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Supplement Perspectives

Don't Get Fooled by "Marketing Science" (Part 2 of 2)

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Mark Becker concludes his introduction to clinical trials with a warning.

Before you start, read part one.

What do I mean by “marketing science”? In an effort to generate a Return on Investment (ROI) as soon as possible, some companies will do a clinical study with their products, but design the study solely with marketing in mind. They create an outcome so they can make a marketing claim. This marketing claim will often have a direct impact on sales. This is a practice that is more common than many realize. I understand the rationale, but don’t claim to be a science-based organization if you are cutting corners to make a buck.

Moreover, according to, a recent probe of internal documents held by the FDA revealed official action taken by the agency due to "significant departures from good clinical practice" against a total of 57 clinical trials, including 22 of these clinical trials affected by "falsification." Interestingly, a parallel search of the published studies finds no mention of these grave concerns being made public. What can this be attributed to? Marketing science? Something else? Regardless, this is alarming.

I have taken a wide range of supplements for decades, including probiotics, CoQ10, multivitamins, protein powders, nitric oxide boosters, adrenal formulas, joint formulas and many, many others. Thankfully, I have the background to make smart supplement choices. Many of those choices are made by my meticulous review of the science. However, to many consumers, keeping track of the research on vitamin supplements can be frustrating. Different studies on the same dietary supplements often present conflicting information.

Consider taking a closer look at the study design. This often reveals inconsistencies. The Harvard School of Public Health offers the following that may help you put conflicting results into context:

What vitamin doses did study participants take and for how long: The most obvious source of conflicting study results is that different studies test different doses of supplements, for different lengths of time.

Study participants and lifestyle choices: We all know that exercise and healthy eating positively impacts health and that smoking negatively impacts health. These lifestyle choices can also have a profound impact on how the body absorbs dietary supplements. A supplement is called a supplement because it supplements your diet. Dietary supplements are only useful to people whose diets are lacking in that specific nutrient. Therefore, a randomized, placebo controlled trial utilizing dietary supplements on people who eat well may generate deceiving results. 

Time of consumption: A supplement may only be beneficial at a particular stage of a health condition., so studies done at different stages of a particular health condition may yield inconsistent results.

Measuring efficacy: Studies often differ in how results are measured. For example, what conditions associated with heart disease did a study using coQ10 impact: heart attack, stroke, or vascular disease? Or did the study measure coQ10’s impact on heart disease in general? You see my point.

A supplier can firmly cement its reputation as a legitimate natural products player by generating science that is truly unbiased and science-based. This will not only build immeasurable brand equity but will provide the desired result: a genuine natural health solution with proven efficacy. After all, isn’t that what it’s all about?

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