Friday, August 14, 2015

More Bad News on Dietary Supplements

As far back as June 2012 I issued warnings about dietary supplements.  People see them as an easy solution to an insufficiently healthy diet, eating on the run and not being particularly careful about meals.  Supplements are readily available, promoted by health food stores and chain pharmacies in vast displays.  The good old vitamin pill has been considered a type of nutrition insurance for decades.  Since they don’t require a prescription, most people tend to consider them harmless – good for you with no side effects.

The facts that few pay attention to about lower standards than prescription medicine, unanticipated interactions, questionable purity and the lack of testing by the FDA (until after a problem has been reported) among others means that it is periodically important to renew the message when new information becomes available. 

Accordingly, here is a recent release from HealthDigest: 
“, which has tested over 4,500 products since November 1999, has found that, through July 2015, 20% of the vitamins and minerals, 43 percent of the herbals, 21% of other supplements, and 24% of nutritional powders and drinks failed their evaluations. The most common problem was too little or none of the main ingredient. The other problems included too much active ingredient; the wrong ingredient; potentially dangerous or illegal ingredients; contamination with heavy metals; "spiking" with unexpected ingredients; poor disintegration (which affects absorption); and misleading or incomplete product information.”

At the ConsumerLab site, I found more information specifically about vitamin tests:  “If you're worried that you don't get enough nutrients from your diet, you might want to hedge your bets with a multivitamin. But what's really in that pill, powder, or liquid? If you're not careful, you might not get what you bargained for. In its latest review and quality rating of multivitamins, found defects in nearly 40% of multivitamins it selected for testing. Here are some of the discoveries:
·      One popular general multivitamin contained nearly 2.5 times its claimed amount of vitamin A in the retinol form. Too much of this type of vitamin A can be harmful.
·      12 multivitamins provided less vitamin A, vitamin C, or folate than claimed, some with less than 30% of the listed amounts. These include a prenatal vitamin and products for men, adults (general), seniors, and even pets.
·      Tablets of a women’s multi and a general adult multi failed to break apart within the required time -- indicating they may not fully release all of their ingredients for absorption.
·      One pet multivitamin was contaminated with lead.
·      A range of multivitamins contained more than the upper tolerable limits of niacin, vitamin A, magnesium, and/or zinc.”

They also found wholesale club and discount retailer versions of popular multivitamin and mineral supplements with the same ingredients at a considerable saving of 40% to 70%. 

It seems all is not as it appears in the supplement business, even the trusted multivitamin side.  The FDA steps in only after people have been adversely affected and the FTC steps in only if supplements falsely claim health benefits.  This situation calls for care and critical thinking.  Better yet, with a balanced diet most can forget the vitamins and save 100%!

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