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The Dilemma with Sports and Dietary Supplements: Misleading Labels, Inaccuracy, and Safety Concerns
July 21, 2023
July 31, 2023

The Dilemma with Sports and Dietary Supplements: Misleading Labels, Inaccuracy, and Safety Concerns

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In an industry that continually flirts with grey areas and controversial practices, sports and dietary supplements have come under increased scrutiny, with recent research throwing light on inaccuracies in ingredient labeling, the inclusion of FDA-prohibited substances, and concerns about overall quality and safety.

Only about 1 in 10 products had the "right ingredient at the right dose," study author says.

Overwhelmingly, dietary supplements seem to be misleading consumers with inaccurately labeled ingredients, according to a research letter recently published. The study revealed a startling 89% of dietary supplements inspected did not correctly disclose their ingredients, with as many as 12% containing at least one FDA-prohibited component.

What's more alarming is that the supplement industry doesn't adhere to the same regulatory measures as prescription drugs. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate the supplement industry to the same degree, resulting in manufacturers not having to validate their products' safety, efficacy, or meet the standards of clinical trials.

Assortment of Sports Supplements

Therefore, it is hardly surprising that this recent study identified significant issues with the quality and misleading labeling of sports supplements. The research closely examined specific compounds that are frequently used in sports supplements to boost performance.

These include compounds like R vomitoria, methylliberine, halostachine, octopamine, and turkesterone, often used as alternative stimulants in place of FDA-prohibited ephedra.

The study authors stressed, "The FDA does not pre-approve these ingredients, or any supplement ingredient, for either efficacy or safety before their introduction. However, FDA inspections have found that supplement manufacturers often fail to comply with basic manufacturing standards."

Among the 57 products assessed, an alarming 40% did not contain a detectable amount of the five labeled ingredients.

Even among the supplements that contained detectable levels of the labeled ingredient, the actual amount ranged drastically - from as low as 0.02% to a staggering high of 334%.

This discovery pointed to a massive inconsistency in product content, with the presence of at least one FDA-prohibited ingredient in 12% of the products examined.

Given these unsettling revelations, healthcare professionals are encouraged to inform consumers that supplements listing botanical ingredients with alleged stimulant or anabolic effects may not be accurately labeled and may include FDA-prohibited substances.

Man Using Sports Supplements

Despite these warnings, the demand for supplements continues to grow unabated, largely fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic. With an estimated value of over $35 billion a year in the U.S., the supplement market shows no signs of slowing down, with pharmaceutical companies like Bayer, Pfizer, and GSK entering the fray with their own supplement businesses.

The increasing reliance on social media for health advice has only exacerbated this issue. Platforms like TikTok have become breeding grounds for unverified claims about various supplements. As such, consumers are advised to investigate thoroughly the claims and labels associated with these products before consumption.

Indeed, sports supplements, especially those containing botanicals, are increasingly found to contain unknown ingredients, further underscoring the lack of regulation in the industry. The recent study examining 57 sports performance-enhancing products discovered that only a meager 11% contained what the label claimed. An astonishing seven included drugs expressly prohibited by the FDA.

Dr. Pieter Cohen, an internist at the Cambridge Health Alliance and Harvard Medical School, who helped lead the new research, noted, "Industry is reckless with consumer health." Cohen and his colleagues did not order the products from the 'dark web' or unregulated websites, suggesting that these issues are not confined to obscure corners of the internet.

Dr. Peter Lurie, who wrote an editorial accompanying the new study, expressed concern about the risk posed by readily available supplements, stating, "In almost any corner of the supplement market, wherever you look you find results rather similar to these. It's unfortunate."

Cohen added, "Industry has done nothing to clean up their act and FDA has done nothing to enforce the law. And the law is completely inadequate to prevent these products from coming on shelves in the first place."

What's clear from these findings is that consumers should exercise caution when purchasing supplements. While they might be marketed as health boosters or performance enhancers, the lack of regulation and standardization within the industry leaves much to be desired in terms of safety, efficacy, and quality. The potential for supplements to contain unauthorized ingredients or to inaccurately label their contents is high. Therefore, consumers must do their due diligence and consult with healthcare professionals before incorporating any supplement into their diet or routine.

Remember to check out more news and knowledge-based articles for health and wellness inspiration on Healthify. Additionally, take advantage of the free Healthify AI chat assistant here for any questions or concerns related to the topic in the article or health and wellness advice, support, diagnosis assistance, or general knowledge, available 24/7!


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