Alex Jones' wildly popular suite of Infowars supplements probably won't kill you, but extensive tests provided to BuzzFeed News have shown that they're little more than overpriced and ineffective blends of vitamins and minerals that have been sold in stores for ages.
The independent test results are the work of Labdoor, a San Francisco–based lab that tests and grades dietary supplements. Labdoor ran full tests on six popular Infowars supplements to determine the exact makeup of each supplement and screen for various dangerous and illegal chemicals. It also investigated a few of the products that "claimed incredible benefits for what seemed like could just be simple ingredients."
"We tested samples in triplicate, and wherever possible, cross-checked those results with at least two independent analytical laboratories, so we have complete trust in our conclusions," Brian Brandley, Labdoor's laboratory director, told BuzzFeed News.
All of the test results were largely the same: The products are — more or less — accurately advertised. They don't contain significantly more or less of a particular ingredient than listed on the bottles, and there are no surprise ingredients. They're also reasonably safe, meaning they passed heavy metal contaminant screenings and tested free of stimulants, depressants, and other prohibited drugs.
But just because the products' ingredients matched their labels doesn't mean they lived up to Jones' claims. Survival Shield X-2, for example, "is just plain iodine, the same stuff doctors used to pour on surfaces as a disinfectant," Labdoor's results read.
When the company tested Anthroplex, which retails for $29.95, it found that there was so little zinc that "if you're extremely zinc deficient, the value...is not going to be significantly helpful." The report notes that "you could actually get another zinc orotate supplement for around $5 WITH an impactful serving size," before concluding simply that "this product is a waste of money."
This claim — that the Infowars supplements often contained less effective serving sizes than their less expensive counterparts — was a running theme in Labdoor's results. In almost every example, Labdoor's tests and reviews describe the products as little more than heavily overpriced supplements with few health benefits, if any.
As Jones' popularity has risen, so has his supplements business, which sources have told BuzzFeed News largely funds Jones' highly controversial Infowars media empire — home to incendiary conspiracies including but not limited to #Pizzagate, that the Sandy Hook massacre was faked, and that murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich provided WikiLeaks with the DNC emails — in addition to acting as a kind of lifestyle-brand complement to Jones' particular brand of conspiracy-minded, fear-fueled programming.
“He can sell 500 supplements in an hour,” a former employee told BuzzFeed News this spring. “It's like QVC for conspiracy.” One estimate by New York magazine — which uses some back-of-the-envelope calculations based on the number of reviews of supplements on Jones' Infowars Life Store — suggests that, with an average supplement price of $30, Jones could haul in $15,000,000 in sales over a two-year period. A second, less conservative estimate from the magazine puts the figure even higher — nearly $25,000,000 without including repeat customers (of which there are likely many).
Here's a closer look at what exactly is inside the products that keep America's favorite conspiracy theorist on the air, according to Labdoor. You can read the full results here.
Super Male Vitality/Super Female Vitality (liquid) - $69.95/$59.95
Claimed ingredients for Super Male: Tribulus Terrestris (fruit), Tongkat Ali (root), Ashwaganda (root), Maca (root), Avena Sativa (leaf/stem), Suma (root), Catuaba (bark), Muira Puama (bark), Fulvic Acid
Claimed ingredients for Super Female: Organic Tribulus Terrestris (fruit), Organic Epimedium (leaf), Organic Ashwaganda (root), Organic Avena Sativa (leaf/stem), Wildcrafted Suma (root), Maca (root), Wildcrafted Tongkat Ali (root), Wildcrafted Muira Puama (bark), Wildcrafted Catuaba (bark), Shilajit
Test results: The lab found no traces of unlisted items like caffeine, nor did it find any athletic-enhancing drugs/stimulants or Viagra.
Labdoor suggests that there is no real research to show that many of Super Vitality's ingredients are effective. One ingredient — Tribulus terrestris — "seems to increase libido in rats" but only improves erectile disfunction "in one lone human study," according to Labdoor. And the lab notes that the serving size in both serums is "way too small for this combination of ingredients to be effective."
Labdoor review snippet: "Both of these products are most likely safe, but ineffective."
