Thursday, February 05, 2015

Regulation? What regulation? We don’t need no stinkin’ regulation?

Knock on wood, but I’m one of those lucky near-geezers who doesn’t have to take any pills. Other than a handful of vitamins that my doctors have suggested – the usual suspects: multi-vitamin, calcium, D3, and one unusual suspect: alpha lipoic acid (long story) – I don’t have to worry about the daily dose. And because everything I take is more voluntary than medicinal, if I miss a day or two, it’s no big deal.

Not that I don’t have a handy-dandy pill dispenser.

In fact, I have two.

One was the 7x2 container that we used to keep track of my husband’s various and sundry a.m. and p.m. pills, which became more various and sundry over the final years of his life.  Jim’s pills were a medical necessity, so we really did have to pay attention to what and how much he took, and when he took it.

I have a different pill-keeper: a “tower” of seven little plastic containers that screw together, and come in rainbow colors. It looks kind of cool – not as officially medicine-y as the one we used for Jim. Maybe when I transition to “real” medicine, I’ll go there.

Anyway, since they’re not real medicines, I suppose that the “stuff” that I take all come under the dietary supplements heading, vitamin division.

So I was interested to read that the State of New York is going after some of the mega-retailers for:

…selling dietary supplements that were fraudulent and in many cases contaminated with unlisted ingredients.

The authorities said they had run tests on popular store brands of herbal supplements at the retailers — Walmart, Walgreens, Target and GNC — which showed that roughly four out of five of the products contained none of the herbs listed on their labels. In many cases, the authorities said, the supplements contained little more than cheap fillers like rice and house plants, or substances that could be hazardous to people with food allergies. (Source: NY Times)

Rice and house plants, huh? Well, these are, after all, herbal supplements.

What was not found in some of the supplements was more interesting than what was there.

At GNC, there was no ginkgo biloba in the ginkgo biloba; no St. John’s wort in the St. John’s wort; no ginseng in the ginseng, and no echniacea in the echinacea.

Well, who put the bomp in the bomp bah bomp bah bomp?

Although I do love the name, I don’t use ginkgo biloba, or any of the rest of these supplements. (St. John’s wort sounds like something you’d use to cast a spell on someone, doesn’t it? Didn’t the witches in MacBeth throw that in their brew or something?)

Target also skimped – i.e., omitted a bit – entirely on ginkgo biloba, St. John’s wort and valerian root. (Valerian root – that’s another one for those MacBeth girls.) What makes the Target skimping so riotously hideous is their house brand’s name: Up & Up.

Looks like you really need to stay away from that ginkgo biloba, St. John’s wort, echinacea, and gingseng.Walgreen’s and Walmart both came up empty on those. Walgreen’s even managed to pass of garlic-less garlic.

Of the four retailers that were caught:

Wal-Mart was the worst offender: None of its six supplements that were tested was found to contain purely the ingredient advertised. Target’s supplements were the least misleading of the lot — though that isn’t saying much, since tests on six of the brand’s products resulted in only one unqualified positive. (Source: Washington Post.)

The overall results were so “extreme” that one supplement expert:

… found them hard to accept. He suggested that the manufacturing process may have destroyed some of the ingredients’ DNA, rendering the DNA barcode test ineffective.

But if the tests are accurate, wouldn’t you think that these mega-retailers could do some testing on their own?

I don’t buy my supplements at the big box stores – I mostly get them at my local, blessedly independent and thoroughly wonderful and trustworthy corner drug store, Gary Drug.

While I don’t believe that what I buy there is adulterated, and while I’m certainly not going to head over to the nearest chem lab – or wherever it is you do DNA testing -  to see if I can figure out exactly what’s in that D3, I nonetheless thought it would be interesting to see just what is listed among the ingredients.

That alpha lipoic acid is mostly alpha lipoic acid, but it also contains gelatin, rice flour, vegetable magnesium stearate, and silica. Yum! I’m guessing the gelatin is the makeup of the capsule that makes taking this one relatively smooth sailing on ingestion. I can vouch for the acid, however. If you take one of these suckers without food, you have to take a Tums chaser.

My calcium supplement contains all sorts of crazy stuff. Oligofructose enriched insulin? Say what? (Before he became an economist, my husband was a chemist. Where is that boy when I need him?)

At least what’s in the D3 is recognizable, more or less: soybean oil, gelatin, vegetable glycerin, corn oil.

As for my multi-vitamin. Well, they don’t call it multi-vitamin for nothing.

I’m going to guess that most/all of the adulterated herbal supplements that the big boxers were pushing came from China, where the regulatory philosophy is pretty laissez faire.  Although, oddly enough, I think that ginkgo biloba is/was an ancient Chinese remedy…

My unadulterated – at least as far as I know – vitamin supplements are mostly “carefully manufactured” in the United States.

Anyway, it’s time to go take my vitamins. (See, I remembered it even without taking any ginkgo biloba, real or fake.)

------------------------------------------------------------------------------Many thanks to my friend Valerie for sending this story my way.

No comments: