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Bulk Supplements Review: Is The Cheapest Supplement Brand Decent Quality?


Article edited for scientific accuracy by Illuminate Labs Blog Editor Taylor Graber MD

Illuminate Labs Bulk Supplements Review article header image

A lot of supplement consumers think of BulkSupplements as the go-to for price and quantity. They sell supplements at quantities not often seen elsewhere. 

However the company has a poor brand reputation and is associated with poor-quality products. In this article we’ll review some BulkSupplements formulations, as well as some third-party tests on the brand, and determine whether their supplements are of decent quality.

Variety

One notable aspect of BulkSupplements’ site is the impressive variety. They sell over 100 herb extracts alone, and that category is just one subset of their Herbal Supplements offerings.

The company aims to be a one-stop-shop for consumers, and assuming decent quality of product (which we’ll assess below), this much variety is a huge benefit for consumers.

Formulation Quality

The saying “you get what you pay for” rings true when it comes to the quality of most BulkSupplements formulations. Let’s look at a couple of examples.

They currently list a product as ginkgo biloba extract with a Supplement Facts label that shows the product is in fact raw powder rather than an extract. This is probably just an oversight as we didn’t see the same error made on other extract products, but it’s quite a big one.

Their cinnamon extract product uses the cheaper and most toxic form of cinnamon called Cassia Cinnamon (Cinnamomum Cassia). We published a whole review breaking down the different types of cinnamon and concluding which is the best cinnamon for health, but the important thing to know is that Cassia Cinnamon is high in a compound called coumarin which is toxic to humans even at moderate doses found in food and supplements.

Any supplement manufacturer that cares about their formulations will use Ceylon Cinnamon (Cinnamomum Verum) instead of Cassia Cinnamon for a cinnamon supplement. The fact that BulkSupplements chose the latter infers, in our opinion, that they prioritize the price of raw materials over all else.

Bulk Supplements sells a turmeric extract with an ideal standardization ratio based on medical research (95% curcuminoids), but fails to add black pepper extract or BioPerine, which drastically increases turmeric absorption. It’s become an industry standard to include black pepper in a turmeric formulation, and again the fact that BulkSupplements opts not to evidences how they are mostly price-focused rather than quality-focused.

Failed Quality Testing - Ginkgo Biloba

BulkSupplements has performed horribly in third-party testing. A supplement review site called ConsumerLab, which is the industry leader in off-the-shelf supplement testing, has found that many BulkSupplements products are inaccurately labeled. 

ConsumerLab tested ginkgo biloba supplements from various brands in 2018, and BulkSupplements’ ginkgo biloba extract powder was one of two products that failed testing and was assigned a “Not Approved” rating.

Incredibly, the testing revealed that BulkSupplement’s ginkgo was only 3% as potent as advertised. The test results showed only 0.98 mg flavonol glycosides per 175 mg serving. Given that these compounds are the primary chemical constituents of ginkgo biloba, such a low test result almost ensures that BulkSupplements’ product was significantly diluted. 

As a reference, our ginkgo biloba pills are standardized to minimum 24% flavone glycosides (which equals a minimum of 57.6 mg flavone glycosides per 240 mg serving), and this potency is proven by third-party test results which we publish right on our product pages for consumers to see themselves.

Failed Quality Testing - Magnesium

Another product category that BulkSupplements recently failed testing is magnesium. This is almost impressive as it’s just a mineral, not a complex standardized herbal formulation. To sell a single mineral product and fail testing for label accuracy of that mineral shows an incredible level of either incompetence or malice.

The product tested by ConsumerLab was BulkSupplements Magnesium Citrate, which had a dosage listed at 500 mg. ConsumerLab found only 399 mg in their test; less than 80% of the listed dosage.

According to an update published by ConsumerLab, a rep from BulkSupplements responded that they were “aware of the misprinted labels and have recalled the bags.” It’s good that they recalled the inaccurately-labeled product, but if you need an unaffiliated company to negatively review your products for that to take place, it proves your in-house testing is insufficient or non-existent (we’d guess the latter).

Failed Labeling - Potassium

One ConsumerLab review was especially interesting because it found a labeling error similar to what we discovered for their ginkgo biloba extract. BulkSupplements has a potassium chloride supplement that was inaccurately labeled based on ConsumerLab testing, with the tests revealing 2.57x more potassium chloride per teaspoon than the label claim.

This is an egregious error given that potassium metabolism is directly involved in electrical signaling of the heart. 

This isn’t a minor mistake like a lower-than-expected concentration of a standardized extract; this is an error that could potentially harm a consumer’s health, and is unacceptable.

Failed Quality Testing - Summary

ConsumerLab tested 13 of BulkSupplements’ products overall, and 5 of them were not approved due to failed testing. A 38% failure rate in ConsumerLab testing is the highest we’ve ever seen, and indicates a total lack of care to proper Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).

Lack of Published Testing

This should be unsurprising given the third-party test results we analyzed above, but BulkSupplements doesn’t publish any test results of their products on their website (even in-house tests or CoAs). 

Consequently, consumers of the brand have no way to assess whether the product they’re considering purchasing is safe and labeled as advertised. Clearly some BulkSupplements products are low in contaminants and potent, but without updated batch testing consumers are left to guess whether a product is safe or not.

Conclusion

BulkSupplements products are cheap for a reason: the brand apparently cares little to none about formulations, testing or product safety. In our opinion this is a brand to stay far away from. The risks outweigh the benefits based on the results from independent lab testing, and this is the single worst brand we’ve reviewed to date.

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