Entries in Supplements (15)


Vitamin D and Calcium Taken Together Offer No Help for Dementia

Creatas Images/Thinkstock(MINNEAPOLIS) -- The latest research into one possible treatment for dementia in women proved to be somewhat disappointing, but experts think it still might hold some promise.
Past research has suggested that vitamin D might protect against memory loss and decline in the aging brain. A study in The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society looked at 2,000 women whose average age was 71. In all, they took 400 international units of vitamin D and 1,000 milligrams of calcium together every day for an average of eight years.
But the women developed cognitive impairments -- everything from memory trouble to serious dementia -- at the same rate as a comparison group given placebo pills.  They found that vitamin D and calcium supplements taken together in low doses offered no protection against dementia.
Still, the authors say they learned how calcium and vitamin D might have conflicting effects. That points researchers toward a more definitive study, testing higher levels of vitamin D alone, with higher hopes it will do some good.

"I think the definitive study will just look at the effects of vitamin D," said lead study author Rebecca Rossom, from HealthPartners Institute for Education and Research, a nonprofit arm of a health maintenance organization based in Minnesota.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Fish Oil No Lifesaver, Study Finds

Paul Tearle/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Fish oil -- a supplement taken daily by millions of Americans -- may not help you live longer, a new study released Tuesday suggests.

The study is the latest piece of research feeding the debate over whether regularly taking omega-3 supplements -- most commonly in the form of fish oil -- helps the heart.

A number of clinical trials have found that fish oil seems to lower risk of heart attack, sudden death, and even stroke -- though exactly how this works remains unclear. Yet, other studies have found little evidence of connection between these often pricey supplements and health benefits.

In the new report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, lead study author Dr. Evangelos Rizos and his colleagues completed an extensive review of existing data. They pooled results from 20 studies that included almost 70,000 adult patients.

Through rigorous statistical analyses, they said, they found no significant risk reduction in those getting increased omega-3 in their diet or through supplements.

Fish oil supplements are among the most popular dietary supplements among Americans. Though it is hard to pin down an exact figure for sales of such products, an article in Forbes magazine noted that, according to the Nutrition Business Journal, over-the-counter fish oil supplements accounted for $739 million in sales in 2009. Meanwhile, in 2010 Americans spent nearly $4 billion on products fortified with extra omega-3s, according to the market research firm Packaged Facts.

While the news may be disappointing to many expecting to live longer and have healthier hearts by taking these supplements daily, it's not the first time such findings have been reported. In April, a South Korean study of 20,000 people found a similar lack of heart benefits, and in June a separate study suggested that brain benefits, too, may have been oversold.

The results have some top cardiologists convinced that consumers should pause before buying these supplements.

"There's never been any compelling evidence of a clinical benefit," said Dr. Steven Nissen, professor of medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner School of Medicine.

Despite these mixed results, however, many physicians still recommend these supplements, which can cost $40 or more per bottle.

"Patients and doctors like the idea that it is natural and has no real side effects," said Dr. Howard Weintraub, clinical director of New York University Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease.

And some doctors say the findings of the new study are no reason to cut bait on fish oil.

"Meta-analysis, particularly when neutral, should not be used to draw a conclusion," said Melvyn Rubenfire of the University of Michigan.

Rubenfire said many of the studies included in this report did not have long enough follow-up, noting that heart and stroke prevention studies "are generally designed with five-year duration." Many patients studied here, he said, were followed for less than three years.

Rubenfire added that he believes this information "should dampen the enthusiasm for routine costly supplement in healthy persons" -- but that he and many experts agreed that omega-3 supplements are still a good strategy for patient with high triglycerides.

Some experts also note that the report is limited because the authors only included results from 20 of the thousands of studies on this topic, as many of these studies vary in terms of the types of patients and the doses of fish oil studied.

"This inherently makes it hard to group them together for one analysis," said Dr. Merle Myerson, director of cardiovascular disease prevention at Continuum Health Partners.

Myerson said she thinks that while government guideline committees will consider this study, they won't "change or challenge current recommendations."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


FDA Warning: Reumofan Supplements Contain Risky Drugs

Agencia el Universal/El Universal de Mexico/Newscom(NEW YORK) -- Consumers searching for a miracle cure for the aches and pains of arthritis should beware: The FDA has issued a new warning about the potential health risks of Reumofan and Reumofan Plus, two products marketed as natural dietary supplements for treating arthritis, muscle pain, osteoporosis, bone cancer and other conditions.

