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ConsumerLab Gives Names of Brands that Fail
White Plains NY, 20 May 2003, 21 April 2003, and 18 March 2003

Publicizing brands that fail testing

Partly due to popular demand, ConsumerLab.com has begun reporting the names of brands that fail their tests as well as those that pass, starting on May 20 with its review of saw palmetto supplement products. This information is available to subscribers rather than the general public. (The cost of a year's subscription will soon rise to $24.)

Inactive ingredients and fillers

Beginning with its March 18 review of vitamin C, ConsumerLab now includes a list of all labeled ingredients and fillers for each product. This will be useful for consumers with specific dietary concerns or restrictions, such as caloric intake, allergies, vegetarian or kosher adherence.

Recalls and warnings

Two important recalls and warnings have recently been posted on the ConsumerLab website. One involves a human-growth hormone (HGH) supplement making false claims; ConsumerLab is confident there are many others out there like it. The second is a massive recall of products from an Australian firm.

Recalls posted in April include a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) action on an herbal "Snore Formula" regarding scientific substantiation of its claims, and warnings that a sexual enhancement product illegally contained the prescription drug ingredient used in Viagra.

In March, the FTC reported that Rexall Sundown will pay up to $12 million to redress consumers who purchased "Cellasene"; the FTC claimed the company made unsubstantiated claims about the ability of Cellasene to eliminate or substantially reduce cellulite, and false claims of clinical evidence establishing Cellasene's efficacy.

In February, US Marshals seized dietary supplement products from Global Source Management and Consulting, Inc. (Sunrise FL) after the FDA determined that these products claimed to treat a variety of medical conditions—including claims to prevent various cancers and to treat arthritis. Such unapproved drug claims violate the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

Advising consumers to read labels carefully when selecting herbal supplements for prostate

On May 20, ConsumerLab.com reported that only two-thirds of the saw palmetto supplements it recently evaluated contained ingredients similar to those known to work in clinical studies. Saw palmetto is a popular herb due to its ability to reduce the frequency and urgency of urination in men with prostate enlargement. More than $33 million worth of saw palmetto supplements were sold in the past 12 months in the US, according to market research firms SPINS and ACNielsen.

ConsumerLab.com identified two products with doses that were about half the amount known to work. Although both claimed to contain other botanical ingredients with potential prostate activity, it is not known if these would compensate for the low levels of saw palmetto. Two other products indicated on their labels that they were made from saw palmetto extracts having lower amounts of fatty acids and sterols than the standard 85%-95%; in fact, one claimed only "20%-25%." A fifth product was found to contain unusually high levels of sterols and specific fatty acids, suggesting the addition of undeclared oil in the product.

"Consumers need to understand that supplements are often designed by marketers, not clinicians," said Tod Cooperman, MD, president of ConsumerLab.com. ConsumerLab.com specifically recommends that a saw palmetto product claim a daily dose of either 320 mg of berry extract or one to two grams of berry powder. Extracts should be standardized to at least 85% fatty acids and 0.2% sterols, while berry powders should be standardized to a minimum of 8.5 % fatty acids and 0.02% sterols."

The review (www.consumerlab.com/results/sawpalmetto.asp) includes results for 22 saw palmetto products, including the fourteen reviewed (of which nine met ConsumerLab.com's quality standards) and eight others that recently passed the same evaluation through ConsumerLab's Voluntary Certification Program. The review also provides information about other ingredients used to treat prostate enlargement: pygeum bark, nettle root, pumpkin seed, and beta-sitosterol.

Low quality ingredient appears widespread among ginkgo supplements

In contrast to its findings of three years ago, ConsumerLab.com reported on April 21 that only 22% of recently tested Ginkgo biloba supplements met ConsumerLab's quality standards. In late 1999, 75% of the products it tested met these standards. Ginkgo, which is used to improve cognitive functioning, remains a top-selling herb in the US, although sales fell by 29% to $47 million in the past year according to market research firms SPINS and ACNielsen.

Ginkgo supplements are generally made from a highly concentrated leaf extract. Products that have been effective in clinical trials contain defined amounts of special compounds from the leaf. Many products on the market claim to be standardized only to total amounts of these compounds and not to the individual compounds. ConsumerLab.com's testing found most ginkgo products to contain less than one-fifth of the expected amount of bilobalide—a compound that may play a particularly important role in the effectiveness of ginkgo.

"While consumers are often told to look for 'standardized' ginkgo, the standards used by many manufacturers do not measure up to those used in clinical studies," said Tod Cooperman, MD, president of ConsumerLab.com. "It's like selling a car with only one cylinder: It's still a car, but it is not likely to perform well. This may also help explain why sales of ginkgo have been falling." ConsumerLab.com's findings also pose a challenge to the FDA's proposed rules for the labeling of supplements since they do not clearly define standards for herbal ingredients.

Another cognitive-function supplement

A more recently introduced supplement for improving cognitive functioning (particularly in Alzheimer's patients) called huperzine A was also tested in the recent review. All of the huperzine products contained the labeled amount of the ingredient, but one was found to be high in lead.

Test results for all products reviewed (9 Ginkgo biloba and 4 huperzine A supplements) are now available at www.consumerlab.com/results/ginkgobiloba.asp. Also listed are results for one additional ginkgo product that passed the same analysis in ConsumerLab's Voluntary Certification Program.

Quality of vitamin C products has improved

In contrast to its prior research, ConsumerLab.com found that all 15 products evaluated in its March 18 product review of vitamin C supplements passed its testing. Its previous review, conducted in 2000, found several products with less vitamin C than claimed and one product that would not dissolve. Americans purchased more than $180 million worth of vitamin C supplements in the past year according to market research firms SPINS and ACNielsen.

"These positive results are quite welcomed, said Tod Cooperman, MD, president of ConsumerLab.com. He noted, however, "Preliminary results from other products now being tested suggest that this is not the beginning of a general upward trend in supplement quality."

The 15 products, along with 16 other vitamin C products that have recently undergone the same independent analysis in ConsumerLab's Voluntary Certification Program are now listed on the ConsumerLab website (www.consumerlab.com/results/vitaminc.asp) along with useful tips on buying and using vitamin C products.

New reviews coming soon

Soon to be released are new reviews of calcium (including coral calcium), cholesterol-lowerers (sterols, policosanol and guggulsterones), and muscular enhancers (creatine, HMB, and glutamine). ConsumerLab.com's Guide to Buying Vitamins and Supplements is scheduled for print publication this year.

About ConsumerLab.com

ConsumerLab.com is a leading provider of consumer information and independent evaluations of products that affect health and nutrition. The company is privately held and based in White Plains NY. It has no ownership from, or interest in, companies that manufacture, distribute, or sell consumer products. Subscription to Consumerlab.com is available online.


ConsumerLab.com (www.consumerlab.com). March18, April 21 and May 20, 2003.end-of-story



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