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According to Consumer Reports magazine, many popular health supplements may be contaminated by ingredients that could lead to cancer, heart problems, liver or kidney damage but they’re still being sold in the United States. The organisation have singled out the following 12 ingredients that may be particularly dangerous; aconite, bitter orange, chaparral, colloidal silver, coltsfoot, comfrey, country mallow, germanium, greater celandine, kava, lobelia, and yohimbe.
In many countries, like the US and Singapore, health supplements are not put through the same rigorous tests for licensing, registration or approval as they would do for medicine. These products typically contain ingredients from natural sources and are meant to supplement your diet andhealth. The onus is on the dealers to be responsible for the safety and quality of their products and they’re not allowed to make claims to treat illnesses and diseases. You can learn more about the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) consumer guide on health supplements.
Protect yourself and your families by understanding the labels on your vitamins and supplements. Decipher what they mean so you don’t end up endangering your own health instead. Here’s a primer on what these labels really mean.
The front label on your health supplement bottle tells you what it’s for; who it’s for; and describes the product briefly. The back label provides more details of the features and benefits of the products.The ‘supplement facts’ box lists out the ingredients and their quantities, as well as any unique qualities of the ingredients that distinguish it from similar products and also provides information on the recommended dosage, precautions and information that could benefit people with certain conditions.
Nutritionist Annie Sie recommends, “People who are allergic to certain food components (egg, soy, gluten, yeast, etc) and those who are concerned about artificial flavours and colours in their dietary supplements.”
The recommended dosage is used as a guideline for people with no existing conditions. There are certain nutrients, which are harmful if are taken in high doses, such as, fat-soluble vitamins and certain minerals. Fat-soluble vitamins, if taken in very high doses, for a period of time, could cause toxicity.
Nutritionist Hanamaria J. Hadisiswojo advises,“Taking large amounts of vitamin A – over 10,000 IU daily – over long periods can be toxic to the liver. Minerals, like copper, iron, and zinc, are recommended only in very limited quantities because they can cause toxicity when consumed in large amounts.”
Food supplements can last up to one year after the expiration date provided they are unopened and are stored in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight. However,Hanamaria warns, “The supplements lose their potency fast after the expiration date. Toss it if you haven’t finished the bottle three months after it expires.”
Good Quality Certification
The GMP Certification Program is designed to verify compliance of member suppliers of dietary supplements with a standardised set of good manufacturing practices (GMPs) developed by the National Nutritional Foods Association (NNFA), which is now known as the National Products Association (NPA). According to Annie, “This programme ensures that all elements of the manufacturing process are reviewed to provide assurance that safety and quality is built into products during manufacture. Besides this, there is organic certification by Quality Assurance International (QAI) that actually guarantees lot separation, identification and purity.”
Hanamaria cautions that the label should also indicate whether the product contains sugar, starch, artificial colours and flavours, preservatives, sodium, wheat, corn, dairy, gluten or yeast. “It is very important for labels to provide this information so that the chances of triggering an allergic reaction are minimised.”Particularly for people who are looking for sugar or sodium-free products because of their health condition (diabetes and high blood pressure), it is highly recommend that you pick products that clearly indicate any presence of these ingredients.