San Francisco, CA – November 7, 2013 – Today, LabDoor released its data and ratings on 50 best-selling protein supplements. LabDoor reverse-engineers products to find out what’s really inside, exposing inaccurate labels, contaminated products, and false claims. The FDA performs no pre-market regulation of protein supplements, leaving the responsibility of product safety testing to organizations like LabDoor.
Protein Supplement Winners and Losers:
- LabDoor scored MET-Rx Protein Plus as #1-ranked in overall quality. BSN True-Mass ranked #50 in this category.
- LabDoor scored MuscleTech NITRO-TECH as #1-ranked in value (efficacy/price). Shakeology ranked #50 in this category.
LabDoor’s quality ranking is based on five key factors – label accuracy, product purity, nutritional value, ingredient safety, and projected efficacy. (See: Understanding the LabDoor grades).
Other Key Findings:
- There is no significant correlation between quality and price in protein supplements (n=50, r2=0.0016). LabDoor plans to publish a scientific paper on this study in late 2013.
- Protein content (per serving) ranged from 11.3g to 61.9g. Price (per serving) ranged from $0.69 to $5.30.
- 63 different inactive ingredients and 147 different active ingredients were identified in at least one protein supplement analyzed.
- The single most common ingredient in the protein supplements tested was sucralose (41/50), not whey protein (40/50).
All of LabDoor’s product testing is performed in FDA- and USDA-registered analytical chemistry laboratories. Research funding is provided through premium memberships purchased by consumers and angel investments from Mark Cuban, Rock Health, Band of Angels, and others.
LabDoor’s full report on protein supplements is available at https://labdoor.com/c/protein.
The science behind sobriety.
We have all heard of the famous, and dreaded, “beer belly.” The added caloric intake from the alcohol plays a large role, along with the poor eating habits that are often correlated with inebriation. But how much of this weight gain can be attributed to the systemic effect of alcohol on the body?
In one study, male subjects were subjected to a large dose of ethanol (1.75g/kg of body weight), and measured for changes in testosterone and cortisol levels. For reference, these subjects reached a peak blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.151% by volume, or slightly less than double the legal limit for operating a motor vehicle in the United States.
Increased cortisol levels and decreased testosterone levels were measured at their maximum variances at 12 hours post-consumption, and the altered hormonal state persisted past the 24-hour mark. A peak decrease of -23% in serum testosterone levels and a peak increase of +36% in cortisol levels were quantified in a similar study. In a third study, measuring the effects of moderate alcohol consumption (~0.5g/kg of body weight) found a peak decrease of -6.8% in serum testosterone levels.
Given the research studies linking increased cortisol levels with accumulation and retention of abdominal fat,,  along with the fact that many heavy drinkers are rarely more than 24 hours away from their last drink, it is likely that alcoholics experience a constant state of hormonal imbalance associated with unhealthy weight gain.,, 
New studies are released every day. Many provide contradictory results about the effects or benefits of specific ingredients. How many times have you checked CNN.com or your local news and seen a headline like “Vitamin Q tied to major health benefits,” only to check back the next day and see a report like “Study: Vitamin Q effects may be lower than previously reported”?
It’s a fact of life in the dietary supplement industry – the science is rarely settled on health claims and benefits associated with supplement ingredients. Often, even with heavily studied compounds, like Vitamin C, researchers continue to publish conflicting results.
LabDoor responds very differently from your local newscaster.
Instead of just publishing every sensational study headline to boost page views, our scientists carefully review the research classification, testing methods, sample size, reproducibility, and other major characteristics of the clinical trial before incorporating the new data into our databases.
For example, a repeatable, independent, human randomized controlled trial is going to going to be weighed much stronger by our algorithms vs. a single, industry-sponsored study conducted using extreme doses of active ingredients on rodent models.
Also, we enlist the help of outside, independent experts in the health and wellness field, including the Harvard-based researchers at Natural Standard, in the collection and curation of clinical trial data.
When significant new research enters the market, we are prepared to act. Whether due to the creation of new analytical data, the release of new clinical trials, or the additional of personalized ratings systems, LabDoor’s product grades are always subject to change.
If you have any concerns about the grading of a specific ingredient, product, or category, or want to submit new research for potential inclusion in our clinical database, talk to us here. Just make sure you bring real science to back up your claims.
Or, in the famous words of W. Edwards Deming – “In God we trust; all others must bring (objective) data.”
The FDA has stepped in to issue a major health warning against ‘Healthy Life Chemistry By Purity First B-50’ after receiving 29 adverse events reports ranging from fatigue and cramping to masculization in females and impotence in males:
"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers that they should not use or purchase Healthy Life Chemistry By Purity First B-50, marketed as a vitamin B dietary supplement. A preliminary FDA laboratory analysis indicated that the product contains two potentially harmful anabolic steroids—methasterone, a controlled substance, and dimethazine. These ingredients are not listed in the label and should not be in a dietary supplement."
