February 17, 2014
In late December 2013, the New York Times published an alarming article entitled “Spike in Harm to Liver Is Tied to Dietary Aids”. The article discussed how there has been a huge spike in liver-related diseases, with around 20 percent of drug-related liver disease cases being attributed to dietary supplements, up from 7 percent a decade ago.
We are bringing this to our readers’ attention because you have to dig quite deep into the article before you find the single line that says: More popular supplements like vitamins, minerals, probiotics and fish oil had not been linked to “patterns of adverse effects”. This is an important point to highlight – Probiotics are not being linked to this trend, and are generally considered safe.
Once you get past the attention-grabbing headline, this article raises some substantial points that we have discussed in recent posts on this site – namely that the FDA does not regulate the supplements industry. As the NY Times succinctly put it: Because the supplement industry operates on the honor system, studies show, the market has been flooded with products that are adulterated, mislabeled or packaged in dosages that have not been studied for safety.
Unfortunately, we see this with some of the inferior probiotic brands on the market too – brands that advertise multiple unproven or ineffective strains of probiotics, and other marketing-driven gimmicks. We are not calling these products unsafe, but we do believe that many of them are ineffective, and they can get away with it because there is little in the way of oversight in this industry.
The problem gets even more acute further down the article: The F.D.A. estimates that 70 percent of dietary supplement companies are not following basic quality control standards that would help prevent adulteration of their products.
So how can you, as a consumer, confidently select a quality product in the wild-wild-west of nutritional supplements? Firstly, a little knowledge goes a long way. We recently wrote a buyers guide to selecting a probiotic, and we would suggest starting there to understand what makes a good probiotic. Secondly, look into the company that you are buying your probiotic from. At Natren, we have for decades campaigned for greater accountability in the industry. We hold ourselves to a higher standard by submitting to internationally recognized testing approved by the Pharmaceutical Inspection Convention (PIC), which serves two major functions: i) It verifies that the probiotic that you buy remains fully potent through the expiration date; and ii) it requires that we manufacture our probiotics in compliance to FDA cGMP procedures. Both of these should provide you as a consumer with confidence that you are buying from a trusted and reputable supplier.
We definitely recommend reading the NY Times article. We hope that one day the probiotics market will receive more oversight and regulation, not least because it will eliminate many of the questionable products out there, leaving Natren as a shining star on the shelf!
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