Do You Know What's In Your Supplements? - The Bipolar Question of the Week

John McManamy Health Guide
  • Yesterday, the New York Times published an opinion piece with this provocative title: Skip the Supplements. The article’s two authors, Paul Offit and Sarah Erush, are involved in the running of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Here is the situation:


    In order to protect the safety of its patients, the hospital will no longer administer dietary supplements unless the manufacturer provides a third-party written guarantee that the product is made under the FDA’s “good manufacturing practice” (GMP) conditions, as well as a Certificate of Analysis (COA) assuring that what is written on the label is what’s in the bottle. 

    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:


    Here’s the rub: “Around 90 percent of the companies we reached out to for verification never responded.” Moreover, a good many of those who responded refused to provide a GMP or COA and others outright lied about it.


    Supplements are not regulated by the FDA. The article lists instances of manufacturers spiking their compounds with dangerous or contaminated substances or just plain mislabeling.


    According to the article, consumers should look for “USP Verified” on the label, which warrants that the product has been inspected and approved under the United States Pharmacopeial Convention. Fewer than one percent of the supplements on the market bear this label.


    If you’re like me, you have done a fair degree of experimenting with supplements. Omega-3, St John’s wort, SAM-e, and melatonin come to mind, where clinical trials have been conducted. In addition, there is support for various vitamins and antioxidants, typically in a brain-maintenance capacity.


    Moreover, one can make a good case for performing our own experiments (say by trying out a natural sleep aid).


    But buyer beware: According to a piece on CNN, half of Americans use supplements, typically as a way to make up for a poor diet. Supplements are a $27 billion-a-year industry, largely unregulated. Shysters abound. False claims and mislabeling are common.   


    So what exactly is it you are buying? Do you know it is safe?


    I just had a look at the label on the supplement I have been using. “... manufactured in accordance with the Government of Canada’s Good Marketing practices ...” reads the label. This is not exactly the same as “USP Verified.”


    How about you? Why don’t you check what’s in your medicine cabinet and report back. This should be interesting. 


    Comments below ...  

Published On: December 16, 2013