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Who In the Hell Formulated This?

Updated: Jan 8

Sometimes I look at a product and wonder, what in the name of Cthulhu is this?

Cthulhu

Bad formulators deserve to gaze upon Cthulhu and be driven mad.


Having been in the supplement industry for over twenty years, I have seen a million products, but some take the cake for having no business to exist. I have worked behind the scenes and been involved in the formulation of many products, so I am familiar with how it goes, but sometimes I wonder how this got the go-ahead, the green light, the all clear?!


When formulating a supplement, you want to use ingredients that complement each other, perhaps make other ingredients work better, but all moving towards the goal of making the formula work better at achieving whatever you want it to do. So when you see formulas with ingredients that go against the goal or that work against each other, you have to wonder what they were thinking. Unfortunately, a lot of companies have people in charge of formulating who either do not have the experience or knowledge to do it correctly or who are told to make it a certain way to increase profit or make it more marketable, not because it makes the best formula.


Without further ado, our first “What the hell is this formula?!”:

Poorly formulated supplement

This is called an NRF2 formula. They are sold with the claims that they support detoxification pathways, including phases 1 and 2 in the liver. Often, these formulas contain black pepper extract (very different from the black pepper you use in your food), also known as piperine. Piperine inhibits the phase 1 and 2 pathways. So if your whole formula is supposed to make those pathways work better, then why are you using an ingredient that inhibits the functions of those pathways? Either the formulator is unaware of this, or marketing wanted it in there because people believe it makes the turmeric work better. Regardless of the reason, this is a clear-cut example of a very poor formulation choice.


Here is another example:

Poorly formulated supplement

DIM is an ingredient often sold with the claim that it reduces excess estrogen levels in the body. The pathway it works on is the phase 2 pathway. Once again, piperine is added, inhibiting the same pathway that the DIM is supposed to work on. Poor formulation at its best.


This formula is being sold to support healthy thyroid function:

Never eat raw maca

This product contains raw maca. Raw maca inhibits thyroid function due to its high concentration of glucosinolates. Check out our blog article to read more about why you should never eat raw maca. Another example of some head-scratching formulation choices.


This is a supplement that claims to improve iron levels in the body:

Poorly formulated iron supplement

This formula contains green tea, which inhibits iron absorption. Not really a great ingredient to include in an iron supplement, especially when these types of non-heme iron are already poorly absorbed. It also contains zinc which competes in the intestines with iron for absorption and can negatively impact plasma iron levels in those who are already lower in iron, who tend to be the people using iron supplements.


This prenatal formula has iron and the omega-3 fatty acid DHA in the same pill:

Poorly formulated prenatal vitamin

Omega-3 fatty acids, like DHA, are very susceptible to oxidation. Combining iron and DHA in the same pill is a terrible idea. When DHA is exposed to minerals like iron, it greatly accelerates oxidation. Eating oxidized oils is never a good idea. Whoever put this formula together overlooked an incredibly important detail.


Hopefully, this article gave you some good information to understand that just because a product says it is good for something or has an ingredient list that looks great does not mean that it actually is. While we went through a few examples in this blog, there are a lot of different ways that products can be poorly formulated. Unfortunately, there are no simple tricks and tips we can tell you to help you avoid getting a formula that has no business existing. Hopefully, companies will take the formulation more seriously. Fingers crossed!


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