Can LabDoor bring more truthfulness to health supplement manufacturers? The supplement industry is still largely unregulated: after all the Food and Drug Administration here in the U.S. considers them food. While pharmaceuticals must go through a relatively rigorous approval process, those tonics, vitamins and herbal supplements have an easy path from laboratory to drugstore shelf or QVC. Other factors are behind the lax oversight of supplements, including the work of Senator Orrin Hatch, who authored a law 19 years ago allowing companies to make health claims about their products but exempts them from any federal safety reviews.
But LabDoor, a young technology startup, promises to hold this industry accountable. In partnership with the Mayo Clinic and Rock Health along with backing by Kleiner Perkins, LabDoor has just risen on its sea legs with 100 evaluations of supplements and health drinks using a combination of laboratory testing, third party reports and algorithms.
Such validations are important because consumers just do not have the right information in order to verify whether all those claims on the labels are actually valid. As someone who takes enough supplements to rival Suzanne Somers, I am always checking a variety of sites to make sure my plans to avoid Prozac and Botox do not end up with my kidneys collapsing and liver failing. I would like to make sure all that red yeast rice, milk thistle, glucosamine, l-lysine, St. John’s Wort, vitamin B tablets, selenium, Vitamin D, psyllium husk are actually doing some good. For now LabDoor is focusing on the more well known vitamin concoctions, energy bars and supplements and multivitamins on the market.
Currently LabDoor is in a limited public beta testing phase, but users who want to login using their Facebook ID or email can get a basic review of these products. LabDoor offers a clinical snapshot of products’ clinical efficacy and product safety and offers a letter grade. Eventually users will have access to additional information on FDA reporting, manufacturing purity and chemical reverse engineering.
The results will surprise many of these products’ loyal buyers, especially those who have become Alpha consumers of some of the leading supplement brands on the market. For example, look at those immunity packs to which many of us run at the first sign of a cold or flu. Emergen-C scores relatively well with a B+ score with about 50 percent of its clinical efficacy verifiable. Airborne, however, only scores a C+ and its clinical efficacy is in the red zone. Multivitamin blends generally score an A-; those energy drinks only pull a mark in the C range, with the exception of Red Bull with a solid B (well, caffeine does work).
LabDoor is only starting to scratch the surface of the supplement industry, and has its sights set on the cosmetic industry. The goal is to cover a spectrum of goods that add up to a $1 trillion dollar global market. Considering how many of these products issue dubious promises–and even more disturbingly according to Fast Company have toxins such as heavy metals amongst their ingredients–this is one startup with a bright and busy future. Once again, technology can offer protection where regulation falls short and businesses fudge the facts.
Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye is the editor of GreenGoPost.com and frequently writes about business sustainability strategy. Leon also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business; his work has also appeared on Sustainable Brands, Inhabitat and Earth911. Most recently he explored children’s health issues in India with the International Reporting Project. You can follow Leon and ask him questions on Twitter or Instagram (greengopost).
[Image credit: Leon Kaye]