Navigating the world of dietary supplements can sometimes feel like wandering through a maze of jargon and technical terms. One term that frequently pops up, especially on ingredient labels, is “proprietary blend.” But what exactly is a proprietary blend, and is it something consumers should be wary of? Let’s dive in.
What is a Proprietary Blend?
A proprietary blend, in the context of dietary supplements, refers to a combination of ingredients for which the total amount of the blend is listed, but the specific amounts of individual ingredients within the blend are not disclosed. Manufacturers often use proprietary blends under the guise of protecting their unique formula from competitors (1).
The Concern with Proprietary Blends
The primary concern with proprietary blends is transparency. Without knowing the exact amounts of individual ingredients:
- Safety Concerns: Consumers cannot determine if they’re getting too much of a potentially harmful ingredient or too little of a beneficial one.
- Effectiveness Issues: If a consumer doesn’t know the precise amount of an active ingredient in the blend, they can’t ascertain if the product provides a therapeutic dose*.
- Potential for Under-dosing: Companies might hide the fact that costlier, effective ingredients are present in minuscule, ineffective amounts, while cheaper filler ingredients make up the bulk of the blend (2).
*A therapeutic dose refers to the amount of a medication or supplement that is considered effective to treat a particular condition or symptom while minimizing potential side effects.
The Silver Lining: Trademarked and Registered Blends
While proprietary blends can be problematic, it’s essential to differentiate them from trademarked or registered blends. The latter, when done right, can be a sign of quality and transparency.
Trademarked and registered blends that specify the amounts of every ingredient provide consumers with clarity and assurance. They combine the benefits of a unique formula with the openness that educated consumers demand, ensuring that individuals know exactly what they’re putting into their bodies.
In the evolving landscape of dietary supplements, it’s crucial for consumers to be informed and discerning. Not all supplements are created equal, which is why transparency is key. Proprietary blends can obscure the truth about ingredient amounts, making them problematic in this regard. Consumers should prioritize products that provide clear, detailed information about their contents, whether it’s a standalone ingredient or part of a trademarked blend.