements and prescription medication(s) are at risk for an adverse drug interaction. Supplements are meant to improve a consumer’s health, not endanger it.
It’s always important to read labels carefully, and understand what you are reading. Labels can be wrong in many ways:
- Understating the dose of active ingredients contained within
- Leave important ingredients (even pharmaceuticals) off its content list
- Name one or more active or inactive ingredients not present in the drug
For a health conscious consumer, not knowing what’s in a supplement can endanger one’s health goals, or even health more generally.
The Dark Side of Supplements
The reason so many suspicious supplements are sold on Amazon is, quite frankly, because Amazon allows it to happen. 58% of Amazon sales are made by 3rd party sellers, limiting their legal liability. Amazon sellers must agree to follow the laws and regulations of the territories in which their products are sold, but many fail to meet FDA requirements. Even when a seller on Amazon does get in trouble with the law, Amazon doesn’t always remove their product from their site.
In one case, Amazon listings for supplements from one company continued to appear in search results even after the company was sued by the Department of Justice for COVID-19 related fraud. While Amazon is taking steps to reduce fraud on their site, they are not likely to have sufficiently wide reaching effects on the market.
Online listings by themselves won’t help you choose supplements. Learn what the FDA does and does not regulate in the supplement industry and how to tell when a product runs afoul. Check for 3rd party testing, as all supplement sellers should provide a certificate of analysis (CoA) on their website. Examine company websites to make sure they specialize in supplements or health products and ensure Amazon is an authorized seller of what they produce. Most importantly, consult a doctor before starting any new supplement, especially if taking prescription medication with it.
Don’t fall for fake or misleading supplements, understand how to evaluate Amazon supplements effectively through the visual deep dive below: