Supplement Tests Find Problems with One Third of Products

supplementsSupplement tests find ‘problems’ with one third of products
By Lorraine Heller

A recent ConsumerLab report that found “problems” with over 30 percent of vitamins, has already generated negative reports in mainstream media, renewing calls for vitamins to be avoided where possible.

Published at the end of last month, the report found that around two thirds of multivitamin products tested contained “significantly more or less ingredient than claimed” or were contaminated with lead.

“Among twenty-nine products for adults and children that selected, tests showed that eight failed to meet their label claims or other quality standards and twelve others provided levels that may be too high for healthy individuals,” wrote the group, which aims to provide consumers with “independent evaluations” of health and nutrition products.

More media warnings

An article published yesterday in linked the results to a slack regulatory environment for dietary supplements.

“Unlike drugs, the manufacturers that make supplements are not required to prove to the FDA that their supplements are safe or effective, as long as they do not claim that the supplements can ‘prevent, treat, or cure any specific disease,’” wrote the article’s author, Dr Randolph Howes.

“The truly safe thing is not to take [vitamin supplements] at all unless you have a proven vitamin deficiency. Instead, eat a well balanced diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.”

President of ConsumerLab Dr Tod Cooperman said: “Consumers need to be aware that problems with multivitamins are common. Just as important, people need to determine their need for a supplement, factoring in other sources of nutrients in their diets.”

Too much

According to the results published in the latest report, some of the tested products – including products for children – were found to exceed tolerable upper limits for ingredients such as vitamin A, folic acid, niacin and zinc.

Three of four children’s supplements tested were found to exceed tolerable intake levels for vitamin A as retinol, with one product providing 5,000 IU of vitamin A.

The Institute of Medicine recommends a daily allowance (RDA) of 1,300 IU for children aged four to eight and an Upper Tolerable Intake Level (UL) of 3,000 IU.

“Excess vitamin A in the retinol form is of concern as it may, in the short term, cause nausea and blurred vision, and, long-term, lead to bone softening and liver problems. ULs for niacin and zinc were also exceeded by some of the products for young children. Excess niacin may cause skin tingling and flushing and high levels of zinc can cause immune deficiency and anemia,” wrote ConsumerLab.

Two of three men’s multivitamin products tested were also found to be problematic. One brand contained 258.8 percent of its folic acid, delivering 2,070 mcg per day. The RDA for folic acid is 400 mcg per day and the upper tolerable level (UL) for folic acid is 1,000 mcg.

Another men’s multivitamin contained 1.62 mcg of lead per daily serving. “Although this amount is unlikely to be harmful in itself, lead exposure should be avoided. The State of California requires warning labels on supplements that provide more than 0.5 mcg of lead per day,” wrote ConsumerLab.

Too little

Other products tested were found to contain less of an ingredient than claimed on the label.

One of the four women’s multivitamins tested provided 66 percent of its claimed folic acid; one of five seniors’ multivitamins selected contained 44 percent of its vitamin A; and among three prenatal vitamins, one was short on vitamin A.

Some general multivitamins were also found to be low on ingredients, with one providing only half of its claimed folic acid content, and another providing 70 percent of its calcium.

Brands tested included: All One, Carlson, Centrum, CVS, Eniva, Equate (Wal-Mart), Flintstones, Garden of Life, Glaceau Vitamin Water, GNC, Halo Purely for Pets, Jamieson, Juice Plus, Kirkland (Costco), Life Extension, Li’l Critters Gummy Vites, Member’s Mark (Sam’s Club), Metagenics, Multi-betic, Natrol, Nature Made, Nature’s Bounty, Nature’s Plus, NOW, NSI (Vitacost), One-A-Day, Opti-Men, Pet Tabs, Pregnancy Plus, Propel, Pure Encapsulations, Puritan’s Pride, Purity Products, Rainbow Light, Rite Aid, Sobe Life Water, Solgar, Swanson, Target, Trader Darwin’s (Trader Joe’s), TwinLab, USANA, Vitamin World, Weil, and Yummi Bears (Hero Nutritionals), 21st Century Pet Nutrition.