What’s In Your Supplement?

I happened to catch XM 175’s Power Alley with Seth Everett and Jim Duquette as I was driving yesterday. They were interviewing the Philadelphia Phillies’ J.C. Romero about his 50 game suspension from Major League Baseball for violating the league’s substance policy.
If you’re a basball fan like I am, you’ll already know Romero’s case is not the typical A-Rod, Manny, Roger Clemens steroids case. Romero was found negligent by an arbitrator primarily because he failed to call the league hot-line regarding a dietary supplement he purchased at a GNC store in Cherry Hill, NJ.
Now, this is where the Romero story becomes interesting. Romero, a native of Puerto Rico, complied with baseball’s admonition to purchase diet supplements only from stores in the mainland. He complied with baseball by having his trainer check out the supplement prior to using it. He himself has stated that he read the supplement’s label and found nothing that would indicate the product contained banned ingredients.
Yet, when Major League Baseball tested him he came up positive. To Romero’s astonishment, he was fined $1.25 million and suspended for 50 games! Most baseball insiders admit Romero’s only error was not calling the baseball hot-line prior to ingesting the supplement, a supplement purchased at a well-known establishment.
This brings up a larger, more troubling point that goes beyond Romero and baseball. What’s actually in those supplements so many of us purchase at GNC stores or other health food outlets? The casual observer might think the answer’s simple-just read the label. However, it’s not that simple since the FDA has found some of these dietary supplements contain ingredients not listed on the bottle’s label. In some instances, the FDA has found that the quantities of ingredients listed on the label is erroneous.
Can we trust these diet supplements? Does anyone actually know how they’re manufactured and the ingredients in them? The answer is no, we don’t. And we don’t know because the dietary supplement industry is unregulated. Take for instance, the wildly popular Hydroxycut. It’s been removed from the market after some users have shown signs of liver damage, rhabdomyolysis, and cardiac problems.
The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 required supplement manufacturers to ensure product safety but the manufacturers have never been required to register with the FDA or gain FDA approval prior to marketing their products.
While the J.C. Romero case is sad and perhaps unfair, many consumers will suffer far greater fates if these products are not regulated.