The FDA said it found both supplements contain several potentially dangerous ingredients that are not listed on the label. Since the first warning was issued in June, consumers have begun to speak up.

"The FDA has received dozens of additional adverse event reports, including death and stroke, associated with the use of Reumofan Plus," said Sarah Clark-Lynn, an FDA spokesperson. "Other reports include liver injury, severe bleeding, sudden worsening of glucose (sugar) control, weight gain, swelling, leg cramps and withdrawal syndrome, and adrenal suppression."

FDA lab analysis of the products revealed the presence of several prescription drugs that are linked to serious side effects, the agency said.

Dexamethasone, a corticosteroid commonly used to treat inflammatory conditions, can weaken the immune system, elevate blood sugar levels and increase the risk of bone and muscle injuries. It's also been associated with psychiatric problems.

When taken over long periods of time or in high doses, the drug may damage the adrenal glands, impairing their ability to produce hormones. Sudden discontinued use, especially when the drug has been taken long-term or in high doses, may lead to withdrawal syndrome, with users experiencing fatigue, nausea, low blood pressure, low blood sugar levels, fever, dizziness, and muscle and joint pain.

Diclofenac sodium, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) also detected in the supplements, increases the risk of cardiovascular events, such as heart attack and stroke, as well as serious gastrointestinal problems including bleeding, ulceration, and fatal perforation of the stomach and intestines. Additionally, the analysis found the muscle relaxant methocarbamol, which can cause drowsiness, dizziness, low blood pressure, and impair mental or physical abilities to perform tasks, such as driving a motor vehicle or operating machinery.

Tests on samples of Reumofan Plus found it contained diclofenac sodium and methocarbamol, the FDA said.

"The hidden drug ingredients in Reumofan Plus and Reumofan Plus Premium can lead to serious, even life-threatening, health consequences. The longer you take the products, the higher the risk," Clark-Lynn said. "Because of the hidden corticosteroid, consumers taking these products are urged to immediately consult with their doctor to safely discontinue use of the product."

Dr. Stephen Dahmer, an integrated medicine family physician in private practice at the Continuum Center for Health and Healing, Beth Israel Medical Center, said supplements can be as dangerous as medications. "Anyone can have an adverse or allergic reaction to almost any supplement so you do need to be careful about what you take and make sure you only buy reputable, high-quality brands," he said.

None of his patients has taken Reumofan but he urged anyone with osteoarthritis to steer clear. And he said he's on the lookout for symptoms in patients who suffer from arthritis in case they've taken the pills without telling him.

The supplements are manufactured in Mexico by the company Riger Naturals. They are usually labeled in Spanish but may also be labeled in English. In the U.S., GNC, Vitamin Shoppe and other large national retailers don't appear to be carrying the products either on the shelves or on their websites, but they can easily be purchased on supplement websites or eBay.

The Mexican Ministry of Health issued its own health warning to the public about Reumofan and has ordered Riger Naturals to recall the products. The FDA is asking doctors and consumers to report any side effects related to the two supplements to the FDA's MedWatch Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Calcium Supplements Linked to Heart Attack Risk

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Taking calcium supplements to build stronger bones may be bad for the heart, according to a new study that suggests getting similar doses from calcium-rich foods is a safer alternative.

The study, which followed nearly 24,000 German men and women between the ages of 35 and 64, found those who regularly took calcium supplements were 86 percent more likely to have a heart attack than those who did not.  Study subjects who relied completely on supplements for their daily calcium intake were 139 percent more likely to have a heart attack.

"Calcium supplements, which might raise [heart attack] risk, should be taken with caution," the authors wrote in their report, published Thursday in the journal Heart.

Calcium is critical for strong bones and teeth.  But the new study suggests supplements, many of which are sold as tasty gummy candies and chocolates, are no replacement for healthy foods.

"Calcium supplements have been widely embraced by doctors and the public on the grounds that they are a natural and therefore safe way of preventing osteoporotic fractures," Ian Reid and Mark Bolland of the University of Auckland in New Zealand wrote in an editorial accompanying the study.  "It is now becoming clear that taking this micronutrient in one or two daily [doses] is not natural, in that it does not reproduce the same metabolic effects as calcium in food."

Adult men and women should consume between 1,000 and 1,200 milligrams of calcium daily, according to the National Institutes of Health.  For most Americans, that's a cup of yogurt, a glass of milk and a slice of cheese.  For nondairy dieters, a bowl of enriched cereal, a glass of fortified orange juice, half a cup of tofu and a slice of salmon will do the trick.