These two steroid products can both cause serious, harmful effects in males and females. Methasterone is a banned ingredient on the World Anti-Doping Administration list, and dimethazine is a prohormone that is being carefully watched by regulatory bodies due to its usage as a ‘designer steroid’.
Making this announcement even more shocking is the extent to which Purity First brands itself as selling the “purest”, highest quality” supplement products.
We’ve heard this story before. These outcomes will continue to surface until a trusted, transparent brand gets big enough to scare away the fakes and frauds looking for a quick profit in the supplement industry.
Today, LabDoor ordered over 300 new assays on top protein supplements. We will continue to test products each week in new supplement categories, searching for contaminated products, inaccurate labels, and false claims.
Please let us know what products you would like to see tested next!
Pharmaceuticals and supplements are vital parts of our modern society. We rely on them for our lives, our health, and our looks. But do we really trust these products or the people responsible for product safety? Surveys say no. Only 27% of Americans really trust the pharmaceutical industry with their health, and the FDA doesn’t fare much better, at just 43%.
Last year, I left my role as Founder & President of an FDA-registered laboratory to create LabDoor, the first technology startup to use science and clinical data to solve this market failure. LabDoor utilizes FDA-registered independent laboratories, along with a team of technical experts, to curate the best public and private safety data about the products we use every day. But while the data is complex, the applications are simple - just input your product name or scan a bar code to receive an instant A-F grade based on its safety and efficacy. It’s comparison shopping with the power of chemistry.
It’s a risky mission to take on giants like the FDA and these billionaire manufacturers, but there are three reasons why this product safety revolution must happen now:
FDA is a (well-intentioned) failure
Starting in 1906 with the Pure Food and Drug Act and 1938 with the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, the FDA has made many good faith attempts to improve the safety of important consumer products. However, especially with pharmaceuticals, the FDA has led the development of huge mounds of data and detailed product labels, but provided very little information that can be easily understood by consumers.
Meanwhile, the FDA has had little control over dietary supplements manufacturers, who can make whatever claims they want on the front of their bottles as long as the back has the disclaimer: “This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA…”
Lack of industry innovation
The arrival of the internet as a mainstream source of health information brought huge promise and an obvious source of disruptive innovation in the field of product safety. And thus, companies like WebMD in 1996 and Drugs.com in 2001, plus DrugStore.com in 1999, tried to fit the initial demand. But since then, we’ve stopped fighting for better public access to simple, easy to understand information about our pharmaceuticals and supplements.
People have given up
When I tell people about LabDoor, I get a very common response: “Why has no one done this yet?” I have a couple theories on why it took so long for an idea like LabDoor to become public. Likely, people had given up hope for easy access to public safety. People either assumed all products are healthy (because they are able to be sold), or assumed products were unhealthy (but had no better alternatives). It is also very possible that a few entrepreneurs dreamt up a similar solution, but couldn’t assemble the team of scientific and technical experts necessary to pull it off.
LabDoor is dedicated to correcting these long-term industry failures. Our mission is to personalize product safety for all, making it easy for anyone to benefit from the vast clinical and laboratory data released by organizations like the FDA, while adding expert research and data from our own independent labs. We’ve got the best team, science, and technology. All of this will combine to create the most accurate and user-friendly source of product safety information ever assembled.
The vitamin and supplement world is back in the headlines again, and it’s not a pretty picture. USA Today, The New York Times, and a best-selling book are all shouting the same message: the supplement industry is full of fakes, frauds, and danger. The man behind all of these stories is Dr. Paul Offit, a respected medical expert. LabDoor is well aware of the myriad issues in this industry, and built its mission around bringing trust and transparency to a messy market. But it’s also important to filter the hype and hyperbole out of Dr. Offit’s message.
First, while Dr. Offit does identify a number of recent studies that highlight the potential for supplement overdoses, there are also hundreds of studies that find significant health benefits from acute and chronic supplement usage. The most-cited study recently, which followed the usage of Centrum Silver vs. a placebo for nearly fifteen years, is a particularly important example. LabDoor loves large-scale, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials, and this one tells an important story: “daily multivitamin supplementation modestly but significantly reduces the risk of total cancer.” The media loves a sensational story, and “Don’t Take Your Vitamins” is an excellent headline hook sure to boost page views. But Offit’s own book highlights many ‘non-traditional’ methods that out-perform conventional medicine. Why? Because prevention often trumps curative solutions.
Second, it’s easy to point at a broken system, excoriate it, and then walk away. Most of us are happy to look at an institution like Congress and do just that. It takes leaders like Code for America willing to wade into the mess and find the solutions. When LabDoor points out research that shows over 70% of dietary supplements have inaccurate label data, our goal is to focus attention on the 30% of products worth trusting. Also, honestly, LabDoor tracks this data because when the proportion of accurate labels increases, we want to be able to take a little credit for shifting an entire market towards greater transparency.
