What’s In Your Supplement?

October 22, 2014 Edited by  
Filed under Consumer awareness, Supplements

Dietary supplements are a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States. Surprisingly, however, supplement manufacturing is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, which oversees foods consumed by humans and various drugs used to treat a variety of disease. You might ask yourself then, who does regulate the supplement industry? Great question! It turns out that the individual manufacturers are responsible for the safety of the products they produce and sell. Sounds pretty scary, if you ask me. What then happens if a particular supplement is associated with adverse reactions in users? The FDA then steps in at this point and essentially does an investigation. In some cases, the FDA may issue a recall of the supplement. What happens next? Another excellent question. This is exactly what was considered by the authors of a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Medical News Today Article). The JAMA study involved an examination of products that were recalled by the FDA from US markets for being composed of ingredients that could have serious adverse health consequences, even leading to death. It turns out that almost 50% of FDA recalled class 1 drugs since 2004 have been for dietary supplements. The authors of the JAMA paper note that many of the banned substances were still commercially available 6 months or more after the FDA recall. The study authors obtained the recalled supplements and did thorough chemical analyses (using fancy scientific techniques such as gas chromatography and mass spectrometry). What they found is actually quite disturbing! One or more pharmaceutical adulterant (i.e. a potentially toxic or banned substance) was found in two-thirds of the recalled products that remained for sale on store shelves. This included 11 of 13 supplements for sports enhancement, 6 of 9 for weight loss, 1 of 5 for sexual enhancement, and 13 of 20 which were produced by American Manufacturers. In many cases the substance that originally led to the FDA recall remained in the product and in other cases, other adulterants were found. So, what does this mean for me and you? Among us, perhaps 50% take some kind of dietary supplements. If this is you, the best advice is to be very careful. This article outlines some of the unexpected hazards with these products. One way to protect yourself is to look for the US Pharmacopeia Verified Mark. This ensures that the products with this seal have undergone independent testing. Another alternative is to obtain all the nutrients and other dietary products you need from whole natural foods, an approach that many with scientific knowledge of nutrition have taken.

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