Do You Really Know How Much Vitamin D is in Your Supplement?

You would be surprised to know what is in your vitamin supplement…or what is not contained in them. According to the latest study, these vitamins differ even within the same bottle.

Last month a study was published in the Journal of American Medical Association: Internal Medicine regarding the test results of vitamin D.

Vitamin D is the third most common supplement purchased, following fish oil and multivitamins, respectively.  Many people believe vitamin D keeps bones strong, improves heart health and may possibly prevent cancer.  The problem is that the amount of vitamin D present in over-the-counter supplements may not be what we believe it to be.

In a new study by Kaiser-Permanente, researchers performed an independent study of several over-the-counter vitamin D supplements.  The results from this study were surprising:  the vitamin content varied from as low as 9 percent to as high as 146 percent of the amount of vitamin D listed on the label.

Dr. LeBlanc, a researcher with the Portland, Oregon-based Kaiser-Permanente Center for Health Research and lead author of the study, tested 55 bottles of vitamin D from 12 different companies purchased in five Portland-area stores and one compounding pharmacy. Differences in vitamin D content were noted not only among different manufacturers, but noted even between pills within the very same bottle.

Dr. David Katz, a board-certified specialist in Preventive Medicine and Public Health at the Yale School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study said that although most of us have heard that choice of brand is not all that important with regard to vitamin D, this appears to be untrue.

ABC News contacted several nutrition specialists who say that vitamin D has a wide range of doses and it is unlikely to have any dangerous health impact.  That is unless you are taking doses that exceed the upper tolerable limit of 4,000 International Units (IU).  The daily requirement of vitamin D is from 600-800 IU and most products offer 1,000 IU. If someone takes a supplement that has 2,000 IU but in reality has 4,000 IU, they may be harming their bodies unknowingly. On the other hand, if you think you are taking a dose large enough to effectively treat a deficiency, and in reality only getting half of that amount, your condition will not improve.

How can we ensure that we are getting what we need and what we pay for?

Researchers noted that there are manufacturers who have their products voluntarily tested annually by the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention or USP. This is an independent, non-profit organization that sets the standards for quality and safety of vitamin supplements.  If a supplement bottle has the USP verification mark, you can be confident that what is listed on the bottle is what you are getting. In order to achieve this USP verification, they have undergone testing and been approved.  Approval for one does not mean approval for all. UPS spokeswoman, Francine Pierson explained:

“We don’t grant blanket verification for all of a manufacturer’s products; we verify each one individually. Before earning the mark, USP tests samples of products but also does a manufacturing facility audit and manufacturing and quality control/product document review, so the program is very thorough and involves more than just testing to help ensure quality.”

Of interest is that in Kaiser’s review, not even half of the products tested, and only one third of the compounding pharmacy’s product, met USP standards. These findings question whether more needs to be done to regulate the billion dollar-a-year supplements industry.

In a statement by Kaiser, quoting a recent editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine, “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering new safety guidelines for some supplements but, for the most part, the industry remains unregulated.”

Consumers are entitled to know what they are buying and putting into their bodies and to be sure that these products are safe.  These supplements should be regulated the way medications are regulated by the FDA.  Since the manufacturers of the supplements have no one watching over them, they can ignore the costs associated with quality control,  and make extra profit.   Do you think the rules should change for these non-regulated supplement companies?

Contact one of our Gacovino Lake attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).

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