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How We Review Supplements, Equipment, And Wellness Products

Here at The Unwinder, our mission is to provide clear and actionable information to people looking for novel or alternative health, fitness and mental performance solutions. 

A majority of our articles are about dietary supplements–a popular product category, but also a problematic one, known for sketchy companies and questionable reviews. To be perfectly blunt, most articles about dietary supplements are terrible, and we want you to know what makes The Unwinder’s content different. 

Article Quality Over Quantity 

There are a lot of blogs, websites and social media accounts putting out short, low-quality content every day. We all see listicles like “10 pre-workout supplements you should try” crossing our social feeds. Yuck. We aim to be different.

Instead of publishing a large number of keyword-packed content to try and game the search algorithms, we write high-quality articles for actual human beings. Each of our articles is meticulously researched, written by a skilled writer, taken through multiple rounds of edits and reviewed by multiple subject matter experts.

We want each article to provide the final word on a given subject–to be so good you don’t need to read another article about the same thing, and can keep referring back to it for years to come.

Research-Based Advice

Our writing process begins with an extensive research review process in which we read as much scientific research as we can on the subject at hand. That means we read the original scientific journal articles–not popular media summaries, which often distort or cherry-pick the data, and present overly strong and sweeping conclusions based on limited understandings of the science.

At The Unwinder, we know how to read scientific research. We understand that new research adds to, but doesn’t replace, older research. We know the difference between statistical significance and practical significance. We look at meta-analyses and research reviews–but we always pay attention to the quality of underlying studies, including their methods, transparency, subject selection, and funding sources. 

We also never overstate or misrepresent the research. You won’t see pseudoscience terms like “superfood” or “miracle drug” here. You’ll never hear us suggest that dietary supplements are more important than diet and exercise, or that pills can “make fat disappear.” 

At the same time, we know how to communicate complex scientific topics to the general public–so you won’t hear a lot of academic talk. We favor plain English, using just enough scientific terminology to convey what the research says without requiring readers to have an advanced degree. 

We Look At User Experiences And Reviews

Scientific research can only tell you so much. Some supplements have only been studied a few times. Many others have been studied primarily in sick populations–the obese, or diabetics, or older people with dementia–yet are commonly used by healthy members of the general population. It’s important not to over-generalize from one population to another.

That’s where user experiences come in. And not just our own experiences–after all, that’s anecdotal. After reviewing the research on a given supplement, we then scour the internet for reports by real people who have used that supplement and shared their stories. These often come from passionate, niche, expert communities – for example athletes, or nootropics users.

We also look at reviews on Amazon and other sites where supplements are sold, but we always take these with a grain of salt. Fake reviews are a bigger problem than most people realize, especially in the dietary supplement industry.  We read the reviews themselves (not the overall “score”) and the people writing them to see if they look real. 

Additionally, we use plugins such as Fakespot to estimate the percentage of fake reviews a given product has–we only recommend products that have both good reviews and seemingly authentic reviews, as judged both by software and our own eyes. 

So why read user reviews at all, and not solely go off the research? First off, reviews often tell you about specific brands, which research won’t do. Second, as mentioned earlier, research isn’t always performed on subjects who resemble our readers. Third, research doesn’t always replicate the conditions under which supplements are used in real life–it often uses higher or lower doses, or looks at acute rather than long-term effects, or vice versa.

In short, combining a review of the research with an overview of user experiences allows us to get a fuller picture of how well a given supplement really works.

We Put Brands Under A Microscope

It’s not enough to recommend good supplements–we need to make sure we’re recommending the right brands. That means established brands with a reputation and good reviews, but that’s just the start.

As we explain in our article on Amazon scams, there are a lot of fly-by-night operations on Amazon and other marketplace sites which either resell other companies’ products, or sell products made by a cheap contract manufacturer with little or no quality control.  In fact, many dietary supplements don’t even contain what they say they do, or contain unlisted ingredients–sometimes even pharmaceuticals

To make matters worse, Amazon is not always very clear on the distinction between the brand of a product and the seller–so you can think you’re buying from the manufacturer when it’s really a third-party seller. 

We look for multiple markers of credibility in both the brands and the individual products we recommend. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Multiple photos which clearly show the product and its nutrition label
  • A clear explanation of what’s in the product
  • A well-written product description and Amazon seller page 
  • Certificate of analysis from third-party labs which verify the contents of a supplement
  • The company’s own website–it should clearly say where the company is located and who runs it
  • The use and certification of manufacturing best practices such as GMP and ISO
  • A good rating from third-party corporate accountability sites such as the Better Business Bureau

We do our due diligence to ensure that the products and brands we recommend are trustworthy and safe. Where necessary, we test the products ourselves, either in-house or with third-party labs. We know how unscrupulous this industry can be, and we never recommend anything we wouldn’t use ourselves. 

Our Articles Stay Up To Date

We write our articles to be timeless. We want an article published today to still be helpful five years from now.

Sometimes this requires updating articles. New research may have come to light, or old research may be discredited, replicated, or fail to replicate. Individual brands and products may gain or lose credibility, appear or disappear. 

To keep up with this, we update our articles regularly–once a year in most cases, and more often for some of our most popular articles, to keep the advice and recommendations in them in line with the latest research and industry developments.

You can think of us less like a blog and more like Wikipedia for dietary supplements–constantly updated to tell you everything you need to know about the subject you’re reading up on. 

How We Make Money

We make our money through affiliate links. That means that when you click on a link to a product and buy that product, we (usually) get a small percentage of the price. This doesn’t make your purchase more expensive, nor does it result in us getting any of your personal information. The reason we make an affiliate fee on most of our recommendations is that basically everything is available through Amazon, and Amazon pays small commissions to websites through their affiliate program.

Occasionally we also recommend products that don’t have affiliate programs, meaning we don’t make money from them. We also write articles that don’t recommend a product at all, like this one. This is the honest thing to do–luckily for us, most of our articles do make us money. 

This allows us to finance our operations, so that we can pay the best writers and editors to write high-quality articles, research them thoroughly, and update them periodically. We pour all of the money we make back into The Unwinder so that it can continue to provide you with an ever-growing knowledge base, consisting of articles that just keep getting better over time. 

About the author

John Fawkes is the Managing Editor of The Unwinder. John is an NSCA-certified personal trainer and Precision Nutrition-certified nutritional counselor who has been featured on over two dozen websites and podcasts. He works with clients in Los Angeles and online, and can be reached on Instagram and Twitter.

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