The Truth About Nutrition Supplements
What's Really in Your Multivitamin?
You value your health, so you take your vitamins and supplements, right? Well then, this just may make you sick: In one recent test, nearly 30 percent of multivitamins on the market had contamination problems or ingredient shortfalls. When you swallowed the pills, you swallowed whatever story the pill makers put on the label. And that could be almost anything.
Seven in 10 Americans are now gobbling down billions of vitamins and supplements on the promise that they will improve health, performance, longevity, skin, outlook, sex, hair, something, everything. According to a 2002 Harris Poll, more than half of us believe that a government agency like the Food and Drug Administration is keeping a watchful eye on the $20 billion supplement industry.Supplement Regulations
It's not. The federal regulators who would normally be all over poor-quality supplements had their hands tied by a piece of legislation signed into law by President Clinton in 1994 called the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA). The bill was intended to make dietary supplements -- including vitamins, minerals, and herbs -- more widely available by classifying them not as drugs, like aspirin or ibuprofen, but as foods. In practice, that means supplements not only don't have to do what they promise (such as protect against disease) but don't even have to be safe.Dangerous Contaminants
The results have been predictable: In 2004 alone, more than 24,000 "toxic exposures" to supplements were reported, while other research showed that some supplements contain potentially dangerous contaminants such as lead, mercury, pesticides, mold, and bacteria.
No wonder some consumer advocates say that this regulatory loophole has helped create a marketplace that fails to protect consumers from contaminated, adulterated and, in some cases, deadly supplements. "People just assume that because vitamins, minerals, and herbs are naturally occurring, they're also safe, but that's not always the case," says Bill Gurley, PhD, a professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
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