supplementwatch.com: independent reviews?

(note: the supplementwatch.com website mentioned in this article appears to have been hacked and a “trojan” is on the website. The problem only appears to be on the some pages, including the home page, the review pages linked to below are clean. Do not visit the homepage unless you have a good and up to date virus scanner)

If you’ve been around the Amway business for a while and promoted the Nutrilite/Nutriway brands, someone at some stage has probably directed you to the ostensibly unbiased website www.supplementwatch.com. Who is SupplementWatch? The site says -

Our team consists of a growing network of scientists, physiologists, nutritionists and other health professionals dedicated to educating people about the pros and
cons of dietary supplementation.

Nowhere on the website does it say who is in this team. The site goes on to say about it’s reviews -

At all times, the SupplementWatch team remains unbiased in its reviews, ratings and recommendations by adhering to a strict policy that NO supplement can be featured on Supplementwatch.com until it has received a complete evaluation by the technical staff and assigned an overall rating. We do not accept funding or advertising from supplement manufacturers.Nutrilite logo

I’ve been curious sometime about who exactly is behind supplementwatch. One reason is that the site has often had somewhat disparaging comments about Nutrilite. One of it’s reviews of Nutrilite Daily for example says

“basically a Centrum-knockoff at a much higher price”

and finishes with

“For a basic formula, stick with a cheaper store-brand multivitamin.”

Anyone with even a basic understand of modern nutritional science and Nutrilite knows how completely inaccurate a statement like this, so naturally it triggers questions about supplementwatch.com in my mind.

You’ll also regularly find floating around the internet representatives of competitor multi-level marketing and nutritional company Pharmanex/NuSkin promoting their “LifePak” products and supplementwatch.com recommendations. At this link for example is a review placing two Pharmanex products at the top scoring 95 out of 1 with a “try it” recommendation. Near the bottom you’ll find Nutrilite, scoring 52 out of 1 and “don’t waste your money”.

So I started to dig – who is this “team” behind supplementwatch.com? A search of the internet whois database reveals the domain name was registered in 1998 to a Shawn Talbott and the administrator of the domain is Julie Talbott.

Registrant:
Talbott, Shawn
648 E Rocky Knoll Lane
Draper, UT 842
US

Google Maps reveals this address to be a suburban house. Nothing wrong with that, plenty of internet based businesses operate out of houses. But we do know now that SupplementWatch doesn’t appear to have any office space or testing laboratories. We also have two names, Shawn Talbott and Julie Talbott, and a location, Utah. This triggers further alarm bells. Utah is home to none other than the aformentioned Pharmanex/NuSkin. Is there a connection?

Well, what else can we find? The SupplementWatch website frontpage currently advertises a book by Shawn Talbott and Kerry Hughes. Perhaps Kerry is one of the supplementwatch scientists? This page reveals her to be a director of EthnoPharm Consulting as well as an advisor to SupplementWatch. I’ve been unable to find any other SupplementWatch advisors.

So, the “small team” seems to be Shawn Talbott, Julie Talbott, and Kerry Hughes. Following a hunch and googling Kerry Hughes and Pharmanex reveals that another organisation she works with, the Institute for Natural Products Research has undertaken a deal of research funded by Pharmanex. At least one book she has co-authored was also at least partly funded by Pharmanex. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, indeed this potential commercial conflict of interest is noted in the research publications. Nevertheless, Dr Hughes is nowhere named on the SupplementWatch website, and her commercial connections with Pharmanex are also not mentioned.

How about the Talbotts? Researching Julie Talbott reveals little more than that she is President of SupplementWatch. Googling Dr. Shawn Talbott however opens a whole new kettle of fish. First of all, it’s a rather major shock to discover that the Research Director and Editor in Chief of SupplementWatch, Dr Shawn Talbott was an employee of Pharmanex when, in 1999, he founded SupplementWatch.

Indeed, a 2003 Pharmanex newsletter names supplementwatch founder and director Dr Talbott as Director of Scientific Affairs for Pharmanex.

Dr Talbott no longer appears to hold this position with Pharmanex. It seems he moved on to other ventures. In 25, Dr Talbott paid in excess of $1,000,000 as part of a more than $4,000,000 settlement with the FTC for making fraudulent claims about dietary supplements he was then marketing. Probably not coincidentally, supplementwatch.com itself has had few updates since August 2005.

The next time someone directs you to supplementwatch.com in an effort to disparage Nutrilite, tell them the full story.

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