February 5, 2015

Will Dietary Supplements Soon Require Official (Perhaps FDA) Approval?

On February 2, the New York State attorney general’s office advised four of the country’s largest retailers -- Walmart, Target, Walgreens, and GNC -- to stop selling certain dietary supplements.

AG Eric Schneiderman said: “Mislabeling, contamination and false advertising are illegal. They also pose unacceptable risks to New York families — especially those with allergies to hidden ingredients.”

Using DNA bar coding that produces a kind of genetic fingerprint, the AG’s office determined that a whopping 80% of all tested samples of several top-selling products contained no trace of the key, advertised ingredient. Other products contained substances -- not shown on the label – that could prove harmful, even fatal.

CEOs of the four retail giant received notices to immediately cease and desist selling the products in question. In addition, they were given one week – a deadline of February 9 -- to provide details of the procedures they have in place to vouchsafe the ingredients in the supplements they sell.

Advocates of improved oversight – any oversight, really – of the gigantic $13-billion-a-year industry (in America only, not worldwide) hailed the action. It was the first time the unregulated industry faced real legal action. The only “regulation” in place now is a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “requirement” that supplement manufacturers verify that their products are safe and accurately labeled.

The key words above – regulation and requirement -- are in quotes, because the whole process operates on nothing more than a vague and unenforced honor code.

While Congress has tried -- and failed -- to impose some oversight of the gigantic industry, the new action from New York gives those words some teeth.

Examples of Those "Fraudulent" Supplements

Here are just several specific examples of products that are no longer on the shelves in those stores… if the retailers wish to avoid legal consequences, that is:
  • Walmart’s ginkgo biloba -- a Chinese botanical hyped for its memory-boosting power -- contained mostly powdered radish, houseplants, and wheat… in spite of its “wheat and gluten-free” label.
  • Target’s ginkgo biloba, St. John’s wort and valerian root (a sleep aid) contained none of the key labeled ingredients. Instead, the bottles were filled with powdered rice, beans, peas, and wild carrots.
  • Walgreens’ ginseng root (an endurance and vitality booster) showed no ginseng DNA… only powdered garlic and rice.
  • GNC was selling pills that contained unlisted ingredients, such as “powdered legumes” -- a class of plants that includes peanuts and soybeans, which are hazardous, possibly lethal, for people with allergies.

A Few Personal Bullet Points 
The supplements issue is a big deal to me, for many reasons. Here are a few:
  • Since I began this blog, it became quickly apparent that supplements were the number one issue of interest to readers.
  • If I’ve had a "cause celebre," it’s been the relentless hyping of coconut oil as a treatment – even a cure -- for Alzheimer’s. To date there is only anecdotal – not scientific – evidence to support the claim. It is unconscionable that profit-motivated hucksters like Dr. Mary Newport, Dr. Oz, and Pat Robertson have created false hope for the millions of sufferers, their families, and caregivers.
  • Not many years ago, I got schnookered by supplement peddlers, too. At one point, I was taking nearly a dozen of them every day. Most were available only in the pharmacy connected to the recommending nutritionist’s office.
  • As a result of my own internet research over the past five years, I’ve come to believe that – as far as pills are concerned – “less in more.” I now take three – not a dozen like before. They are 5-HTP, curcumin, and ashwagandha. I discussed my choices in a blog post just last Friday.
  • In addition, my research has taught me the importance of really checking out the supplements you’re considering, and also the manufacturers that produce them. As far as my three supplements are concerned: Curcumin, the active ingredient in the Indian curry spice turmeric, has been the subject of thousands of scientific studies which have proven its efficacy in treating many illnesses and conditions. Some curcumin products are clearly better than others... an issue I discussed in a blog post on January 22. My recent post about the botanical ashwagandha was titled “Ashwagandha: The Brand You Buy Does Make a Difference.” As for 5-HTP, well… it’s a very long story. I wrote about my close relationship with this serotonin-boosting supplement in a blog post just yesterday. Many times, I've acknowledged that my own positive reaction to this supplement seems to be very unique to me. I regularly include that caveat in comments about 5-HTP. In fact, it becomes increasingly evident to me that individuals have their own unique reactions to all supplements and medications.
  • Back in September, I wrote a blog post based on an article published on the Alliance for Natural Health site. Its title -- "What Supplement Companies Do the Experts Swear By?" – caught my interest. Now, considering the source's potential for bias, I’d be much more skeptical of the lengthy list of “recommended manufacturers,” which I catalogued in that post.

I’ve written often about this popular health topic. If you’d like to peruse the library of previous posts, just enter “supplements” into the search bar at the top right.

1 comment:

Buy Malegra DXT said...

Very good and informative article, thanks for this posting..