Anthroplex - $39.95
Claimed ingredients: Zinc Orotate, Horny Goat Weed, Tribulus Terrestris, Tongkat Ali-Longjack, Fulvic Powder
Test results: Labdoor found that Anthroplex passed a heavy metal screening but noticed a discrepancy in the reported amount of zinc in the capsules. According to Labdoor, there's 31% less zinc than advertised. "When we look into the zinc dosage, it's so ridiculously low that you'd basically be buying a worthless product for $40," the report reads.
Review snippet: "This product is a waste of money. The claim that 'Anthroplex works synergistically with the powerful Super Male Vitality formula in order to help restore your masculine foundation and stimulate vitality with its own blend of unique ingredients' is fluff on multiple fronts."
Oxy-Powder - $46.95
Claimed ingredients: Elemental Magnesium, Natural Citric Acid
Test results: According to Labdoor, the product contains almost exactly the values of magnesium and citric acid that it claims. It also passed a screen for heavy metals.
While the product has the exact ingredients advertised, Labdoor's report takes issues with Infowars' claims that the product is "ozonated." According to the lab, "Ozone is so reactive that it wouldn't remain as ozone in the supplement itself. Additionally, if you could take ozone, you shouldn't as it's extremely toxic."
Review snippet: "This product's claims related to 'nascent oxygen' also have no real
basis in science."
Survival Shield X-2 - $29.95
Claimed ingredients: Iodine (as nascent iodine)
Test results: According to Labdoor, the product contained just under the value of iodine that it claimed. It also passed a screen for heavy metals.
There's not much to say here. Basically, what Infowars is selling in Survival Shield X-2 is a bottle of iodine at 3x markup.
Review snippet: "We tested this product on the chance that it might be potassium iodide or sodium iodide, which it wasn't. Survival Shield is just plain iodine."
Child Ease (liquid) - $24.95
Claimed ingredients: Chamomile Flower, Jujube Seed, Hawthorn Berry, Catnip Aerial Parts, Lemon Balm Aerial Parts, Long Pepper Fruit, Licorice Root, Amla Fruit, Magnesium Taurinate, Calcium Carbonate, Gotu Kola Aerial Parts, and Essential Oils of Anise Seed, Cassia Bark, and Clove Fruit
Test results: "This product tested to be free of stimulants and depressants listed as drugs prohibited from athletic competition in WADA's annual Prohibited List. It also passed screenings for heavy metal contamination (arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury)."
Labdoor notes that, like the male and female vitality serums, Child Ease "has so many ingredients, they wouldn't be effective in a 1.25 mL serving size."
The report also cautions the use of these ingredients in children, especially given the lab's suspicion that "Infowars may also be marketing this supplement as a way to treat autism or a substitute for vaccines." The lab notes that "these recommendations are unfounded and dangerous."
Review snippet: "It also has ingredients that have never been studied for safety or efficacy in human research and as a consumer, you're supposed to blindly trust that it's okay for your kids."
The following products were not lab tested by Labdoor, but they were reviewed by the lab's research team:
Joint Formula (pills) - $29.95
Review snippet: "Almost all of the listed ingredients are not supported in research for joint health."
Caveman True Paleo Formula (shake powder) - $59.95
Review snippet: "They're using fancy ingredient names for what are really simple ingredients."
Lung Cleanse (spray) - $49.95
Review snippet: "It's maybe like a spray liquid cough drop in your throat — temporarily effective, but not worth $50."
DNA Force (pills) - $134.95
Review snippet: "There's no way to definitively test 'DNA health', so having a claim of supporting DNA and/or mitochondrial function seems far-fetched."
Deep Cleanse (liquid) - $29.95
Review snippet: This one is very short and to the point. "This is basically an iodine supplement with more than likely ineffective herbal ingredients."
Myco-ZX (pills) - $54.95
Review snippet: "This product's ingredients are unsupported in research and there's very little guidance on safe dosing."
Brain Force Plus - $20.96
Review snippet: "At the current serving size, however, dosing is significantly
lower than expected for most ingredients."
Secret 12 Vitamin B12 (liquid) - $23.96
Review snippet: "There's nothing really 'secret' about this product's main ingredient."
Winter Sun Vitamin D (liquid) - $23.96
Review snippet: "You could grab a bottle for around $10 and skip the 2X+ price markup from Infowars."
Silver Bullet Colloidal Silver (liquid) - $19.95
Review snippet: "There's no proof that this works."
Charlie Warzel is a senior writer for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Warzel reports on and writes about the intersection of tech and culture.
Contact Charlie Warzel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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