All ingredients in a dietary supplement must be listed on the label, either on the supplement facts panel or on the ingredient listing just below the supplement facts panel. Each ingredient must be listed in order of predominance of dosage (highest to lowest). So you would think it would be easy to figure out what’s in the supplement you’re purchasing, but that’s not the case. A loophole in the regulations allow manufacturers to hide ingredient dosages in deceptive “Proprietary Blends” making it impossible for the consumer to know what they are actually purchasing.
There are two exceptions to the rule that ingredients must be listed in order of predominance of dosage.
The first exception is that any vitamins or minerals that have a Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) are listed separately in the top section, what we call above the line. They are listed in a specific order that the FDA designates, regardless of dosage.
The second exception is where the label deception comes in. There is a loophole in the regulations that allow “Blends” to be considered a single ingredient for the purposes of listing it on the label. So brands will throw a bunch of ingredients into a “proprietary blend”, so the total dosage of those ingredients push the blend to the top of the list. The problem with this is the label no longer has to list the dosage of the individual ingredients in the blend, only the total blend. So the company gets to hide the actual formula from the consumer. Consumers are led to believe that proprietary blends are done to protect the brand’s secret formula. This is nonsense since lab testing will produce the exact formula in a few hours. Proprietary blends have only one purpose in the supplement industry and that is to hide dosage information from the consumer. More and more companies are changing that now, but unfortunately the vast majority won’t disclose what you’re really getting.
The section, below the line, is where the rest of the ingredients are listed that do not have RDAs. However, they don’t have to be listed there either; they can be listed under the supplement facts panel where it states either “Ingredients” or “Other Ingredients.” The choice is up to the manufacturer, but every ingredient must be in one of those two places.
Flavoring is the one exception to the rule that a label must disclose every ingredient. The regulations don’t require the actual components of flavors to be listed, only whether they are “natural” or “artificial.” Since the individual components of the flavor are not listed it makes it difficult to test for them. This gives brands some protection of their flavor profile.
Whey Protein Isolate (WPI) is the best overall source of protein for muscle building so manufacturers want you to believe that’s what you’re getting in their product. But WPI is very expensive and to keep costs down manufacturers will add small quantities of it and use the “Proprietary Blend” deception to fool you into believing it’s the main ingredient.
To accomplish this they mix WPI into a proprietary blend with cheaper proteins like whey concentrate, whey peptides and inexpensive aminos. The overall dose of the blend is now more than any other ingredient. They give it a really cool name like “Enhanced Peptide Anabolic Complete Protein Matrix” and voilà, the cheap blend gets pushed to the top of the label.
That’s not enough to fool you so the manufacturer wants WPI to not only be in the first blend, but to be the first ingredient listed in that blend so it appears first on the label. To accomplish this they put a fractional bit more WPI in than the other proteins and it moves to the front of the blend list.
Now you look at the label which is probably called something like “100 % Whey” or “Pure Whey” (fictitious names) and you see WPI as the first ingredient on the label. But look at the math: if there are 2 proteins in blend, WPI content can be as low as 50% to bring it to the front of the list, 3 proteins and it’s only 33%, 4 proteins and WPI is down to 25% of the blend. If that’s not bad enough realize that 25% of the blend is not 25% of the overall product. Remember there are still other ingredients in the product not listed in that blend.
It gets worse! Not only is the Proprietary Blend used to deceptively bring ingredients to the top of the label, it’s also used to burry cheap ingredients and fillers on the bottom of the label. An example: Have you ever seen glucose polymer on the label, it sounds really cool but it’s just a fancy name for maltodextrin. Well you definitely don’t want to see that first on your protein label. Surprise! Maltodextrin can be the most predominant ingredient in the product yet still be listed whey at the bottom of the label. How? Just create a bunch of those super-secretive proprietary blends, bunch enough of the other ingredients in each blend so the total out-doses the maltodextrin and the blends go up while the maltodextrin goes down.
Now you understand how a protein product can be as low as 60% to 70% protein. Just add cheap ingredients and use deceptive label scheming to hide the real truth. By the way, the name of that bogus proprietary blend I mentioned earlier “Enhanced Peptide blah blah blah” Guess whose label that came from. I hate to admit it but it was mine, back in the late 90’s when I first started NutraBio and used contract manufacturers to design and make my products. I’ve learned a lot since then, which is why NutraBio now manufactures our products. We control every aspect of quality from sourcing ingredients to the final product.
Thanks for reading!
~ Mark G. NutraBio Founder