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   Feb 09

Don’t Give Up On Your Supplements Yet: Why That Damning Report Was Fatally Flawed

If you’re among the millions of people who take herbal supplements, your hopes about getting the pure herb product you expected might have been dashed earlier this week. That’s when four major retailers—GNC, Target, Walmart, and Walgreens—were accused by the New York State Attorney General’s office of selling store brand herbal supplements that contained none of the advertised herb—or contained unlabeled ingredients. (Read more about the accusation here.)

The NY State Attorney General’s office hired James A. Schulte II, PhD, associate professor, biology, of Clarkson University in Potsdam, NY, who used DNA testing to determine the supplements’ purity. But, according to experts we’ve consulted, DNA technology is not an accurate method of testing herbal supplements. That’s because many supplements contain herb extracts that are processed in ways that destroy the plant’s DNA. The absence of DNA, though, has no impact on the effectiveness of the supplement.

“These results do not ring true to me,” says Pieter Cohen, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “The FDA spot checks hundreds of companies, and most mainstream companies check that they put the correct plant substance into their products. So it’s unbelievable that almost 8 in 10 products tested by the attorney general would not even contain the correct plant. On the surface, something is terribly wrong with these results.”

Another red flag: the Attorney General’s office mentions the supplement-testing organization ConsumerLab as a reputable source for finding legit herbal supplements. Yet in 2012 ConsumerLab gave thumbs-up to ginko biloba supplements from all four chain stores that failed the Schneiderman test. “There are certainly plenty of problems with herbals, but this recent analysis was not a reliable way to look for them in extracts,” says Tod Cooperman, president of ConsumerLab. “You can’t reliably say whether or not there is a problem just because DNA was not found.”

Although using DNA testing is an accurate way of identifying raw herbal material, it is not an accepted test for herbal extracts, agrees Tieraona Low Dog, MD, former Director of the Fellowship at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, University of Arizona. “There exist accepted methods for testing herbal products, and one of these should have been used in addition to DNA to confirm the results.”

Source: Prevention.com

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