A Consumer Watchdog Company Finds Dietary Supplements Ingredients Lacking

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PHOTO: FOTOLIA/9DAP
ConsumerLab.com, an online consumer watchdog company, has undertaken quality testing of some of the more popular dietary supplements.

ConsumerLab.com finds many of the dietary supplements ingredients they tested to be below the sufficient healing levels the supplement lists on their labels.

Not according to ConsumerLab.com, an online consumer
watchdog company that has undertaken quality testing of
some of the more popular dietary supplements. Late last
year, the company released the first of its findings: of 30
ginkgo biloba brands analyzed, seven — or roughly 25% — did
not contain sufficient levels of the chemicals known to
give the herb its healing powers.

And ginkgo, apparently, is not alone. The Boston
Globe
recently reported that of seven St. John’s wort
brands tested by an independent laboratory only one
contained the .3% of hypericin (the presumed active
ingredient) promised on the label.

Such findings of dietary supplements ingredients inevitably give rise to cries for more
regulation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But
the FDA already requires supplement manufacturers to
provide label information that is “truthful and not
misleading.” What it doesn’t require is that manufacturers
obtain FDA approval before producing dietary supplements,
nor does it routinely analyze supplements before they are
sold to consumers. Rather, manufacturers are trusted to
provide safe products and accurate ingredient lists, while
Uncle Sam steps in only if consumer complaints raise a red
flag.

“There is a tremendous need for the industry to standardize
supplements so people at least know that they are getting a
specific ingredient,” says Dr. Richard Firshein, author of
The Nutraceutical Revolution and an authority on
nutritional medicine. “I know that there are many, many
supplements that claim to contain a specific ingredient
that actually don’t.”

For now, the onus is on the consumer, says Firshein, to
select a supplement that lives up to its http://www.consumerlab.com label. Before
choosing a brand, call the manufacturer and ask for
information showing specifically what a given supplement
contains and in what amount “Companies should be able to
provide documentation from independent laboratories,” says
Firshein. “If they can’t or won’t . . . then I would choose
another supplement.”

ConsumerLab.com may make the search for a suitable
supplement simpler. In the coming year, it plans to test a
range of dietary supplements, including echinacea, ginseng,
garlic, St. John’s wort and SAM-e. Results will be posted
monthly on the company’s Web site, www.consumerlab.com.

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