When looking into supplements online, you must have come across the phrase “proprietary blend”. Some supplement manufacturers even use “proprietary blend “as a key selling point for their supplements.
Are proprietary blends indicative of high-quality products or just a marketing ploy? As a consumer, should you buy supplements containing proprietary blends or steer clear of such products?
This article will look into what exactly proprietary blends are and why supplement manufacturers may use them. We will also tell you everything else you need to know about proprietary blends.
Finally, we will give you a quick shopping guide for supplements to help you make an independent and informed decision. Let us delve right into it.
What is a Proprietary Blend?
A proprietary blend is a unique combination of ingredients in a single formula created by a manufacturer. The manufacturer can disclose every ingredient in the formula but not necessarily the exact mass or dose per ingredient.
Only the total mass of the proprietary blend is listed. The ingredients in the blend are usually listed in descending order of mass.
The ingredient with the highest mass is listed at the top, while the one with the lowest mass is listed at the bottom.
Proprietary blends normally appear on the fact label. They may also be listed as “complex”, “matrix, or “formula” on the ingredient label.
Proprietary blends may also appear under trademarked names that allude to a supplement’s potency. For example, a proprietary blend in a supplement for muscles may be listed as a “muscle power blend”.
If you are wondering whether concealing ingredient dosage is legal, well, unfortunately, it is. According to the FDA, manufacturers are not required by law to list the specific weight of each ingredient in a proprietary blend (1).
Unscrupulous manufacturers take advantage of this loophole in the law to defraud customers. Some proprietary blends may contain too much of an ingredient or too little of another ingredient.
When you purchase products with proprietary blends, you just might be spending your hard-earned cash on a placebo.
Why Would a Company use a Proprietary Blend?
- Competition: Some manufacturers claim that they conceal the actual amounts of active ingredients to stop competitors from replicating their products.
- To conceal small amounts of ineffective ingredients: A product may contain meager quantities of the active ingredient required to be effective. Although the ingredients are listed on the label, they will not be effective if the dose is wrong. Sadly, most supplements contain more fillers and additives than active ingredients. The loophole also allows the manufacturer to alter the product’s formula, often without the consumer’s knowledge. So, you also don’t get consistency.
- Synergy: Some manufacturers defend using less of the active ingredients by claiming that combining it with other ingredients in their “magic formula” makes it more potent. They purport that the newly established potency justifies the reduced dose, which is not true.
- Marketing tactic: Branding products using catchy phrases such as a “power formula” or “detox blend” creates hype around them. The hype sets the product apart from competing products and drives up sales increasing revenue.
- To increase perceived value: Manufacturers take advantage of the flawed perception among customers that proprietary blend means a high-quality product. Products with proprietary blends are positioned as superior, resulting in a higher price point.
- To minimize production costs: Most active ingredients don’t come cheap. For example, a Product may require 100g of active ingredient X mixed with 80g of ingredient Y to work.
However, ingredient X costs $200 per pound while Ingredient Y costs $15 per pound. Unscrupulous manufacturers may use 10g of X to 170g of Y. If you look at it from face value, the mass of the proprietary blend makes sense, but the formula doesn’t.
As if cutting corners isn’t bad enough, manufacturers still use the drastically reduced “ingredient X” as a selling point for their product. Many consumers pay handsomely for absolutely nothing (2).
The rabbit hole that is proprietary blends goes even deeper. The questionable ethics by manufacturers are just the start. There are even bigger concerns linked to proprietary blends.
Why Should I Avoid Proprietary Blends?
Below are five reasons why you should avoid proprietary blends.
1. Unproven Ingredients
Supplements fall in the same FDA classification as food and not medicine. Because they are not regarded as drugs, they undergo less stringent policing compared to prescription drugs.
Most products with proprietary blends are projected as silver bullets that will tackle every issue in your body.
With prescription medication, all claims have to be independently researched and validated by the FDA. With supplements, however, there isn’t any research by the FDA put into the wild claims.
The FDA only requires that any unproven health claims on the product label have an asterisk inserted at the end. It also requires the same if the percentage daily value for any ingredient in the product has not been proven (the FDA). (3)
Be wary of wild claims associated with proprietary blends in supplements because they have not been independently verified. Look out for those asterisks and take everything with a grain of salt.
2. Not Clinically Dosed
Vague doses of ingredients in a proprietary blend can be detrimental to your health in either of two ways:
If the dosage is too low, you will not achieve the health goals that led you to purchase the supplement in the first place. If the dose is too high, it can lead to toxicity and even overdosing.
