As medical professionals, we constantly get questions from our patients as to whether or not a particular nutritional can help with their condition. Then, if we are not sure, we look it up and find some studies that say they can be effective. But, what if none of the particular active ingredient is even in the product? If they take cinnamon to lower blood glucose and the product has none or very little cinnamon, then are we providing misinformation when we say that it can be effective?  In a current study of nutritionals, researchers found that mislabeling or omission of ingredients occurs frequently in herbal and dietary supplements, especially with weight loss products. To analyze the contents of herbal and dietary supplements and the frequency of mislabeling, the researchers collected data from 2,268 patients enrolled in the Drug Induced Liver Injury Network between 2003 and March 2016. Of the 341 supplements collected, the researchers have performed chemical analysis of 229 and found that 26 did not have any of the ingredients labeled. Analysis showed that 90 of 203 supplements showed accurately labeled contents (44%). The rate of mislabeling was 80% for 10 analyzed steroidal ingredients, 54% for 26 vitamin ingredients, and 48% for 122 botanical ingredients. They also found similar rates of mislabeling among 166 herbal and dietary supplements.  What this tells us is that not only is mislabeling common, but those mislabeled ingredients may very well be the cause of injury and actually do the opposite of what they were meant to do. Let you patients know, “Buyer beware.”

Navarro VJ, et al. Abstract 264. Presented at: The Liver Meeting; Oct. 20-24, 2017; Washington, D.C.