July 15, 2015
What's in those supplements?
Many weekend warriors and professional athletes turn to nutrition supplements such as protein powders, recovery drinks, and carbohydrate energy gels in their quest to enhance performance. Yet most don’t fully understand what’s in the supplements and how they work. Recent studies have highlighted the need for more research and testing to ensure the safety of these products. Just in the last year, BMPEA, an amphetaminelike stimulant, was found in some supplements that contain Acacia rigidula, commonly known as Blackbrush Acacia and sold as a weight-loss product. Some muscle-building supplements have been linked to testicular cancer, and high-dose beta carotene supplements have been associated with an increased risk for lung cancer. Unlike prescription drugs and medical devices, which must go through a rigorous testing process, supplements are not routinely regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. It is only once a new supplement is launched and complaints emerge that the FDA gets involved, FDA press officer Lyndsay Meyer said. If red flags are raised, testing will be done and a product will be removed if deemed unsafe, she said. Victoria Rosenfeld, a sports dietitian at Princeton University, warned participants at the recent Philadelphia Sports Medicine Congress that athletic trainers need to be cautious when making supplement recommendations. She said a balanced diet of protein, carbohydrates, and fruits and vegetables is always the better choice.“Many athletes are not consuming an adequate diet or fueling themselves appropriately to begin with and need to evaluate their nutrition before adding supplements,” she explained. Rosenfeld believes there is a place for supplements. She does recommend beta alanine, a naturally occurring beta amino acid, for runners. But just because a product is on the market – even at generally reputable retailers – doesn’t automatically mean it is safe. Under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, manufacturers are responsible for making sure that the product is safe and that no false or misleading claims are being made. According to Rosenfeld, even well-intentioned companies that have volunteered for testing have failed due to contamination with illegal substances, herbs not stated on the label, or even pesticides. Since adverse reactions and side effects are detected and reported only after a nutritional product hits the market, it is important for athletes to be well-informed consumers. Start with these steps: Talk to your doctor about testing to see if you have a nutrient deficiency. Why waste money on a supplement you don’t need and could include something harmful? Remember that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. That includes protein, which in excess is a waste of money at best and has been linked to kidney damage and even cancer at worst. Risks generally travel with benefits. Read the small print. Use your common sense. Are the claims too good to be true? Don’t get tricked by language. Natural does not mean safe. Nor does organic, pure, or gluten-free, to name a few. Check third-party testing programs such as NSF International to see if the company volunteered to be tested. Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/health/sportsmedicine/20150712_What_s_in_those_supplements_.html#0euO8LiqKuJgkcsr.99