Continuing the work to disclose alarming quality failings and misleading, inaccurate labels among unfamiliar brands of products purchased on Amazon, NOW (Bloomingdale, IL) has turned their attention to the curcumin/turmeric category, finding similarly poor results.
Having previously tested multiple categories of suspect supplements purchased on Amazon that revealed low potency and poor-quality control, NOW recently tested turmeric extracts for potency, heavy metals, labeling accuracy and potential addition of synthetic curcumin.
NOW assayed 23 unknown brand product samples plus two NOW products, all purchased from Amazon in June 2021. Initially it appeared that the unknown brands tested much better than expected. Only one product clearly failed potency testing and four others tested very low, but without any specific label claim. This initial look was not the end of the story.
Virtually all of the products were labeled such as “Turmeric Curcumin 1650 mg” on the front panel, yet the side panel would list 1,500 mg as turmeric root, 300 mg ginger root, 150 mg turmeric extract and 15 mg BioPerine per three capsules. That equals to 655 mg per capsule and less than 10 percent of the product is turmeric 95 percent standardized extract. “This can be perceived as deceptive since many customers do not know the difference between turmeric, turmeric extract, curcumin extract, and standardized 95 percent Extract,” said Dan Richard, NOW’s vice president of global sales and marketing.
NOW also tested heavy metals (arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury) to compare each product. The average total heavy metals, by product, were 525 percent higher than NOW’s two sample average, and only one product out of 23 had less heavy metals than NOW. Two products, B’Leaf Nature and Eagle brands, were more than 20 times higher than NOW and above California’s Prop 65 limits for Lead. Two others, Farm Haven and BioEmblem brands, were both above 100 ppb in cadmium, a particularly toxic heavy metal.
Synthetic adulteration was also an issue in these tests, according to NOW. Low quality curcumin (turmeric extract) is known to be spiked with synthetic curcumin in order to meet potency testing. The American Botanical Council highlighted this problem, and quality brands have made sure to avoid it. Synthetic curcumin is derived from petrochemicals, rather than natural turmeric, at a much lower cost. NOW sent all samples to the University of Georgia’s Center for Applied Isotope Studies for independent radiocarbon testing. This lab found that four out of 23 unfamiliar brands were spiked, with “fossil fuel derived organic carbon.” These four brands are: Vitpro, Me First Living, Eagle and Primal Harvest.
NOW also suspected that some of these products may be mislabeled as vegetarian capsules. Of the 23 samples, two tested to be in animal gelatin capsules and were not in vegetarian capsules. These are Bioganix and Nutriflair brands, according to NOW.
All of these products were tested for potency both at the company’s internal labs and at Eurofins Labs. The assay method is RP-HPLC with UV detection and potencies are determined based on total curcuminoids per capsule.
For more information, visit www.nowfoods.com.