Category Archives: health regulations and policy

Watch out for registered trademarks (®) in supplement ingredients

Adventures in Nutritional TherapyFor the past four years more and more supplements and foods have started suppressing my breathing, which needless to say has caused me some anxiety. It’s not like you can power through a suffocation side effect. I did manage last year to narrow down the culprits when I finally figured out that I was reacting to calcium fillers but that still left B6 and methylfolate.

Several readers had suggested that the MTHFR mutation might be behind health issues I’ve posted about, so if I couldn’t use methylfolate, did that mean that MTHFR was not the issue, or that it could be the issue but my liver was dying, or what?

Eventually someone reminded me of an important self-experimenting rule I have flaunted for years — try several brands of a supplement before giving up on it. The only brand of folate I’d ever used is Solgar, which contains Metafolin, a trademarked ingredient. From the murky depths of my magnesium-stearate-addled mind, a memory struggled to the surface — don’t companies trademark ingredients so they don’t have to list them? I googled Metafolin and sure enough, I found a description of it as being about one-quarter “calcium salt and water.”

I switched to a non-trademarked, no-calcium brand of methylfolate and VOILA, my breathing actually improved. A LOT. (Which led me to believe that the other things I react to are futzing with my folate levels.)

How you go about finding ingredients of registered trademarked substances is beyond me. I lucked out with the Metafolin. I couldn’t find any info on another trademarked ingredient that came to mind, ChromeMate.

Illustration by MRhea.

Twenty links for June 2013

Here’s a selection of articles I’ve tweeted/facebooked/google-plussed about this month.

  1. If someone asks you for a double-blind study proving that vitamin XYZ works…
  2. 97 percent of UK doctors have given placebos to patients at least once
  3. Yes, you can be overweight and malnourished
  4. World’s first clinical trial supports use of kava to treat anxiety
  5. Your gut flora might determine whether or not you develop celiac disease
  6. Seth Roberts on how to encourage personal science (AKA self-experimentation)
  7. Magnetic pulses now used in Britain to treat depression
  8. Rosemary aroma may help you remember to do things
  9. Sun exposure benefits may outweigh risks
  10. The quality of your health insurance has little effect on your health
  11. Infographic: Why you still feel like crap: the vicious cycle of drugs and side effects
  12. Flawed papers appear regularly in science journals, says biotech research expert
  13. China report on human rights in US points out deaths due to lack of health coverage
  14. Giving up reading the news will make you happier!
  15. JAMA study on why US adults use supplements
  16., a social network for health issues
  17. Modest changes in miltary dining facilities promoted healthier eating
  18. Hands-on treatment improves chronic low back pain, reduces medication use
  19. PepsiCo to halt use of bromides in Gatorade
  20. Brain cancer patient asks online world for input into cancer treatment

What a row: FDA’s New Dietary Ingredients draft guidance

December 2 was the deadline for comments on the FDA’s new draft guidance on New Dietary Ingredients, a set of new guidelines for supplement manufacturers on adhering to the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994.

The supplements industry is deeply troubled by the draft, which they feel would drastically increase the cost of proving the safety of their products without actually increasing the safety of supplements. Individual NDI filings will have to be submitted for each challenged ingredient, which at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars for each filing will be disastrous for smaller companies.

Just a few of the issues: synthetic versions of botanicals — lycopene from a tomato, say — would disqualify a product as a dietary supplement. Small changes in the manufacturing process will require a new NDI filing. Old lists of accepted ingredients proven as safe are dismissed, meaning a new NDI filing would be required for almost every product.

Jarrow Formulas (who make my favorite vitamin B12) was so incensed they submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for background on the development of the draft.

The draft does nothing to allay fears about a pharmaceutical industry campaign to reduce the supplement industry’s lobbying strength and increase public perception of supplements as unsafe in the hands of unguided consumers, and thus reduce resistance to the idea of patenting supplement ingredients for exclusive use in pharmaceuticals.

The FDA draft is covered extensively at New Hope 360, which seems to aggregate articles from the magazines Delicious Living, Functional Ingredients, Natural Foods Merchandiser, and Nutrition Business Journal.

Good example of the thinking behind our health and nutrition policies

Updated August 7, 2012: After reading Seth Roberts’ review of my blog, I realized that this post could use some clarifying and that Ancel Keys, author of the maligned Seven Countries study Dr. Lustig refers to, could use some equal air time. My edits are in bold. Raw Food SOS presents a closer look at the study here (via Primal Girl). There’s a quick summary after the first two graphs and the photo of Keys.

In this July 2009 video, “Sugar: The Bitter Truth,” Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Clinical Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology, goes over the reasons why argument that sugar, and specifically fructose and high-fructose corn syrup, are behind the obesity epidemic. (Sugar itself is half fructose and half glucose.) You’ve probably heard the gist of it before.

What’s of special interest to me is Dr. Lustig’s explanation description (around 21:50-42:10) of the mistakes in logic, selective science, corporate calculations, and political, market and economic considerations that led to the flood of fructose into the food supply, including the adoption of the low-fat diet health policy. Low-fat foods taste like crap, so manufacturers added sugar, and then high-fructose corn syrup — super-charged, super-cheap sugar — to enhance the taste.

Video: “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” 1:29:28

At around 34:00 he discusses the profoundly-flawed increasingly controversial “Seven Countries” study that led the American Health Association, USDA, and American Medical Association to launch the low-fat craze in 1982. As he says:

“We based 30 years of nutrition education and information and policy in this country on this study, and as far as I’m concerned it has a hole as big as the one in the USS Cole.”

Here are the points about fructose that struck me the most. There’s also a summary slide at 1:25:55.

  • It screws up the brain’s ability to register energy (calorie) input. The brain can’t tell when it’s taken in enough, so you never feel sated.
  • It’s metabolized the same way alcohol is — as fat — and has many of alcohol’s long-term health effects.
  • The low-fat diet is thus a high-fat diet. Fructose more than makes up for the low fat.
  • It’s everywhere — in milk and bread and even baby formula, which Dr. Lustig believes explains the epidemic of obese six month-old babies throughout the world.

Because I occasionally indulge in a Pepsi binge, after watching the video I decided to switch to Mexican Pepsi, which is made with cane sugar rather than HFCS. If I understand correctly, that’s less than half the fructose as in HFCS. So far I’ve had no luck finding it in my area.