Third, and most importantly, focus on the compounds that keep coming up in Offit’s featured studies – vitamins A, E, and beta-carotene. Our followers who paid attention in high school chemistry will notice a pattern. They are all fat-soluble vitamins, which means they are stored in the body for longer periods of time. This is an important point, and one that should be duly noted. LabDoor’s grading algorithms carefully weigh the risks of fat-soluble vitamin megadosages. It’s why a daily vitamin pack that contains over 200% of the daily value of Vitamin A will likely score lower on ingredient safety than one with under 100% DV. However, it’s poor science to throw out an entire industry, one that features hundreds of active ingredients, over these studies.
Consumers, LabDoor, and Dr. Offit are all on the same team here. We all want to see safe, effective products highlighted in the market, and weak, contaminated products sent away. We’re long overdue for a real consumer watchdog in this space. There’s little chance Congress will overturn DSHEA, so the FDA isn’t riding in to save the day any time soon. It’s up to all of us to focus on real science, and find the facts. And LabDoor will be there every step of the way.
To understand the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of LabDoor’s products, you must first learn why we first became obsessed with simplifying the world of product safety.
It all started when I watched my parents come home from a doctor’s appointment with a new prescription. After years of taking Pfizer’s Lipitor, they had both been prescribed Ranbaxy’s generic equivalent.
My father, a Ph.D. chemist, pulled out every book, article, and online review he could find on the two products. 20 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry helped him make the right choice – after hours of intense research.
Why did he tackle this problem himself? How can LabDoor make this process easier for everyone else making the same decisions? What is the perfect product to solve this huge challenge?
Why: Be safe. Be certain. My dad was choosing an important medicine for my mom and himself, a pill that will be a daily part of the rest of their lives. Just like him, you want to know you’re making the right call.
How: Find the best product research and safety data. Wouldn’t it be perfect if we all had scientists and doctors as spouses, friends, or neighbors, ready to answer our every safety question? Luckily, the friendly team of scientific and technical experts at LabDoor have you covered.
What: Choose a product that is safe, effective, and affordable. We make decisions like this every day – whether it’s reviewing your daily multivitamin or deciding which prescription to fill. You want to make a smart decision faster. LabDoor provides this through our report cards for top supplements and over-the-counter medications.
Every LabDoor employee is here to build a little peace of mind for someone special. For me, it’s my parents, whom I adore. For others, it’s their wife, brother, daughter, friend, or even a stranger.
When we put in a sleepless night at the lab or in the office, we’re working to make sure each LabDoor user sleeps a little better. We invite you to share our passion, join our journey, and sign up for our exciting new product at LabDoor.com!
This post was inspired by Alexis Ohanian’s book Make Something People Love and Simon Sinek’s speech How Great Leaders Inspire Action. Both are at the top of my list of great resources for bold entrepreneurs. Please join our conversation in the comments section below – we’ll be stopping by regularly to answer questions and learn from our awesome followers!
LabDoor is a small tech startup with a huge scientific goal: to measurably improve the safety of the products in your medicine cabinet.
Our promise: From day one, LabDoor mobile and web applications will match these FDA requirements for all supplement products in our database. But we won’t stop there. For thousands of these products, we have already begun adding additional data and algorithms to improve the quality of our rating system. And for hundreds of products, we have completed the full five-step process, integrating previously hidden data from independent labs and improving the world’s access to vital safety information.
Our request: We can’t do this alone. The product categories we plan to cover account for over $1 Trillion in total sales each year, and our budget isn’t nearly large enough to cover every product perfectly. LabDoor must focus on quality over quantity.
To do this, we need your help. Find products that you and your loved ones care about, and scan them into our database. Help us recruit new users and encourage them to participate in our crowdsourcing experiment. As products rise in popularity, we will expedite the scientific testing process to ensure that the products in highest demand receive complete ratings first.
Our thanks: We are eternally grateful to the brave visionaries willing to jump on board first and help us create the awesome LabDoor that we first dreamed of when we started as four guys in a basement. Thank you for believing in us and forgive us our early hurdles as we sprint towards fulfilling our mission.
What products should LabDoor review next? What can LabDoor do to be the best source of consumer product safety? Join the conversation in our comments section!
Here at LabDoor, we’re obsessed with bringing deep science into the technology startup world (and getting more technological advances into the scientific ecosystem).
One of the biggest problems with this objective is that these two fields don’t speak the same language, especially when it comes to our favorite buzzwords and phrases. So as a public service, we’ve flagged seven key acronyms that are often lost in translation:
Startups: Minimal Viable Product
Science: Minimal Viable Population
Startups: Application Programming Interface
Science: Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient
Startups: Content Management System
Science: Centers for Medicare/Medicaid Services
Startups: Natural Language Modeling
Science: National Libraries of Medicine
Startups: Active Server Pages/.asp
Science: Animal Study Proposal
Startups: Integrated Circuit/Intellectual Capital
Science: Informed Consent/Intensive Care
Startups: Business Process Management
Science: Beats Per Minute (Heart Rate)