But some people, such as post-menopausal women, struggle to get enough calcium from food alone and turn to supplements for a boost.  More than 60 percent of women over 60 take calcium supplements, up from 28 percent two decades ago, according to a 2011 report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics.

"We should return to seeing calcium as an important component of a balanced diet, and not as a low cost panacea to the universal problem of postmenopausal bone loss," wrote Reid and Bolland, who in 2011 linked calcium supplements to an increased risk of heart attack in post-menopausal women.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Coffee Bean Extract Linked to Weight Loss

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO) -- Unlike magic beans that make you grow, green coffee beans may make you lose weight -- and fast.

A new study suggests taking green coffee bean extract, which is sold as a supplement in the United States, could be a safe and effective way to drop some pounds.

“Based on our results, taking multiple capsules of green coffee extract a day -- while eating a low-fat, healthful diet and exercising regularly -- appears to be a safe, effective, inexpensive way to lose weight,” study author Joe Vinson, a chemist at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania, said in a statement.

Researchers gave up to 1,050 milligrams of green coffee bean extract to 16 overweight adults in their 20s and monitored their diet, exercise regimen, weight, heart rate and blood pressure for 22 weeks. Without changing their diet or exercise, study subjects lost roughly 10.5 percent -- an average of 17 pounds -- in overall body weight. No harmful side effects were noted, according to the study presented Tuesday at the American Chemical Society national meeting in San Diego.

How green coffee bean extract contributes to weight loss is unclear. But Vinson theorizes a chemical in the unroasted bean called chlorogenic acid could be responsible. Other experts suspect the stimulant properties of caffeine could be the culprit.

“I’d be happier if the research included pure caffeine, in the same amount as is contained in the two doses of [green coffee bean extract],” said Keith Ayoob, a registered dietitian and associate professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. “Then you’d know if the effects are due solely to caffeine or to something else in the beans, or to some combination thereof.”

Although green coffee bean extract may be of some benefit for people seeking weight loss, experts say the small study should be interpreted with caution.

“It’s premature to recommend this approach,” said Dr. David  Katz, director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center. “The effects, if real, are likely to be modest and we don’t know if they last over time.”

“It’s a supplement, not a substitute,” Katz added. “The emphasis will always need to be on overall diet and physical activity.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Folic Acid in Pregnancy Cuts Risk of Language Delay

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(OSLO, Norway) -- Taking extra folic acid in the weeks leading up to and just following getting pregnant could reduce the risk of the child having severe language delay, according to new research from Norway.

The study tracked the use of folic acid supplements and other supplements in nearly 40,000 expectant women and their children and found that those women who took folic acid in the four weeks prior to and eight weeks after conception had children who were about half as likely to experience severe language delay at age 3.  Toddlers who could only speak in one word or unintelligible utterance were rated as having severe language delay.

Folic acid, also known as folate, is a type of vitamin B found in green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, dried beans, and liver.  Folic acid is an essential vitamin the body needs for proper functioning, particularly during the first few weeks of life.

Folic acid is known to be an important prenatal nutrient and has been tied to reduced birth defects and a lowered risk of premature birth when taken by expectant mother.  This study is the first to suggest that this nutrient is specifically related to severe language delay.

“If in future research this relationship were shown to be causal, it would have important implications for understanding the biological processes underlying disrupted neurodevelopment, for the prevention of neurodevelopmental disorders, and for policies of folic acid supplementation for women of reproductive age,” study author Christine Roth of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, writes.

The study was published Tuesday in the October issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Vitamin A Could Save Children in Developing Countries

Paul Tearle/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- British and Pakistani researchers say thousands of children in developing nations could be saved if given vitamin A supplements, BBC reports.

An analysis of over 40 studies which included 200,000 children found that death rates were cut by as much as 24 percent for children who were given the vitamin supplement.  Cases of measles and diarrhea could also be reduced, according to BBC News.

Vitamin A, found in foods such as oily fish, cheese and eggs, is vital to the immune and visual systems.

According to the World Health Organization, it's possible that nearly 190 million children under age 5 have a vitamin A deficiency.  That said, researchers on the study say laws should be enacted that would provide the supplements to every child at risk, BBC reports.

The researchers calculate that more than 600,000 lives could be save each year if given the vitamin A supplement.

