68% of Americans take dietary supplements, but many are unaware of the potential hidden dangers. Although the right vitamin tablets can help with energy levels, heart health, and immune system strength, there are fake supplements on the market that contain substances which may be harmful. We have an in-depth guide to the current best diet pills on the market here, and rather than giving up supplementation completely, we can help you investigate the ingredients of anything you are regularly ingesting.

You can switch scam supplements for something organic and healthy. This will give you all the benefits, without the risks associated with consuming artificial chemicals. This guide will help you to identify fake supplements, while giving you an idea of which substances to avoid and how you can safely meet your nutritional requirements. Vitamin pills should be taken daily as part of a balanced diet and exercise routine. In the same way that you try to avoid foods with toxic chemicals, ensure that your supplements only contain safe ingredients which contribute to healthy bodies.


What Are Fake Supplements?

Supplements are easier to acquire than ever, with services such as Amazon and eBay offering cheap pills to anyone who wants them. They do not require a medical prescription like other medications. However, this means that they are not subject to the same regulations as the pills offered by pharmaceutical companies. Suppliers may therefore be selling substances which do not offer the benefits advertised. They may either be ineffective or actively harmful to human health.

With the supplement industry expected to be worth more than $60 billion by 2021, many companies are offering knock off products in an attempt to make money. The supplements on offer are generally kept in large warehouses and as a result may be sold well after their expiration date. Although the tablets may have once been safe to take, selling after their expiration date means that they no longer provide health improvements as advertised. Businesses nonetheless want to sell these expired products in order to keep making a profit.


Alternatively, supplements might be outright counterfeits. They may claim to do the same things as a certain vitamin, but do so using artificial ingredients. For instance, many people take B12 supplements for increased energy. However, energy can also be artificially boosted using a chemical like taurine. In this instance, the product in the bottle may be a cheaper, less healthy, and ineffective alternative to the vitamin you thought you were consuming.

Although taurine is naturally produced by the body, the kind found in fake supplements is manufactured. Since the body already produces enough taurine on its own, supplementation of this chemical is unnecessary and can be dangerous. You may feel like you have more energy, but rather than getting it from an essential vitamin like B12, the manufacturer may have taken a cheap option. Outright counterfeits like this are clear examples of a fake supplement.

Buying online always poses some kind of risk. A pill could contain just about anything, if you are not buying from a trusted source. It could be as harmless as a sugar pill advertised as something more or it could contain toxic substances. Online sellers may advertise a miracle route to health, but the ingredients have the opposite effect.

Dangerous Ingredients to Look Out For


Below you will find the most common toxic chemicals which supplements contain. If you find any of these when you look closely at the ingredient list, then stop ingesting that product and search for an alternative.

These substances are often used to simulate the effect of supplementation, but may end up having the opposite effect. All they do is help a company to sell more products at the cost of their customer’s wellbeing.


Hydrogenated Oils

Hydrogenated oils are among the earliest examples of manufactured food products. The process was invented in 1911, and what happens is food scientists use hydrogen to turn oil into a lard like substance. This is the kind of thing you find in margarine and it enables oils to remain solid at room temperature. Unlike olive or avocado oil which are healthy for the heart, hydrogenated oils often contain trans fat. This can increase cholesterol levels and block the chemicals which fight inflammation. As a result, too much hydrogenated oil consumption is linked to illness and early death.

Hydrogenated oils are added to supplements to lower manufacturing costs and increase shelf life. If you stumble across a bargain when shopping for vitamin tablets online, then it may be because of this ingredient. While the vitamins themselves may contribute to healthy cholesterol, this may be offset by the presence of artificial fats.


Sodium Benzoate

Benzoic acid is naturally found in fruit, but when combined with sodium hydroxide, it becomes a dangerous synthetic chemical. Despite being contained in a variety of food and beverages, sodium benzoate is toxic and should be avoided. For some people, consumption of this chemical can trigger asthma attacks or allergic reactions. There is also evidence that it may contribute to leukaemia or blood cancer when combined with vitamin C.

If you are taking vitamin C tablets to boost your immune system, then you should check immediately whether your supplements contain sodium benzoate. It is generally used as a preservative, so that supplements can be stay on the market forever instead of being thrown away. This benefits the finances of suppliers, but won’t do you any good.



As with the above examples, fluoride naturally exists in some food items, as well as water. However, the synthetic version of it could pose a health risk. Fluoride is added to the water supply because it is believed to help in preventing tooth decay, but this is not without controversy. Research suggests that over exposure to fluoride can damage bones. The chemical is already naturally occurring and there should therefore be no concern about receiving the recommended amount. Taking more than you can acquire from a balanced diet is almost never necessary.

Fluoride may be added to supplements as an attempt to offer the consumer improved dental health. However, this is unlikely to be the case. In fact, the FDA has not approved fluoride supplements as safe. Considering that the FDA have approved all the other ingredients on this list, this fact should highlight the danger of fluoride. The FDA have given approvals to synthetic chemicals which are likely carcinogenic, showing how relaxed they are about these matters. As a consumer, it is your responsibility to research different substances for yourself before consuming them. If you see fluoride advertised in supplements, then do not purchase them. This is an example of a fake supplement: marketed as beneficial to your health, but likely to be detrimental to it.



