Contributions to this article made by Dr. Eddie Camacho. Dr. Eddie Camacho on the Human Health & Performance medical advisory board and he is also in private practice in New Jersey. He is also the author of “The Athlete 25 Project”. This man lives and breaths health and performance. Follow him on Instagram @doctor_camacho.

A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing- Exposing Cheap Quality Supplements.

Don’t be dooped by your supplements

Boxes and bags, powders and capsules, this pill that pill, I’ll admit it is getting a bit out of control.  So many options and price points, why would you chose one over the other? What makes all these companies different? Trusting a nutrition company and their self proclaimed “quality” is not something I recommend.   No one ever advertises that they use poor ingredients all sourced from China. It reminds me of when I grew up and the pizzeria around the corner had boxes that were printed, “World’s Best Pizza”. I’m here to tell you that undercooked cheese covered wet flour disk was far from even good let alone World’s best. You see the same “quality” supplement from 2 companies; one is $10 and the other $47…how is this possible and which one is better? Is company A just better at manufacturing cheaper or is company B just inflating their prices and using clever marketing to up-sell you? Honestly, you may never know, so I want to show you one trick that may help you navigate through the maze that is the nutrition industry.

Currently every supplement is required to have a detailed facts panel with a list of ingredients that follow. The FDA mandates this so the customer knows the amounts and forms of each compound as well as alert them of any potential allergies. Remember that big scam exposed in 2014/15 when large retailers—GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart were found guilty of carrying supplements that, in some cases, didn’t even have any sign of the ingredients that were on the label? Some of these products were even found to have harmful compounds in them that were not listed.

The Times reported: Walmart’s ginkgo biloba — marketed as a memory booster — contained little more than powdered radish, houseplants and wheat, even though it claimed to be wheat- and gluten free. Walgreen’s popular store brand of ginseng pills contains only powdered garlic and rice. Three of six herbal products at Target — St. John’s wort, ginkgo biloba, and the purported sleep aid valerian root — had no herbs and were made of powdered rice, beans, peas and wild carrots. At GNC, herbal pills contained unlisted fillers such as powdered legumes, a class of plants that includes peanuts and soybeans, which can trigger allergic reactions. (Excerpt from

Now this information shouldn’t make you feel warm and fuzzy. Your meaning to tell me that even though the label says product A contains 500mg of vitamin C, it may not have any at all?? Well hear is where something my mom taught me when I was younger comes into play integrity, business integrity to be more accurate to this content.  Many companies are out there creating the illusion of quality while they are actually more concerns with quantities; quantities of dollars in their pocket, to be precise. You have to be confident that the company you spend your hard earned money with still produces products because it’s their passion rather than a way to balance their checkbooks.

What you need to know:

All of this can be daunting and you may even begin to have distrust in the entire industry but hold on tight, there is hope. One simple way to get a glimpse into a nutrition company’s wiliness to produce products of value is to look at the label. B vitamins are present in many of today’s supplements and for good reason. They help the body produce energy, detoxifiy properly, create proper brain hormones and so much more. The trick is they come in many different forms and not all created equal. Let us look into vitamins B9 and B12.

Vitamin B12

Cyanocobalmin (B12) is nearly used 10 to 1 in the nutrition industry but not due to its superiority. Cyanocobalamin is more of pro-vitamin and it’s the conversion to active b12 that is important. Unfortunately this conversion is poor and many people have issues making this conversion due to environmental and genetic factors.  Cyanocoblamin is a cheap synthetic form of B12 with a great shelf life, its no wonder it is in most products out there. As a side note– yes the “cyano-“ does stand for cyanide and could pose a health threat to ones system but its negative implications have been grossly exaggerated so I don’t want to get into that (we could have easily inflated this fact and made it seem really horrible that cyanide is in your product but the truth is the research does not support that claim and we are here to bring you science and not marketing!). Suffice it to say that a healthy person can clear this cyanide compound, but why even risk it if there are better forms without this potentially harmful compound? Cyanocobalmin has no place in your nutrients and is the worse form of B12 for a health and performance-enhancing supplement!

The body’s usable or “active” forms are B12 are methylcobalamin (methyl-B12) and adenosyl cobalamin (adenosyl-B12). There are several key advantages to activated B12: increased absorption, better retention in tissues, supports production of SAMe, and contains no theoretically toxic cyanide. In fact, methylcobalamin is the only form of B12 that can help recycle the potentially harmful compound homocysteine to its non harmful origin, the amino acid methionine. By taking low-quality cyanocobalamin, you’re actually stealing methyl groups from your body and making it do more work at the molecular level. This uses up substances such as glutathione that are often in short supply anyway, potentially worsening your overall health situation rather than helping it. This is one of the reasons why low-grade vitamins may actually be worse for your body than taking nothing at all.

Do yourself a favor and check labels of nutritional and sport supplements to see which form is used.  If it is not listed then you can automatically assume cyanocobalamin is being used. Look for one of the following on the label.

  • Methylcobalamin
  • Adenosylcobalamin
  • Hydroxycobalamin

Vitamin B9

Vitamin B9, commonly called folic acid or folate has an equally important function in the body. Vitamin B9 comes in its synthetic form, folic acid, for many of the same reasons we see the subpar cyanocobalmain, it’s cheap. There is growing research that suggests specific genetic factors don’t allow 40-50% of the population to make the conversion of folic acid to activated methyl-folate which can lead to symptoms of depression, fatigue and poor antioxidant status and anemia to name a few. Active folate is used in the body to turn on and off genes inside cells as well as make new cells and proteins. Folic acid, similar to cyanocobalmin, will actually cause more of a deficiency in those methyl donors. Even more of concern is that popular “pregnancy” vitamins often use folic acid instaed of the superior folate forms.. Look at the label for the forms of activated B9 listed below. If the term “folic acid” is used can be sure that the cheaper, potentially toxic form is being used.

  • 5-MTHF
  • L-5MTHF
  • L-methylfolate
  • Methylfolate
  • Quatrefolic ®

(you may also see combinations of the above)

Proper Formulation:

Now we wish it would be as easy as to say that if the active forms of the B vitamins are present on the label universally it means that the product is properly formulated. That is simply not true. What is does tell you is at least the company has read a few pieces of research in the past decade and does at least attempt to make a better product. If cyanocobalamin and folic acid are present on your label be prepared to not buy that product again and begin to question all other products from that company. Do not trust companies whose labels do not disclose the type or form of ingredient used. Find a company that is fueled by passion and pushes the envelope of innovation. We were always taught, provide a great service or product and the money will follow.



  1. Godfrey PSA, Toone BK, Carney MWP, et al: Enhancement of recovery from psychiatric illness by methylfolate. Lancet 336:392-395, 1990.
  2. Hunter R, Jones M, Jones T, et al: Serum B12 and folate concentrations in mental patients. Br J Psychiatry 113:1291-1295, 1967.
  3. Reynolds E, Stramentinoli G: Folic acid, S-adenosylmethionine and affective disorders. Psychol Med 13:705-710, 1983
  4. Reynolds EH, Preece JM, Bailey J, et al: Folate deficiency in depressive illness. Br J Psychiatry 117:287-292, 1970.
  5. Young SN, Ghadirian AM: Folic acid and psychopathology. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry 13:841-863, 1989.
  6. Young SN. Folate and depression—a neglected problem. Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience. 2007;32(2):80-82.

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