The findings of the analysis are published in the British Medical Journal.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


FDA Drafts New Guidelines for Dietary Supplements  

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Millions of Americans take dietary supplements in the form of vitamins and minerals. There has long been debate over regulating their claims and their contents. Now the federal government is proposing stricter guidelines for makers of dietary supplements.
The FDA has drafted revised guidelines for when the manufacturers need to notify regulators about new ingredients.
A 1994 law already regulates new ingredients in pills, liquids and other supplements. Companies are required to file a safety notification with the FDA before adding ingredients that were not in their products when the law passed.
But the FDA has received only about 700 such notifications covering an estimated 55,000 supplement products. The new rules are supposed to increase compliance by clearing some of the confusion over just when notification is required.  The guidelines also provide a template for filing notices. But one trade group is already asking the government to relax some of the rules. The FDA is inviting public comment on the proposed changes.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Calcium Supplements Up Heart Attack Risk in Post-Menopausal Women

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(AUCKLAND, New Zealand) -- Post-menopausal women taking calcium supplements -- many times used to help fight off or treat bone less -- may be at a greater risk from suffering from a heart attack, according to a new study.

Using data from the Women's Health Initiative Calcium/Vitamin D Supplementation Study -- a seven-year trial in 36,282 post-menopausal women -- Dr. Ian Reid from the University of Auckland in New Zealand and colleagues concluded that women who took calcium supplements had a 13 to 22 percent greater risk of having a heart attack than women who did not.

The risk went up regardless of whether the women also took vitamin D, which promotes calcium absorption and bone mineralization.  The researchers also found a milder increase in stroke risk among women taking the supplements.

"When these results are taken together with the results of other clinical trials of calcium supplements, with or without vitamin D, they strongly suggest that calcium supplements modestly increase the risk of cardiovascular events, particularly myocardial infarction," Reid and colleagues wrote in the report published Wednesday in BMJ.  "These data justify a reassessment of the use of calcium supplements in older people."

But the findings, which stem from a review of old data rather than new observations, conflict with earlier reports from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI).

"In other WHI analyses, we found no association between [calcium and vitamin D] supplementation and [coronary heart disease] or stroke death and neither did these authors," said Andrea LaCroix, a professor of epidemiology at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and a co-author of the earlier WHI studies.

LaCroix says "exploratory" reviews of past studies can often lead to findings that result from chance alone.  But Reid and colleagues argue that the heart attack risk went unnoticed in earlier investigations because so many study subjects were taking calcium supplements outside of the study.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Vitamins and Vitamin Supplements: Use Increases in America

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(HYATTSVILLE, Md.) -- Do you take vitamins every morning? The numbers are growing. A new government study found that more than half of American adults take at least one dietary supplement. But despite their popularity, many experts remain skeptical of their effects.

"Although we were not surprised, it is interesting to note that not only did supplemental calcium use and vitamin D use increase for all women aged 60 and over from 1988 to 1994 to 1999 to 2002, but there was also an increase from [between] 1999 [and] 2002 to 2003 to 2006," said Jaime Gahche, a nutritional researcher with the National Center for Health Statistics and lead author of the study.

Supplements can contain high amounts of specific nutrients, and are often used to increase nutrition in a person's diet. They are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

Because so many Americans use vitamin supplements, researchers hoped to assess people's use of them in order to get an accurate picture of the population's dietary intake.

The study, sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics, found that more than 40 percent of Americans used supplements from 1988 to 1994, and more than one half took vitamins from 2003 to 2006. Multivitamins were found to be the most commonly used supplement.

Of particular interest to the researchers were vitamin D, calcium and folic acid supplements.

ABC News contacted several experts on the subject. While none was surprised by the increased use of vitamins, nearly all of them agreed that a healthy diet is a better alternative to nutrients in pill form.

"People are looking for help with what they believe is a problem but trying to solve it the wrong way," said Dr. Darwin Deen, clinical professor in the department of family and social medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. "Our diet contains too many processed foods that do not have the nutrients we need to keep us healthy -- soda and chips -- so people respond by taking vitamins."

Deen said he usually advises his patients to increase their intake of fruits and vegetables to boost their vitamin count, rather than take a pill.

"The pill is a nice idea, but we have no reason to think this one-size-fits-all dose makes any sense for each individual," said Deen.

Lead author Gahche said the report makes no recommendations on whether or not a person should or should not use dietary supplements. And if individuals are taking supplements, they should be sure to the tell their doctors what those are and why they're taking them.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio