Vitamin Review Reveals the Good, the Bad and the Inconsistent
In a review of 38 different leading multivitamins available across the United States an independent consumer report group found gaping inconsistencies including inaccurate labeling and inappropriate amounts of vitamins in a third of the products.
1 in 3 Vitamins Failed Testing
A team of analysts from ConsumerLab.com, who specialize in testing supplements, examined each of the 38 vitamins for levels of nutrients, accuracy of the labeling, and how readily they are absorbed by the body.
According to the report, one in three of the products failed because they contained an excessive amount of an ingredient or whose ingredients were different than what was listed on the label.
Among the biggest offenders was Trader Joe's Vitamin Crusade, which had 40 percent less vitamin A than was listed on the label. On the flip side was Centrum Chewable which had over 173 percent more than what was listed, a dangerous misrepresentation as high doses of Vitamin A can cause liver damage and birth defects.
Other findings in the report included several of the children's vitamins which had excessive amounts of niacin, vitamin A and zinc and a senior vitamin had only had 2 percent of the amount of beta carotene that its label claimed.
These types of mislabeling on medications , experts say, would be enough to have drug companies shut down.
How can vitamin labeling be so inconsistent?
In the United States the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate vitamins and supplements so the only accountability that these manufacturers have are independent consumer groups that carry out testing on their products. Therefore, the quality of the products usually remains unknown.
Furthermore, unlike medications, the FDA requires only one Recommended Daily Allowance, or Daily Value per nutrient on vitamin and supplements labels and they are not scaled based on age or gender. For example, the RDA for iron is 8mg for men and postmenopausal women but the RDA listed on most vitamin bottles is 18 mg, the amount recommended for menstruating women. Therefore, consumers may be taking in way more of certain nutrients than they really need.
To make matters even worse the Daily Value has not been updated since 1968 despite changes in dietary recommendations.
The bottom line, experts say, is that you must exercise caution when it comes to taking over-the-counter vitamins. "People don't realize that everything they put in their mouths is bioactive,” said Dr. Michael Cirigliano from the University of Pennsylvania. “Whether it's baby aspirin or food, it has an effect on the body. People think that if you can get it without a prescription it's safe - that's baloney."
To buy or not to buy?
Not all of the vitamins on the report were found to be bad. In fact, surprisingly some of the best multivitamins tested were also the least expensive. Among these included Nature's Way Alive! Daily Energy Multi-Vitamin Multi-Mineral, Kroger Complete Ultra Woman's Health and Walgreens One Daily for Women.
Some physicians who have become increasingly alarmed at the danger that vitamin products may be posing to their patients have also started looking for ways to help improve the safety of consumption of vitamin products. For example, Dr. Steven Schnur and Dr. Perry Krichmar from a corporate and executive health medical group in Florida became alarmed when they realized the vast majority of patients were taking vitamin supplements without consulting their physicians about how they may affect their current health or drug therapy. As a solution the physicians began doing their own search for high-quality and consistent vitamins and with those began “prescribing” them to their patients as needed.
“People are using these products more and more,” concluded Cirigliano. “There needs to be more regulation.”