Do You Know What's in Your Supplement?
If you’re a regular reader of the blog, you’ll remember a post in June myth-busting the safety and effectiveness of dietary supplements, including herbal and botanical preparations. Dietary supplement manufacturers appeal to our desire to treat conditions in a “natural” way. Unlike the tightly controlled pharmaceutical industry however, the supplement business is truly the wild west. No one is looking out for the consumer; there is no way to tell what you are purchasing. This can lead to accidental exposures to dangerous herbs, allergens, and more.
Do You Know What's In The Bottle?
Supplements can contain anything (and often do). A 2015 investigation by the NY attorney general found that 80% of supplements tested contained NONE of the herbs advertised on the label. For example, GNC’s Gingko biloba contained no herbs, only rice, asparagus, and spruce. The Target version of Valerian root contained none of the herb that many people take as a sleep-aid. These are just a couple of examples—you can read more here.
This week, the Journal of Medical Toxicology released a study titled “An Increase in Dietary Supplement Exposures Reported To Poison Control Centers.” The study reports that there were nearly 275,000 instances of dietary supplements exposures reported to poison control centers between the years of 2000-2012. According to study authors:
“There were 274,998 dietary supplement exposures from 2000 through 2012. The annual rate of dietary supplement exposures per 100,000 population increased by 46.1% during 2000–2002, decreased 8.8% during 2002–2005, and then increased again by 49.3% from 2005 to 2012. These trends were influenced by the decline in ma huang exposures starting in 2002.” (1)
(FYI, Ma Huang was banned in 2003 by the FDA after 16,000 people became ill and 155 people died after consuming weight-loss products containing the herb)
Many of the exposures reported were due to “energy” products that often contain significant amounts of caffeine combined with herbal supplements (such as Yohimbe). And of most concern, well over half of the exposures reported to these energy products involved children under the age of 6, often accidental.
It's Time To Act
The vast majority of Americans incorrectly assume supplement labels are accurate and that what they are taking is (at least) safe. It’s time to silence the supplement lobbyists and regulate these products.