Creating Stem Cell Supplements: Is the Cheap Stuff for Real?
POSTED ON 1/5/2016 IN Regenerative Medicine Education BY Christopher Centeno
Our entry into developing a stem cell supplement, much like everything else we do, was born of frustration. I would get asked frequently, which supplements our patients should take to help support their stem cell procedure. As we entered this arena to solve that issue, one thing that shocked us immediately was how expensive real, high-quality supplement ingredients are! I was often dumbfounded by how cheap some of the supplements were in stores like Walmart and Walgreens. The NY attorney general had the same question and looked into why these mass marketed supplements are so cheap. It's because they don't contain any real supplements! Before we had our own supplement, I would log into the US National Library of Medicine, vetting individual ingredients, only to find that either not much was known, or that the experiments suggesting that a certain ingredient might help stem cells weren't really performed in a way that would answer our questions.
Creating Our Own Stem Cell Supplement
When I first inquired with supplement experts about how we might go about designing our own stem cell supplement, they just referred me back to the same thing I was already doing - searching the published literature. As it turns out, this is how 99% of supplements are born, by putting together a file of research articles that support the concept that supplement x might help condition y. The problem was that very few of these research articles really supported that a specific supplement ingredient would help our specific type of adult stem cells in an orthopedic application. So we did what nobody does in the supplement industry, we conducted our own lab research to answer these questions. As I said, when it came time to put the actual supplement together based on our research, I was shocked at the expense of high-quality supplement ingredients. This was because supplements in the grocery store, Walmart, or the local drug store are so cheap. While some of this could be explained by buying in large volumes, I always assumed that these supplements just contained inferior ingredients which allowed a much, much lower price. As it turns out, I was wrong. Many supplement manufacturers have gone even further to cut costs by not adding any active supplement ingredients at all!
Cheap Supplements - Getting What You Pay For
The New York attorney general tested the cheap supplements they found at GNC, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart. The results were scary:
- GNC - 5/6 herbal supplements tested didn't contain what was on the label. Basically, cheap fillers were often found instead of the listed supplement. Only 22% of the time was the actual supplement found in the bottle!
- Walgreens - 5/6 of the same herbal supplements didn't contain what was listed on the bottle. Only 18% of the time were the contents listed on the label accurate. Again, cheap fillers often substituted for the advertised ingredients.
- Walmart - Almost all bottles tested didn't contain what was listed, with only 4% of the tests revealing any actual supplement versus cheap fillers.
- Target-3/6 bottles contained the real deal listed on the label and only 41% of the tests showed what was listed.
Yikes! It's no wonder these stores can sell this stuff so cheap! Of the scarier things found in these bottles, houseplant and pine are interesting. You have to wonder if some Chinese factory is just substituting whatever they can get for dirt cheap at the moment. Curcumin or Saw Palmetto too expensive that month? Just throw in that load of dead houseplants from the local plant wholesaler. Ginseng too pricey? No problem, just go down the block to the furniture factory and buy up all of that sawdust! All of this reminds me of the amniotic stem cell scams sweeping the nation right now. Doctors deceiving unsuspecting patients into thinking they're getting millions of fetal-derived stem cells injected into their joints, when in fact the doctors are injecting 100% dead tissue! I guess it's at least real fetal dead tissue, rather than sawdust or houseplants! The upshot? Real supplements cost more. In fact, we went much further by conducting our own research for a year to determine which supplement ingredients would help real human stem cells do what we wanted them to in the lab. So the next time you're tempted to buy that cheap stem cell supplement, fish oil, curcumin, or glucosamine, think about saving a Chinese houseplant!
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