Study: Many Supplements Contain Unapproved, Dangerous Ingredients

Alan Mozes wrote . . . . . . . . .

U.S. health officials have issued more than 700 warnings during the last decade about the sale of dietary supplements that contain unapproved and potentially dangerous drug ingredients, new research reveals.

In nearly all cases (98 percent), the presence of such ingredients was not noted anywhere on supplement labeling, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found.

From 2007 to 2016, the lion’s share of FDA warnings — 46 percent — concerned supplements that touted enhanced sexual pleasure, while weight-loss products were cited in 41 percent of the warnings. Most of the remaining warnings (12 percent) concerned supplements marketed as muscle-builders, the findings showed.

The tainted-supplement problem appears to have grown in scope in recent years, with 57 percent of all warnings having been issued since 2012, the researchers said.

“Over the past decade, ever since I first began tracking the problem, I have only seen the number of supplements adulterated with drugs increase rapidly,” said Dr. Pieter Cohen. He is a general internist with the Cambridge Health Alliance, and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

“Back in 2009, it appeared that there might be less than 150 brands of supplements that contain drugs,” he added. “Now it’s clear that there are well over 1,000 brands of supplements that contain active drugs.”

Cohen is the author an editorial that accompanies the new analysis, which was published online Oct. 12 in JAMA Network Open. The study was led by Madhur Kumar, of the California Department of Public Health’s Food and Drug Branch.

Kumar’s team noted that more than half of all American adults routinely take some form of dietary supplement, with estimated annual sales of $35 billion.

The FDA explicitly warns that supplements aren’t a replacement for either over-the-counter or prescription medications, and should not be viewed as a way to treat or prevent disease.

The agency classifies dietary supplements — including vitamins, minerals, botanicals, amino acids and enzymes — under the category of food, rather than drugs.

That distinction is important.

“Supplements are handled completely different than either prescription medications or over-the-counter drugs,” Cohen explained. “Those two categories are carefully vetted by the FDA. Supplements are not vetted by the FDA, and do not require that any evidence of safety or efficacy is presented to the agency before they are sold to consumers.”

The FDA’s Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 essentially places the burden for evaluating supplement safety, content and labeling primarily on the shoulders of the manufacturers.

Experts point out that this arrangement means that, while the FDA has the authority to remove from the market any supplement reported as causing harm, as a practical matter it does so only after the fact. This raises the risk for a wide range of “serious adverse events” involving tainted supplements — including stroke, kidney failure, liver injuries, blood clots and even death — critics of the arrangement contend.

The study team said prior estimates suggest that such events result in roughly 23,000 emergency department visits and 2,000 hospitalizations in the United States every year.

The new analysis reviewed a decade’s worth of information contained in an FDA database titled “Tainted Products Marketed as Dietary Supplements.”

Almost 800 tainted warnings were issued during the review period for supplements manufactured by 147 different companies, though some involved multiple warnings about the same supplement, the study authors said.

About 20 percent of the warnings identified products containing more than one unapproved ingredient, the investigators found. Sildenafil (commonly known as Viagra) was the ingredient in nearly half of the warnings concerning sexual enhancement supplements.

Sibutramine — an appetite suppressant taken off the market in 2010 due to cardiovascular risks — was cited in nearly 85 percent of weight-loss supplements, according to the report.

And among muscle-building supplements, synthetic steroids or steroid-like ingredients were the cause for concern nearly 90 percent of the time, the researchers said.

Cohen said any meaningful solution will require a change in the laws that govern the way the FDA monitors supplements. Barring that, you should “ask your doctor if you need to take supplements,” he advised.

“If your doctor doesn’t advise supplements for your health, then they will likely not help you,” Cohen stressed. “However, for my patients who still want to use supplements, I advise them to purchase supplements that list only one ingredient on the label and to avoid any supplement that has a health claim on the label, such as improving immunity or strengthening muscles.”

Source: HealthDay

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Artificial Sweeteners Have Toxic Effects on Gut Microbes

FDA-approved artificial sweeteners and sport supplements were found to be toxic to digestive gut microbes, according to a new paper published in Molecules by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Israel and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

The collaborative study indicated relative toxicity of six artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, saccharine, neotame, advantame, and acesulfame potassium-k) and 10 sport supplements containing these artificial sweeteners. The bacteria found in the digestive system became toxic when exposed to concentrations of only one mg./ml. of the artificial sweeteners.

