A Consumer Reports investigation has identified 12 dietary supplement ingredients it says have been linked to serious adverse events. The report also criticized industry regulations and cited a lack of government oversight.
The “Dirty Dozen” supplements included aconite, bitter orange, chaparral, colloidal silver, coltsfoot, comfrey, country mallow, germanium, greater celandine, kava, lobelia and yohimbe.
Working with experts from the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, an independent research group, Consumer Reports identified a group of ingredients (out of nearly 1100 in the database) linked to serious adverse events by clinical research or case reports. To come up with the final list Consumer Reports also considered factors such as whether the ingredients were effective for their purported uses and how readily available they were to consumers.
According to the report, FDA has warned about at least eight of these 12 ingredeints, some as long ago as 1993; those eight supplements include chaparral, colloidal silver, comfrey, country mallow, germanium, kava, lobelia and yohimbe.
The investigation also states that FDA has not made full use of authority granted by the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA).
"Supplements are marketed with very seductive and sometimes overblown sales pitches for increasing your performance in the bedroom, slimming down or boosting your athletic prowess, said Nancy Metcalf, senior program editor, Consumer Reports. “And consumers are easily lulled into believing that supplements can do no harm because they're 'natural.' However, some natural ingredients can be hazardous, and on top of that the FDA has repeatedly found hazardous ingredients, including synthetic prescription drugs, in supplements."
Consumer Reports also identified 11 supplements considered to be safe and effective: calcium, cranberry, fish oil, glucosamine sulfate, lactase, lactobacillus, psyllium, pygeum, SAMe, St. John’s Wort and vitamin D.
In response to the report, the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), Washington, D.C., issued this statement: “The dietary supplement industry is regulated by the FDA and under the law the agency has the authority to remove from the market any product it believes to be hazardous to consumers. The dietary supplement industry has fought for stronger enforcement of regulation to further ensure consumer safety. More than 150 million Americans take vitamins and other supplements each year for the health benefits they provide, and overall the supplement category has a very strong safety profile. We recommend that consumers follow label directions, buy products from reputable companies, and talk with their doctor or other healthcare professionals about the supplements they take.”