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Dr. Matt Dorsey, DACM, LAc

Why Proprietary Blends Suck

Proprietary blends suck, and they should be illegal. Period, end of story.

Unfortunately, in many ways the world of dietary supplements still looks like the wild west. It’s easier than ever to start your own supplement company, and there are tons of folks who have zero passion, zero knowledge, and are just looking to make a quick buck.

You hear all the time that supplements are not regulated by the FDA, which is actually not remotely true. In fact, there are plenty of dietary supplement regulations that are enforced by the FDA, who routinely sends companies warning letters when they’re in violation.

What’s true, however, is that these regulations are in some ways far too lax and allow for loopholes that make it easy for companies to trick you into thinking a product is far better than it actually is.

The best example of this is the proprietary blend, which serves primarily as a tool of deception.

What is a proprietary blend?

Simply put, a proprietary blend is something that allows supplement companies to hide the individual amounts of ingredients on their label. Instead of knowing how much of each ingredient you’re getting, all you get to know is the total amount of milligrams that the constituents in the blend amount to, and the fact that they’re listed in descending order.

Here’s an example of a (totally made-up and hilarious) proprietary blend:

Prop-Blends

Notice that the MadMan MEGA PUMP™ proprietary blend has eight ingredients. Notice also that the total is 1,500 mg. You may at first assume that there’s a fairly even distribution of these various ingredients, and that each one may be between 100 and 300 mg…and that’s certainly a possibility.

The problem is that you have absolutely no way of knowing. In fact, if this fictitious company wanted to, the breakdown of the blend could actually look like this:

  • Fenugreek – 1492 mg
  • Turmeric Root – 1 mg
  • Green Tea – 1 mg
  • Grape Seed – 1 mg
  • Yohimbe Bark – 1 mg
  • Tongkat Ali – 1 mg
  • Resveratrol – 1 mg
  • CoQ10 – 1 mg

This is what’s known in the industry as fairy dusting: when a company puts sub-threshold, essentially inactive doses of ingredients in their product, hid inside a proprietary blend, just to make the product look good on the label and make you more likely to buy it.

Notice also that Fenugreek, which is a dirt-cheap ingredient that you tend to find in far too many products, is the only one that’s in there at an active dose, whereas far more expensive ingredients, like Tongkat Ali, resveratrol, and CoQ10, are at such low amounts that they’re guaranteed to do nothing.

Proprietary blends are a big problem, and many of the largest companies use them. What’s their argument, then, for engaging in such an overtly shady practice?

Protecting the Secret Sauce

In theory, a proprietary blend is something that’s supposed to protect a product from being copied, to ensure that a company’s intellectual property is being protected. That sounds fair, doesn’t it?

After all, companies go to great lengths to create a product that’s uniquely their own, and shouldn’t they be allowed to protect their special sauce?

The problem with that logic is that anyone can send their competitor’s product off to a lab that can then quantify the amounts of what’s in the product using High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC).

This technology is widely available, and is in fact the industry standard.  There are a few compounds that are hard or impossible to test for, but for the most part, it’s fairly easy for a proper lab to figure out how much of each ingredient is in a product.

So the argument that proprietary blends are all about protecting a company’s secret formula is clearly B.S. What other reason could a company possibly have to use such a technique, then?

Saving Money, the Shady Way

Again, it all comes down to fairy dusting. The most expensive ingredients are always the most likely to be at the end.

But consider this possibility: perhaps our friends at Red Flag Nutraceuticals decide to first create their pre-workout proprietary blend with a full 500 mg dose of Shilajit.

Maybe the original product uses an 8,000 mg proprietary blend that looks like this:

  • Beta-Alanine – 4,500 mg
  • Arginine – 3,000 mg
  • Shilajit – 500 mg

Perhaps the product does well at first.  Their customers are happy and sales are booming, but then all of a sudden the price of Shilajit goes up, or maybe a new CEO comes on board who wants to cut costs however he can.

Maybe the new version, which has an identical label, would contain these amounts instead:

  • Beta-Alanine – 4,500 mg
  • Arginine – 3,450 mg
  • Shilajit – 50 mg

The amount of Shilajit in this product has been reduced by 90%, and by law no change had to be made to the label. Their unsuspecting customers are paying the same price they were before, and getting a product that looks exactly the same.

…AND THIS IS ALL PERFECTLY LEGAL.

Full Disclosure is the Only Legit Way to Label a Product

Now that you’ve seen an example of a supplement facts panel that contains a proprietary blend, let’s take a look at one of CHOQ’s full disclosure labels.

Here’s the panel for APEX Glutathione, a twelve-ingredient, ultra-comprehensive detoxification and cognitive support product that features active doses of various clinically researched ingredients:

Notice how the amount of every ingredient is listed.  Also, unlike the previous example from Red Flag Nutraceuticals, most of the herbal extracts are standardized and present in quantities that will actually produce results.

When CHOQ® makes a product, our goal is to always use the most bioavailable version of each vitamin and mineral we can find, as well as the most pristinely sourced and most heavily researched versions of each ingredient (check out this page for the scientific references to the studies done on some of the unique ingredients in APEX Glutathione).

The standardized Bacognize® Bacopa Monnieri extract in Apex has been the subject of six studies that demonstrate its positive effects on parameters like mood, memory, and concentration.  As you’d expect, it’s been dosed at 300 mg in order to match the studies.

The Emothion® S-Acetyl-Glutathione has been demonstrated to be 70% more bioavailable than the “reduced” L-Glutathione that’s often found in cheaper supplements.

CHOQ® is one of a tiny handful of companies that refuses to use proprietary blends because we want you to know exactly how much of each nutrient you’re getting.

We take pride in our formulas, and we want you to see our work.  Our formulations are powerful, and our ingredients are meticulously sourced.  That’s why our STAQs get the incredible results they do.

That’s also why we have over 2,000 5-star reviews on Trustpilot and are rated #1 in the ‘Herb Shop’ category and #2 out of 105 companies in the ‘Vitamin and Supplement’ category.

Want to learn more about how to protect yourself from shadiness and tomfoolery in the supplement industry?  Check out these links:

CHOQ Nation YouTube video on Proprietary Blends

Blog: “3 Easy Ways to Tell if a Supplement is Junk”

Buy From Someone who’s on the Level

If you only take one thing away from this article, this should be it: while the FDA does indeed regulate the supplement industry, there are too many loopholes and far too many bad actors to be going online and buying from random companies who may or may not have any passion whatsoever about natural living and are often just trying to make a quick buck selling total garbage.

At CHOQ®, we’re very aware of what we’re up against as modern humans: hormone disrupting chemicals, pesticides that slowly wreck your body, and the general stress of living in clown world.

So, no matter who you buy from, buy from a company who puts their money where their mouth is and actually goes the extra mile to demonstrate their committment to quality and transparency.

Buy from a company who has passion.  Buy from someone who gets it, and watch out for the hucksters.

Dr. Matt Dorsey, DACM, LAc

CHOQ Chief Scientific Officer & Formulator

Matt Dorsey is a Doctor of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, medical herbalist, and clinical nutritionist. He describes himself as ‘medically bilingual’, blending the best of both classical Eastern and Western scientific approaches in his integrative medical practice.
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