“We modified bioluminescent E. coli bacteria, which luminesce when they detect toxicants and act as a sensing model representative of the complex microbial system,” says Prof. Ariel Kushmaro, John A. Ungar Chair in Biotechnology in the Avram and Stella Goldstein-Goren Department of Biotechnology Engineering, and member of the Ilse Katz Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology and the National Institute for Biotechnology in the Negev. “This is further evidence that consumption of artificial sweeteners adversely affects gut microbial activity which can cause a wide range of health issues.”

Artificial sweeteners are used in countless food products and soft drinks with reduced sugar content. Many people consume this added ingredient without their knowledge. Moreover, artificial sweeteners have been identified as emerging environmental pollutants, and can be found in drinking and surface water, and groundwater aquifers.

“The results of this study might help in understanding the relative toxicity of artificial sweeteners and the potential of negative effects on the gut microbial community as well as the environment.

Furthermore, the tested bioluminescent bacterial panel can potentially be used for detecting artificial sweeteners in the environment,” says Prof. Kushmaro.

Source: EurekALert


Today’s Comic

Infographic: How Americans Consume their Coffee and the Ranking of Non-diary Beverages

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Source: Square Inc.

Dietary Fats Explained

All fats are high in calories, so it’s important to bear this in mind if you are watching your weight.

In terms of your heart, it’s important to think about the type of fat you are eating.

A typical diet is made up of different types of fat. While you need to make sure you eat foods that contain healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, too much saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in your blood, which can increase your risk of developing coronary heart disease.

You can have a high cholesterol level even if you are a healthy weight. And even if your cholesterol level is healthy, it’s important to eat well and to be active to keep your heart healthy.

Choosing fats

Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats provide essential fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins – so they’re an important part of your diet.

Wherever possible replace saturated fats with small amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

The average man should have no more than 30g of saturated fat a day, and the average woman no more than 20g a day.

Type of fats

Monounsaturated

Have these in small amounts. They can help to maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

Found in avocados, olives, olive oil, rapeseed oil. Almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, peanuts, pistachios and spreads made from these nuts.

Polyunsaturated

Have these in small amounts. Polyunsaturated fats help to maintain healthy cholesterol levels and provide essential fatty acids.

Found in oily fish, corn oil, sesame oil, soya oil, and spreads made from those oils. Flaxseed, pine nuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and walnuts.

Saturated

Swap these for unsaturated fats. Eating too much saturated fat increases the amount of cholesterol in your blood.

Found in processed meats like sausages, ham, burgers. Fatty meat. Hard cheeses including cheddar. Whole milk and cream. Butter, lard, ghee, suet, palm oil and coconut oil.

Trans

Avoid wherever possible. They can increase cholesterol in your blood. Foods with hydrogenated oils or fats in them likely contain trans fats.

Found in fried foods, takeaways, snacks like biscuits, cakes or pastries. Hard margarines.

Saturated fat guidelines

At the moment UK guidelines encourage us to swap saturated fats for unsaturated fats. You might have seen reports about a study we helped to fund which suggests there’s not enough evidence to back the current UK guidelines on the types of fat we eat. We think more research is needed before suggesting any major changes to healthy eating guidance.

Top tips to help you reduce your saturated fat

  • Swap butter, lard, ghee and coconut and palm oils with small amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as olive, rapeseed or sunflower oils and spreads.
  • Choose lean cuts of meat and make sure you trim any excess fat and remove the skin from chicken and turkey.
  • Instead of pouring oils straight from the bottle, use a spray oil or measure out your oils with a teaspoon.
  • Read food labels to help you make choices that are lower in saturated fat.
  • Opt to grill, bake, steam, boil or poach your foods.
  • Make your own salad dressings using ingredients like balsamic vinegar, low fat yoghurt, lemon juice, and herbs, with a dash of olive oil.
  • Use semi-skimmed, 1% or skimmed milk rather than whole or condensed milk.
  • Cottage cheese, ricotta and extra light soft cheese are examples of lower fat cheese options. Remember that many cheeses are high in saturated fat so keep your portions small – matchbox sized. Opt for strongly flavoured varieties and grate it to make a little go a long way

Source : British Heart Foundation