This chemical was originally used as a treatment for obesity but was recently banned in countries such as the UK. Scientific evidence suggests that it will raise your risk of heart attack and stroke, especially when taken as a daily supplement. Despite the clear health risks, sibutramine can be found in a range of vitamin tablets sold around the world. In particular, Chinese diet pills are likely to contain the substance.

The effects of consuming sibutramine include a racing heart, followed by stomach pains. If you are experiencing these symptoms after taking a supplement, then stop taking the pills immediately. At first, you may feel energized, which is the ingredient’s way of raising metabolism so that you can lose weight. However, this won’t feel like a natural, healthy energy. You may feel agitated or experience insomnia. If you keep taking the pills, you will begin to feel nauseous and may have a seizure. If supplements create feelings of anxiety and increased heart rate, then it may be due to sibutramine and you should stop taking the supplements straight away.



Another commonly used weight loss ingredient is dinitrophenol, but this substance can be fatal. You should never knowingly consume it, but also understand its symptoms in case it has been snuck into a legitimate looking supplement. Although banned in the US since 1938, it has seen a recent rise in popularity. Although it will help to burn fat, the side effects can be severe.

Dinitrophenol works by making cells less efficient at creating energy. This means that energy from food is converted to a waste product and expelled from the body, rather than stored as fat reserves. However, it will also make you lethargic and nauseous. If taken continually, you may suffer from cataracts or hyperthermia. Learn to spot the warning signs early and stop taking any supplement which feels wrong. A real vitamin tablet will never make you ill and a healthy supplement will only leave you feeling healthy.

man sat at table

Staying Safe with


Although not a replacement for a healthy and balanced diet, most doctors agree that taking supplements can help you to meet your nutritional requirements. This is especially true if you are on a restricted diet for religious or ethical reasons. For instance, while you can stay healthy on a strict vegan diet, it is recommended that you supplement your diet with vitamins D and B12. Whatever your diet, you can ensure proper nutrition by supplementing those vitamins that you lack from your food intake. However, this needs to be done safely in order to avoid the problematic ingredients listed above.

Buy directly From
the Supplier

Many fake supplements start off perfectly fine, but end up expiring before reaching the customer. In order to avoid this, you want as short a supply chain as possible. This will ensure that you are purchasing the freshest pills, which therefore do not need to be pumped full of unhealthy preservatives. It might be more effort, but avoid retailers like Amazon and eBay and go directly to the website of the manufacturer.

These large online retailers rarely sell items themselves, but instead, provide a platform for their customers to sell items. This means that just about anybody can set up a profile and start flogging dodgy items. The retailers themselves have no way of carrying out quality control on the products, since they are sent out for delivery directly by the seller to the buyer.

It is only through negative reviews that a seller may be shut down, but they can simply create a new account with an alternative email address and instantly start listing the same questionable items all over again.

The other advantage to avoiding the likes of Amazon and eBay is that you know the pills are genuine. When you see a product listed online, the pills in the bottle may not match the name on the label. An unethical seller could place knock off supplements into a bottle with a brand name you trust.

By going to the producer directly, you know exactly what you are getting and won’t be inadvertently consuming dangerous chemicals.

Triple Check the

If you are buying from a legitimate and trusted source, then you should be able to find a full list of ingredients. If you can’t, then that is a sign that you should stay away. The above synthetic chemicals are just some of the main culprits that you can expect to find and why you should avoid them. There are many more out there, which can cause confusion. You may stop to wonder if a chemical has been added out of necessity or if it is something which can be avoided. Go through the ingredients lists carefully and research each element. Check if there are any risks at all associated with every ingredient and then decide whether to switch. Once you know you have a supplement which only contains the good stuff, then you can take your daily dosage without fear.

Another trick that knock off supplement suppliers engage in is using a “proprietary blend”. This is a way of hiding the amounts of certain ingredients. For instance, there may be a proprietary blend of a useful ingredient like vitamin C, but the blend is bulked out using cheap and potentially harmful substances. If you see a blend like this listed, then dig a little deeper to determine what exactly that blend is comprised of.

Supplements are always taken with good intentions. Your daily dose is probably an attempt to meet the requirements of your body as outlined by doctors and nutritionists. However, your intentions can be exploited by companies who simply want to make more money. Have a skeptical approach to supplements by only taking ones that you know for sure are safe.

Stick to EU and US Manufacturers

Buying from the supplier directly will increase your chances of securing a safe supplement, but not all suppliers are created equal. Ensure that they are abiding by the strictest legislation by only consuming products manufactured in the US or Europe. They will be regulated by authorities such as the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the European Food Safety Authority. If they have been approved by the strictest legislation, then you can be sure that they aren’t adding deadly ingredients. However, there may still be substances such as hydrogenated oils, which are deemed safe but should not be consumed daily. So firstly, check that your supplier is meeting the strictest regulations available and then check the ingredients for yourself.