The Dietary Supplement Labeling Act introduced by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on Aug. 1 would require manufacturers of dietary supplements to register with the Food and Drug Administration.
The bill also calls for the Institute of Medicine to evaluate the safety of ingredients for potential adverse effects and risks, especially to children and pregnant or breastfeeding women.
This week, a “fat burning” dietary supplement was voluntarily pulled from shelves by manufacturer USPLabs after the Hawaii Department of Health reported at least 24 people have been hospitalized after using the weight-loss aid.
The cases in Hawaii over the last six months include liver failure and acute hepatitis.
Yet there are more reports of adverse effects from pharmaceuticals than supplements, according to a review in March by the Government Accounting Office.
The GAO study said that between 2008 and 2011, only 6,307 reports were received about health problems from supplements. During that same period, there were 2.7 million reports on FDA-approved prescription drugs.
Jen Talaber, spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Marietta), who is running for the U.S. Senate, said there has not been a single reported death linked to nutritional supplements.
“Rep. Gingrey doesn’t believe it’s appropriate for the FDA to use its limited resources regulating a low-risk industry,” Talaber said. “This legislation creates unnecessary and burdensome regulations that could cost jobs and our sluggish economy tens of billions of dollars annually.”
A healthy business
The FDA does regulate dietary supplements under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, but unlike prescription drugs, these alternative medicines do not have to be approved before entering the market and there are no mandatory warning labels.
Lauren Culbertson, spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), said the senator supports the existing regulations and “is not convinced of the need for additional regulations that could reduce consumers access to supplements.”
Almost half of all adults in the U.S. consume dietary supplements, with sales in the industry surpassing $30 billion in 2011, according to the GAO study.
The GAO study also stated that more than 50,000 supplemental product lines have been added to shelves in the last 20 years.
Past the organic produce displays and bins of bulk grains, a market off Roswell Road, east of Powers Ferry Road, has an entire section devoted to supplements.
The shelves of Life Grocery include liquid tonics designed to boost a person’s immune system, powders for extra fiber and protein shakes.
Some “medicines” claim to help with digestion, inflammation or stress, including horse-chestnuts to support healthy circulation and sea-buckthorn juice from a tart fruit in Asia to help with liver and cardiovascular health.
One product called “Michelle’s Miracle” is a cherry concentrate that “promotes healthy joints,” according to the label.
“These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration,” the bottle states. “This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.”
The results are in
Tom Ryan, 68, of Smyrna, has been using high-potency vitamins and other supplements for more than 50 years, when he started purchasing protein powders as a teenager.
Ryan, who has a doctorate in statistics, takes 25 capsules a day, with two extra amino acid pills on days he lifts weights.
The price of registering ingredients with the FDA would be costly and put small companies out of business, Ryan said.
“You don’t get side effects from taking vitamins,” Ryan said. “These are reputable businesses that don’t need to be scrutinized.”
Ryan, who was born in Atlanta, has won 25 national and 10 world weightlifting titles since he started competing in 1986.
A 6-foot-4-inch man, Ryan recently lifted an over 150-pound dumbbell from the floor with one hand while sitting on the edge of his bed.
Ryan has to lift while lying flat or seated due to a congenital foot condition known as Charcot’s Syndrome, which resulted in the amputation of his left foot last November.
In 1966, Ryan was diagnosed with high blood pressure and began taking garlic as a preventive measure, as opposed to treating the condition with a prescription medication.
In January, Ryan was diagnosed with congestive heart failure.
“I am treating it naturally, feel fine and seem normal,” Ryan said.
Ryan said he researches any ailments and follows treatment programs suggested in monthly newsletters by supplemental companies from which he orders pills directly.
Everyone should take basic vitamins, Ryan said, because a person cannot get enough nutrients and minerals from foods.
“Almost everybody in this country is deficient in vitamin D,” Ryan said. “Supplementation is important.”