Sports supplements do not live up to the label claim; Prohibited ingredients found

A new study from a group led by prominent industry critic Dr. Peter Cohen has found false labeling and the presence of banned ingredients in a range of plant-based sports nutrition supplements.

The new research has been published in the journal JAMA Network Open. The research group was led by Dr. Cohen, of Harvard Medical School, and experts from the University of Mississippi and NSF who have collaborated with him in the past.

The researchers put together a batch of products for testing that were labeled to include popular plant-based sports nutrition ingredients. These ingredients are: Rauwolfia vomitoria, methylliberine, turkesterone, halostachine, or octopamine.

R. vomitoria is a type of shrub that is said to be used in some systems of traditional medicine. Promoters of the four other ingredients on the list have claimed botanical heritages for them. The JAMA study did not address the question of whether these compounds were actually derived from plant sources or their synthetic analogues.

Few products met the label claim

Researchers analyzed 57 products that listed one of five ingredients on the label. They have tested products for potency as well as the presence of banned sports nutrition ingredients.

They found that only 11% of the products, or six out of a total of 57, were in the ballpark of the meeting label claim—that is, within 10%, plus or minus, of the declared amount of the ingredient.

Of the remainder, 23, or 40%, had no detectable amount of the major components. Among those in which some sporting ingredients could be detected, amounts ranged from 0,2% to 334% of the label claim.

Find prohibited items

In addition to potency testing, the supplements have undergone banned substance testing. Tests revealed seven of the 57 products (or 12%) to contain at least one of the following five banned compounds: 1,4-dimethylamine (DMAA), diphenol, Octodrine, Oxylophrine, and Omiracetam. One of the tested products was found to contain four of these compounds.

“Given these findings, physicians should advise consumers that supplements containing botanical ingredients that have purported stimulant or anabolic effects may not be accurately labeled and may contain drugs banned by the FDA,” the authors concluded.

Call for mandatory product listing

The journal also invited Dr. Peter Lowry, MD, chair of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, to draft a commentary that has been published alongside Cohen’s paper. Lowry reiterated his demand that a pre-marketing product be included as a minimum to adequately monitor the market, according to the FDA, inflated to 95,000 individual products.

As the work done by Cohen and others demonstrates, supplements often do not contain what is advertised or, more so, contain ingredients that may not be safe for consumers. This work underscores the need for Congress to take action and increase oversight of marketed dietary supplements. and distribution in the United States,” Lowry wrote.

Lowry indicated that there is some support within the industry for the Mandatory Product List (MPL) concept. Among them is the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN).

CRN CEO Steve Meister said Dr. Cohen’s latest papers don’t break any new ground in identifying the existence of poor quality products that can be found for sale online.

Unfortunately, this research message offers up little of what we don’t already know. Once again, Peter Cohen has shown that if you look hard enough, products of questionable quality, containing obscure or illegal substances, can be found on the Internet. Once again, we invite The Food and Drug Administration needs to shine a light on the dark corners of the internet and hold the manufacturers of these types of products to account.”

The FDA can find bad actors if it so chooses

One group that has consistently argued against MPL is the Natural Products Association (NPA).

“One thing about the comment that is factually inaccurate is that the FDA can issue a recall for a dietary supplement. It’s always a cry for more power,” said Daniel Fabricant, Ph. D., president and CEO of the NPA.

“The sample is not representative of the industry. I am confident that none of these products were manufactured in an NPA member facility,” Fabricant said. “The main issue is enforcement. If Cohen can find these products, so can the FDA.”

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