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Deficiencies Found in B-Complex Supplements

Tests of B vitamin supplements, including B-complexes and shot-sized energy drinks, revealed problems with the quality of 4 out of 18 products selected for review by independent testing organization ConsumerLab.com.

One widely-sold B-complex supplement was found to contain only 17.9% of its vitamin B-12. Another had no detectable vitamin B-6 and was short on both biotin and folic acid. Two energy shot liquid supplements were low on folic acid, respectively providing only 40.4% and 75.5% of the amounts listed on their labels.

Both energy shots displayed B vitamins as their top-listed ingredients and listed caffeine as part of a proprietary “energy blend.” The amounts of vitamins B-6 and B-12 included in these two products were, respectively, 2,000% and 8,333% of the Daily Values of those nutrients.

Taking three of four small bottles in a day (which one product indicated as permissible), would cause a person to exceed Upper Tolerable Intake Levels for niacin, vitamin B-6, and folic acid, representing a risk of toxicity.

Neither of the energy shots listed a specific amount of caffeine but noted the amount to be comparable to that in a cup of either “brewed” or “leading premium” coffee.

According to the USDA, one cup (8 fluid ounces) of brewed coffee contains an average 95 mg of caffeine. The same serving of Starbucks coffee has 180 mg of caffeine.  ConsumerLab.com discovered the amounts of caffeine in the small (2 fluid ounce) energy shots to be higher than one might assume from their labels: 156 mg (64% more than brewed coffee) in one and 207 mg (15% more than a premium coffee such as Starbucks) in the other.

“Consumers need to be aware that some supplements don’t provide all of the B vitamins they claim,” said Tod Cooperman, M.D., President of ConsumerLab.com. “It is also important to recognize that B vitamins won’t increase energy levels if you already get an adequate intake, which most people do. The sense of energy from B vitamin liquid shots appears to come from the added caffeine, which may be at higher levels than you expect.  If you do use energy shots, be careful not to drink more than one or two a day and not to take other B vitamins.  Otherwise you run a risk of toxic effects.”

According to Nutrition Business Journal, sales of B vitamins in the U.S. were $1.2 billion in 2009, second only to multivitamins. Most healthy individuals are not deficient but deficiencies can occur with long-term use of certain medications such as those that reduce stomach acid and strong diuretics, recovery from surgery, alcoholism, and in strict vegetarians.

In addition to treating and preventing vitamin deficiencies, B vitamins are useful in specific conditions.  For example, high-dose niacin can improve cholesterol levels and folic acid can help prevent spinal birth defects. The combination of vitamins B-6, B-12, and folic acid can reduce elevated homocysteine levels — a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, although studies have not shown this combination to reduce cardiovascular risk itself.

In addition to the four supplements that failed testing, fourteen other B vitamin products passed testing as did five products similarly tested through ConsumerLab.com’s voluntary certification program.

ConsumerLab.com also indentified two products similar to one that passed testing but sold under different brand names. The results found in the full report now available online to ConsumerLab.com members.

The report includes test results, quality ratings, and comparisons of B-complexes, energy shots, and single-B vitamin supplements containing thiamin, niacin, vitamin B-6, biotin, folic acid, and vitamin B-12.

Products from the following brands are covered:

  • 5-Hour Energy,
  • Country Life,
  • CVS,
  • FoodScience of Vermont,
  • Freeda,
  • Isotonix,
  • Jamieson,
  • Kirkland,
  • Klaire Labs,
  • Life Solutions,
  • Nature Made,
  • Nature’s Bounty,
  • Nature’s Life,
  • Nature’s Plus,
  • Now,
  • Puritan’s Pride,
  • Schiff,
  • Slo-Niacin,
  • Solgar,
  • Source Naturals,
  • Spring Valley,
  • Stacker 2 – 6 Hour Power,
  • Swanson,
  • Twinlab and
  • Vitamin World.

The report also includes information about the uses, recommended intakes, and cautions for each of the B vitamins.