Overdosing of certain minerals may have detrimental effects on certain body organs in the long term. Moreover, it may be difficult for doctors to treat an overdose if the actual ingested dose is not clear.
Always opt for clinically dosed supplements to get value for your money and protect your health. Honest manufacturers will have no problem revealing the actual dosage for every ingredient.
3. Unknown Mechanism of Action
If the specific amount of each ingredient is unknown, it is impossible to determine the biochemical reaction triggered by the supplement in the body.
With proprietary blends, the ingredients are manipulated and will not have the typical reaction expected of the compounds. The effects or mechanism of action of the chemically manipulated ingredients is difficult to track (4).
In case the supplement triggers a reaction like an allergy, it may be difficult to diagnose.
It is important to understand the effects of any substance you ingest or use on your body.
4. Untrustworthy Company
As with any relationship, trust between manufacturers and consumers is important. Manufacturers that use proprietary blends in their products cannot be trusted.
A manufacturer will only go out of their way to conceal their product if they have something to hide. Excuses like synergy and competitive advantage do not hold much water.
This is because if a competitor wanted to know what is in your product, they would only need to buy it and reverse engineer the production process.
What manufacturers who use proprietary blends are actually hiding is that their products are ineffective. They use questionable ingredients and steal your consumers’ money.
Trustworthy companies will have no qualms revealing every ingredient in their product as well as their specific quantities. They would also willingly subject their products to independent scientific research.
5. Hard to Track Progress
If you don’t know what you are taking, in what quantities, or the effects, you will not be able to track your health’s progress.
Remember, manufacturers who use proprietary blends can also alter their product’s formula at will. That way, you will not know which ingredients work for you and which ones do not.
If you change supplements but keep buying products with proprietary blends, you will likely fall into a vicious cycle of frustration. Proprietary blends will not only cost you money but will also cost you peace of mind.
How Should You Choose Supplements Instead?
Before you commit to any supplement brand as your brand of choice, consider the following factors:
Transparency by the manufacturer allows the consumer to conduct due diligence on them and their products. As a consumer, you have the right to know exactly what you are ingesting or applying to your body.
Transparency on the manufacturer’s part includes:
- Listing every ingredient in a product on the product label
- Listing the quantity of every ingredient used in making the product
- Third-party testing of their products. There are third-party programs that issue certificates to the manufacturer on verifying a product’s ingredients quantity and quality.
- Batch testing results for every batch tested. BatcThird parties should conduct batch testing independent results.
- Ingredient traceability where the ingredients used can be traced right back to the farm (5). Farming practices and the use of organic non-GMO ingredients are essential for some consumers (6).
- Disclaimers about any known side effects of the product, no matter how mild.
- Round-the-clock customer service to tend to any of your queries.
If the manufacturer is dodgy, they probably have something to hide, so hide your money from them.
2. Scientifically Proven
Conduct your research and ensure that all health claims on a product are verified using scientific research or clinical trials.
Institutions like the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) have a comprehensive list of vitamins, herbs, minerals, and their uses and the science behind their effectiveness(7).
There is also a comprehensive list of natural medicines. Some labs also independently test and review products.
There are certifications for each category if you have dietary restrictions and only take gluten-free, organic, or non-GMO products. You can find certification stamps on the product labels of supplements that have concerned bodies have verified clinically Dosed.
Clinically dosed means that the dosage of an ingredient used in a product is the same as that used in a clinical study or setting. Most ingredients used in supplements have a clinical range (8).
Clinical range refers to a bracket of quantity or doses within which the ingredient is effective. Anything lower than the clinical dose will not be effective, while anything above can lead to toxicity or even an overdose.
Clinical doses are standard, making it easy to verify the effectiveness of active ingredients in a product. Check the mass of the active ingredient against the recommended clinical dose to establish whether the dose is within the clinical range.
You can find the clinical dose of most minerals, herbs, and vitamins online.
The Bottom Line
Unfortunately, the supplement market is flooded with products that include proprietary blends among their ingredients.
Despite what unscrupulous manufacturers may say, products with proprietary blends are nothing but glorified placebos. Given the fairy dusting of key ingredients, there is no way products with proprietary ingredients work.
Do not fall for the catchy marketing slogans and wild claims used to promote proprietary blends. To save your money, protect your health, and have peace of mind, steer clear proprietary blends.
Protect yourself by following the above tips on how to shop for supplements. Hopefully, the next time you go shopping, you will identify supplements that will meet your needs and give you value for your money.
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