HealthCheck

Consumer Reports tests nutritional supplements

Friday, October 05, 2012

More than half of American adults take nutritional supplements, but Consumer Reports found they're not without risk. The Food and Drug Administration has received more than 6,000 reports of serious adverse effects in the last five years.

Counselor Dina Khader has been advising people about nutrition for more than 20 years. She says she's seen many cases of misuse of supplements.

"People start to take their own supplements without really checking if they really need it or if it's something that would benefit them in any way," Khader said.

A Consumer Reports investigation found many surprising dangers in vitamins and supplements, largely unregulated products. And moreover, there's increasing evidence there may be few, if any, benefits.

"There was a study published in June that showed that calcium supplements increased the risk of heart attack by 86 percent compared to the group who didn't get them," Consumer Reports' Nancy Metcalf said. "On the other hand, that same study showed eating calcium-rich foods can protect your heart."

A recent study of antioxidant supplements shows that high doses of some "may increase cancer risk" and not reduce it.

"Even more troubling, some supplements have turned out to contain prescription drugs like Viagra and Cialis that were not on the label," Metcalf said.

The FDA says supplements spiked with prescription drugs are "the largest threat" to consumer safety. There have been more than 400 recalls of such products since 2008.

"Even with uncontaminated vitamins and minerals, the labels don't tell the whole story because generally, the FDA does not require manufacturers to include warning labels," Metcalf said.

When Consumer Reports checked out the labels on more than 200 bottles of supplements, it found just one in three listed possible adverse reactions.

"In some cases, the potential risks of supplements can outweigh the benefits. We say if you're generally a pretty healthy person, you can skip them," Metcalf said.

Eating a diet that includes fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and protein is the best way to go.

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