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Reuters Health Information: Herbal and dietary supplements often mislabeled

Herbal and dietary supplements often mislabeled

Last Updated: 2017-10-24

By Megan Brooks

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Product information on labels of most herbal and dietary supplements are inaccurate, according to research presented at The Liver Meeting, held by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.

Products used for body building and weight loss are most apt to be mislabeled, Dr. Victor Navarro from Einstein Healthcare Network in Philadelphia, and his colleagues found.

They did a chemical analysis of 203 herbal and dietary supplements (HDS) and compared the results to ingredients listed on the product labels.

Fewer than half of the products (90 of 203, 44%) had labels that accurately reflected their contents.

Based on the composition of the product, mislabeling occurred in 80% of products made principally of steroidal ingredients, 54% of those made principally of vitamin ingredients, and 48% of those made largely of botanical ingredients, the researchers say.

Products intended for bodybuilding, weight loss, energy boosters and general health/well-being had mislabeling rates of 79%, 72%, 60% and 51%, respectively.

Similar mislabeling rates were found the 166 HDS products judged to be responsible for liver injury by investigators with the Drug Induced Liver Injury Network (DILIN).

"What is novel in terms of actually testing products, is the extent of the mislabeling of over-the-counter supplements, which translates into significant health risks for consumers taking them," Samantha Heller, registered dietitian and senior clinical nutritionist, NYU Langone Health, told Reuters Health by email.

"There are a high number of cases of liver injury due to dietary supplements that include hepatotoxicity, acute liver failure and subsequent death or transplantation, as well as nephrotoxicity," said Heller, who was not involved in the study.

Heller said the message is clear. "Don't bother taking any dietary supplement that claims to promote fast weight loss, build muscle, detox or cleanse the body, boost brain power, cure disease or offer other miraculous results. At this time there is no scientific evidence to support any of these claims. Consumers' money is better spent on a fitness center membership, seeing a registered dietitian for evidence-based nutritional guidance, adopting healthy lifestyle habits, and getting a massage."

The study had no funding, and the authors have no relevant disclosures.


American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases 2017.

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