Several weeks ago, I wrote about switching to a new brand of the botanical supplement curcumin, the active ingredient in the Indian curry spice turmeric.
Curcumin has shown proven antioxidant properties, enabling it to combat inflammation found in many diseases, like the Parkinson's I have and the Alzheimer's I fear.
To make it more effective, manufacturers keep trying to enhance curcumin's ability to cross the blood-brain barrier (bioavailability). I've tried several varieties since adding the supplement to my daily routine in April, 2012. For over six months now, I've been using Longvida Optimized Curcumin from Vitamin Research Products.
Several weeks ago, I saw reports touting the enhanced bioavailability of a new product -- CurcuWIN from OmnuActive Health Technologies.
One of those reviews came from ConsumerLab Reports, which I've used as a supplement reference for several years. I should have checked out ConsumerLab, too. (I should have seen red flags when several products I investigated in the past didn't show up at all among ConsumerLab.com's reviews.)
Immediately after inquiring online about the new product, I received comments from readers questioning ConsumerLab's CurcuWIN report. One of the comments also challenged the bona fides of the organization itself.
My belated investigation of ConsumerLab revealed that the organization's work is not as independent or impartial as it claims to be. Here is an excerpt from one of the critical reports I found:
ConsumerLab.com says its stated mission is “To identify the best quality health and nutritional products through independent testing.” Unfortunately, their claim to independence does not appear to us to be valid.
ConsumerLab.com (CL) approaches dietary supplement makers and asks them to enroll in its “voluntary” testing program—for a fee. CL doesn’t publicly disclose its fee schedule, but we know that one company was charged over $4,000 to test a single product. Companies that pay the fee are guaranteed that if one of their products passes the testing under their Voluntary Certification Program, it gets listed on the site and may carry the CL Seal of Approval—and if it fails the testing, the product will never be identified publicly because the results are “proprietary to the manufacturer”!
However, companies that do not agree to pay for the voluntary certification program risk having their products tested anyway through the firm’s “product review program.” If they fail the test, those failures will be publicized on ConsumerLab.com’s website and in the media, with complete details for sale in CL’s Product Review Technical Reports.
This arrangement strikes us as nothing short of scandalous. It sounds like, “Pay up, and you won’t have to worry about the results. Don’t pay up, and you may be exposed to bad publicity.” What kind of game is this?Three years ago, the investigating organization sent CL a letter with questions about its testing and reporting... and never received a reply.
Another organization conducted a similar investigation and reported the same findings:
There are times when being endorsed by a certain group is actually an indication of dishonor. This appears to be the case for Consumer Lab certified companies. We recommend avoiding all vitamins that have either the C.L. seal or a U.S.P. certification. The C.L. seal marks an approval by an organization that is run by those who, in the very least, have vested interests outside of what they fully disclose.
While we generally have no disagreements with groups seeking to benefit the public by providing honest information about supplements, there are far too many coincidences for us to ignore here. The Food and Drug Administration is the last place that one should ever search for honest and accurate advice about herbs and supplements. It is very much like seeking advice from a drug dealer about how to break free from a drug addiction.
Likewise, seeking advice from Consumer Lab appears to be just as irrational, since its owners have been heavily immersed in the pharmaceutical cartel for most of their careers, and even directly employed by the F.D.A. itself. They are part of a good-ole-boy network from a chemical industry that profits from sick care, but never healing. It is an industry that openly mocks supplementation and nutritional medicine.I regret -- and apologize for -- not checking out ConsumerLabs earlier.
Nonetheless, other more reputable organizations reviewed CurcuWIN favorably. So the question remain: Should I switch to CurcuWIN?
I'll take up that question tomorrow.