Article edited for scientific accuracy by Illuminate Labs Blog Editor Taylor Graber MD
Examine.com is one of the most popular websites for supplement users, along with Labdoor and ConsumerLab. The site summarizes a wide range of information and research about many popular vitamins and supplements, and can be more convenient than parsing through all of the scientific research yourself.
In this article we’ll review some of the pros and cons of Examine.com and conclude whether we believe the service is worth the money, as a company that pays for their service but also does a lot of independent research outside of Examine.com.
Pros - Convenience
Using Examine.com is very time-efficient compared to doing all of the medical research yourself for a supplement you’re considering. This is especially the case with compounds that are very well-studied like panax ginseng.
Reading all of the available medical research on panax ginseng would take hundreds if not thousands of hours. With Examine, you can just search the compound and read the summary, dosage recommendations and some highlighted medical studies. The UX is good and the content is well written.
Another convenience of using Examine is they publish general breakdowns which don’t require a scientific background to understand. Consider a supplement user searching for information about Vitamin K. They may not already know that Vitamin K2 MK-7 is the most effective formulation for humans, so they wouldn’t have searched for that specifically. Examine has a general Vitamin K breakdown which covers all of the different types.
In comparison, someone searching on PubMed, which is the best free library of scientific research in the U.S., would see confusing results if they just searched “Vitamin K,” because they’d be presented with hundreds of studies on various forms of the vitamin and not be able to determine which is the best for a regular healthy adult.
Pros - Written and Reviewed by Medical Professionals
As a consumer, you can generally tell a website is serious about the accuracy of their health content if it’s written or reviewed by a credentialed medical professional. It’s one of the reasons we brought on a practicing MD to review our health articles, and someone with a PhD in Nutritional Biochemistry to review our product page content.
Examine follows a similar strategy: most of their team has an advanced degree in science or nutrition, and their articles are reviewed by their Founder Kamal Patel who’s been a nutrition researcher for 20 years and has published various papers in scientific journals.
Cons - Outdated Research
This is somewhat inevitable when you run a company that requires updated information on hundreds of compounds, but much of the research on Examine is outdated, and they’re outright missing sections on some of the most promising new supplements.
NMN, or nicotinamide mononucleotide, is one of the most fascinating chemical compounds to be studied in the last 10 years or so. It’s primarily used for anti-aging because it’s a precursor to NAD+. It reduces mitochondrial dysfunction and extends human lifespan based on some preliminary medical research. However, there is no section on Examine covering this compound at all.
Even the reviews that do exist on Examine aren’t updated often enough to reflect and summarize new studies. Astragalus is a good example. This herb is taken mostly for anti-aging effect, and there have been many papers published recently suggesting it may be useful to that end. Astragalus directly influences telomere length.
On Examine’s astragalus review though, there is no Aging section in the “Human Effect Matrix” where they summarize medical studies. They instead mention beneficial effects on immunity, nasal congestion, diuresis and a few other health categories.
Cons - Price
Examine costs $29/month or $799 for unlimited access, which is relatively expensive for research summaries in our opinion, especially with so many being outdated.
As a comparison, ConsumerLab only costs $90 for two full years of access, or less than 13% of the cost of Examine's monthly rate for the same period. ConsumerLab actually publishes proprietary research on supplements and maintains expensive testing equipment, while Examine has no such overhead.
Examine is a good starting place for people totally new to the supplement world, and may be useful for a few months or even a year while you’re familiarizing yourself with some of the most popular compounds and the research behind them.
As you get more comfortable with sites like PubMed, it doesn’t make sense to continue paying for Examine in our opinion. Simply search the compound you’re curious about into research databases with search qualifiers. For example, if you want to review some of the anti-aging studies on astragalus, search “astragalus” “aging” into PubMed and studies with both of those keywords will pop up, effectively filtering out research on other health benefits you may not be focused on.
We believe that Examine is relatively overpriced for what they offer, and that ConsumerLab is a better deal. Since their content is slightly different and Examine is positioned more for beginners to supplementation and vitamins, we still recommend the service for a few months to consumers new to the space.