ConsumerLab.com is a leading provider of consumer information and independent evaluations of products that affect health and nutrition. The company is privately held and based in Westchester, New York. It has no ownership from, or interest in, companies that manufacture, distribute, or sell consumer products

A hot product on the Internet, but should you consider L-methylfolate instead of plain old folic acid?

My favorite natural medicines website is the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. The NMCD has new information about L-methylfolate which is being heavily promoted, especially on the Internet, by some manufacturers as a more active form of folic acid. Are they telling the truth? Here’s the information from NMCD:

L-methylfolate is in many prenatal vitamins such as Optinate, Neevo DHA, Prenate Elite; and regular vitamin supplements including Optimized Folate, MegaFolinic, and others. It’s also being used in medical foods for memory loss or depression, in products such as CerefolinNAC and Deplin.

According to the NMCD, “folates” are a mixture of different forms of the vitamin that occur naturally in food. Most supplements contain folic acid, a synthetic form of the vitamin. In the body, all of these forms are converted to L-methylfolate before entering the bloodstream and being stored by the body.”

The Database reports, “It is true that L-methylfolate is slightly better absorbed than folic acid. You’ll hear claims that L-methylfolate is a better alternative than folic acid because many patients have reduced activity of an enzyme that metabolizes folic acid to L-methylfolate. “

However, “so far there’s no proof that this makes a clinical difference.”

For example, studies show that equivalent doses of folic acid and L-methylfolate raise folate levels in pregnant women equally well.

Also, there is also no proof that L-methylfolate is any better than folic acid for preventing neural tube defects.

The NMCD tells us physicians, “Explain to patients that L-methylfolate is just as safe as folic acid for supplementation, but there is no reliable evidence that it’s more efficacious.”

Also, keep in mind that doses in some products are very high. Deplin contains 7500 mcg and CerefolinNAC contains 5600 mcg. These amounts are much higher than the 1000 mcg/day that has been linked to a higher cancer risk in some patients.

The NMCD webstite cautions, “Clinical research shows that taking folic acid daily in doses of 800-1200 mcg for 3-10 years significantly increases the risk of developing cancer and adverse cardiovascular effects compared to placebo.” This has been reported in studies in 2004 and 2006 studies in the New England Journal of Medicine, a 2009 study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, and a 2009 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Also, according to the NMCD, researchers have recommended that “Doses above 1000 mcg per day should be avoided if possible to prevent precipitation or exacerbation of neuropathy related to vitamin B12 deficiency. However, there is some evidence that doses of 5 mg per day orally for up to 4 months can be used safely if vitamin B12 levels are routinely measured.

So, the bottom line, from my perspective, is that it’s likely safer and as or more effective to just use old time folic acid.

Specific vitamins and a supplement (B vitamins, vitamin D, and calcium) may lower risk of stroke, blindness, and cancer

In recent blogs I have discussed studies showing that multivitamins may not to be helpful for preventing chronic diseases: Are multivitamins helpful or harmful when it comes to preventing chronic diseases? and Report Casts Doubt On Routine Vitamin Supplements. Also, in past blogs I’ve discussed why you should consider vitamin D supplementation: Vitamin D deficiency and diseases linked; Lack of vitamin D raises death risk; and Vitamin D may protect against heart attack, just to name a few. 

However, there is evidence that specific vitamins may be helpful in some people. Today I want to tell you about two studies this week backing up my contention that a specific combination of B vitamins and calcium may be worthy of your consideration. 

More Information:

Click to continue reading “Specific vitamins and a supplement (B vitamins, vitamin D, and calcium) may lower risk of stroke, blindness, and cancer”

CBS Report Casts Doubt On Routine Vitamin Supplements

Vitamin and mineral supplements are, of course, a staple of a lot of people’s lives. But a report from CBS News suggests that some are not only unnecessary, but could be dangerous.

Click to continue reading “CBS Report Casts Doubt On Routine Vitamin Supplements”

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