Tag Archives: supplement

Consumer Reports Finds 12 Supplements with Unsafe Ingredients

ABC World News reported, “Dietary supplements are a $27 billion a year business in this country, but Consumer Reports has an alert” on “supplements the magazine says can be dangerous to your health.”

Consumer Reports’ Nancy Metcalf said, “With the dozen supplements that we’ve identified, we think it’s all risk and no benefit.”

The CBS Evening News also reported, “Consumer Reports analyzed data from 1,100 supplements and identified 12 that are linked to serious health problems.

These include ingredients in weight loss products … which can cause heart problems and liver damage.”

Certain other supplements “used for cough … are associated with liver cancer and even death.”

CBS noted that the “FDA cannot regulate” the supplements, which are labeled as foods, “until after a product is already on the market.”

The Los Angeles Times points out that the list of those that are unsafe include:

  • “aconite,
  • bitter orange,
  • chaparral,
  • colloidal silver,
  • coltsfoot,
  • comfrey,
  • country mallow,
  • germanium,
  • greater celandine,
  • kava,
  • lobelia, and
  • yohimbe.”

The report also “argues that the FDA has not fully used its limited authority granted by the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act to ban supplement ingredients that may be dangerous.”

In addition, the FDA was criticized “for not inspecting Chinese factories where many of the raw materials for supplements originate.”

The Washington Post adds that supplement manufacturers “routinely, and legally, sell their products without first having to demonstrate that they are safe and effective.”

U.S. Dietary Supplements Often Contaminated: Consumer Reports

Many popular dietary supplements contain ingredients that may cause cancer, heart problems, liver or kidney damage, but U.S. stores sell them anyway and Americans spend millions on them, according to a report from the trusted Consumer Reports.

Here are the details from Reuters Health:

The consumer magazine published a report highlighting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s lack of power to regulate such supplements, and said the agency rarely uses what little power it does have.

The report from the influential group urged Congress to speed up small moves toward giving the agency more clout, especially in regulating supplements.

Despite the “natural” labels carried by many of the supplements, many are contaminated.

Yet Americans flock to take them, according to the magazine, citing the Nutrition Business Journal as saying the market was worth $26.7 billion in 2009.

“Of the more than 54,000 dietary supplement products in the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, only about a third have some level of safety and effectiveness that is supported by scientific evidence,” the report reads.

In addition, the FDA has not inspected any supplement factories in China, even though the agency set up field offices there starting in 2008, Consumer Reports said.

The organization pointed to 12 supplement ingredients in particular that it said could be dangerous: aconite, bitter orange, chaparral, colloidal silver, coltsfoot, comfrey, country mallow, germanium, greater celandine, kava, lobelia, and yohimbe.

Potential dangers include liver and kidney damage, heart rhythm disorders and unhealthy blood pressure levels, it said.

The group is critical of the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act or DSHEA, which it describes as industry friendly and which prevents the FDA from regulating supplements in the same way as it regulates prescription medications.

The Federal Trade Commission regulates the marketing of herbal supplements, whose makers are not allowed to claim they treat medical conditions.

The FDA has banned only one supplement ingredient — ephedrine alkaloids — although it has persuaded many companies to pull their products off the market.

“Supplements are marketed with very seductive and sometimes overblown sales pitches for increasing your performance in the bedroom, slimming down, or boosting your athletic prowess,” said Nancy Metcalf, senior program editor for the magazine.

“And consumers are easily lulled into believing that supplements can do no harm because they’re ‘natural’,” Metcalf said in a statement.

“However, some natural ingredients can be hazardous, and on top of that the FDA has repeatedly found hazardous ingredients, including synthetic prescription drugs, in supplements.”

In May, the Government Accountability Office found that sellers of ginseng, Echinacea and other herbal and dietary supplements often tell consumers the pills can cure cancer or replace prescription medications.

Experts at the Institute of Medicine said earlier this year the FDA needs to use the same strict standards to regulate supplements as it uses for drugs, and the GAO said the FDA should ask Congress for more power to regulate supplements.

So, what are we as consumers to do to protect our selves and our families? I recommend ConsumerLab, a subscription-based website that buys the most common natural medicines (herbs, vitamins, and supplements) and the tests them to be sure:

  • They contain in the bottle what the label says from lot to lot,
  • They are labeled as they should be be,
  • They contain no contaminates, and
  • They would be expected to be properly absorbed.

I tell my patients, just print off the list of ConsumerLab approved products, and buy the least expensive one.

FDA Cracks Down On Unproved Cancer Cures

The AP is reporting that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is cracking down on teas, supplements, creams, and other products that falsely claim to cure, treat, or prevent cancer, even though they are not agency-approved drugs. All are available for sale on the Internet. 

The agency has sent 25 warning letters to companies and individuals marketing these products, FDA officials said Tuesday. Twenty-three of the letters went to domestic companies and two to foreign individuals. Continue reading

Dr. Walt’s Take on the Health Headlines – May 30, 2008

Here are my takes on some of today’s health headlines:

Vitamin D for babies may prevent type 1 diabetes

A new systematic review reports to have “the strongest evidence to date” that supplemental vitamin D in babies and children may help reduce the risk of later development of type 1 diabetes by 29 percent.

Readers of this blog have read me frequently comment on the host of health problems prevented by vitamin D. Continue reading