The dietary supplement industry is an ever evolving and growing industry that currently offers over 55,000 supplements for consumers to choose from. A Gallup poll conducted in 2013 showed that half of Americans report taking vitamins or other mineral supplements, which equates to approximately 160 million people. Furthermore, according to the “Herbal Supplements and Remedies: A Global Strategic Business Report” by Global Industry Analysts, the global herbal supplements and remedies market generated $93.15 billion in revenue. With the abundance of dietary and herbal supplements covering the shelves, have you ever wondered if the supplements you were taking did not contain what was on the label? Would you think these same supplements may contain a harmful ingredient not listed on the label? Let’s find out.
The dietary supplement industry is unregulated and by being so, supplement makers are not required to scientifically prove the products they are marketing are safe before consumption. Even more concerning is that they don’t have to prove their products contain what is on the label. Because of the weak regulations and lack of policy, supplements are at risk to becoming contaminated or adulterated with harmful ingredients. This can occur deliberately by the manufacturer (i.e. adding steroids to protein powder) or accidentally (i.e. cross contamination in the manufacturing facility).
An example of cross contamination would be when a manufacturing facility makes a specific product, let’s say a Pre-Workout Supplement, which Supplement Company A wants to contain the stimulant Synephrine, which is prohibited for us by the NCAA and several professional sporting agencies. After finishing the production of the Pre-Workout, the manufacturing company doesn’t clean the machine well and there is some powder left in the machine. Supplement Company B has requested a Pre-Workout supplement without the use of stimulants. Since the machine was not cleaned well, the ingredients from Supplement Company A were mixed with the ingredients from Supplement Company B causing cross contamination.
For collegiate and professional athletes who are randomly drug tested, this could result in losing a year of eligibility (i.e. NCAA) or a 50 game suspension (MLB) if testing positive for a prohibited substance. Studies from the International Olympic Committee and the International Association of Athletic Federations report 20-25% of supplements contain prohibited substances.
What’s really in your supplements?
The New York Times reported that 80% of herbal supplements evaluated from major retail stores GNC, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart did not contain any of the herbs listed on the label. Furthermore, a popular store brand of ginseng pills at Walgreens only contained powdered garlic and rice.
In 2013, a B vitamin supplement by Purity First B-50 was warned by the FDA that the product may contain steroids. Over 30 complaints of adverse incidents associated with using the supplement were reported.
In 2011, the pharmaceutical drug Tamoxifen, commonly used to treat and prevent certain forms of breast cancer was found in the supplement Esto Suppress.
The University of Florida examined 22 calcium supplements and found 36% contained the toxic metal, lead. If lead is consumed on a regular basis it could lead to anemia, high blood pressure, and brain and kidney damage.
Finally, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicated that out of the 274 dietary supplements recalled between 2009-2012, 67% contained one or more pharmaceutical drugs in the product. This included drugs such as Viagra and the diet drug Meridia, which was pulled from the market because of heart attack and stroke risks.
How Does the THF Help
With the enormous amount of supplement brands and products on the market, it can be very difficult to know what you are taking. We are here to help. Our educational programs provide an in-depth look at the supplement industry and how to navigate these products. Contact us to learn more about scheduling a program at your school
Part 2 Coming Soon!
Next month we will examine the next steps of this issue. How do we find the safe supplements? What is the best solution for this problem? What is the missing link? Look for Part 2 in January!