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   Aug 22

The great health supplements con: How firms like Seven Seas and Vitabiotics exaggerate benefits of pills used by millions says Which?


Study found many of the claims made for products are not only exaggerated and misleading but may be unauthorised

Manufacturers responded angrily to the Which? report by accusing the consumer group itself of misleading the public

The makers of big brand health supplements were yesterday accused of exaggerated and misleading claims for their benefits to heart health, joints and digestion.

Names such as Seven Seas and Vitabiotics tap into families’ health concerns, but many of their products fail to deliver the promises on the packaging, according to a study.

The health supplement industry is growing rapidly and now makes some £385million a year in the UK.

However, the study by experts at consumer group Which? – entitled Don’t Believe The Hype – found many of the claims made for these products are not only exaggerated and misleading, but may even be unauthorised.

A new EU regime requires companies selling health supplements to provide independent scientific evidence to support marketing and packaging claims.

The industry has submitted 44,000 commonly used claims for supplements and food products for approval by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) over the past five years, yet only 248 have been successful.

A third of consumers regularly take food supplements of which glucosamine and chondroitin, often found in products claiming to support joints, are among the most popular. However, these claims have been formally rejected by the EU.

Concerns: The makers of big brand health supplements were yesterday accused of exaggerated and misleading claims for their benefits to heart health, joints and digestion.

Claims for prebiotics and probiotics, which have been advertised as supporting healthy digestion and immune systems, have also been rejected by the EU.

Manufacturers responded angrily to the Which? report by accusing the consumer group itself of misleading the public.

Which? said that three products – Bioglan Probiotic capsules, Bimuno Prebiotic powder and Seven Seas Cardiomax – all made unproven health claims on their packaging and websites.

The Bioglan and Bimuno products made unsubstantiated claims that they help maintain digestive health, while the Seven Seas product was wrong to suggest it was necessary ‘for a healthy heart’.

It has been illegal since December for manufacturers to include health claims on packaging that are not approved by the EU. There is an exception for certain probiotic strains and glucosamine, which must be removed by January 2014.

A panel of Which? experts also raised concerns about the packaging of six other popular products, suggesting they could confuse the public with exaggerated and ambiguous claims.

These were Boots Digestion Support Plus, Bioglan Glucosamine Plus Chondroitin and MSM, Seven Seas Jointcare Active, Boots Joint Health Glucosamine Sulphate & Chrondroitin, Vitabiotics Jointace Original and Optima ActivJuice for Joints.

Which? said some of these had used larger font sizes on certain ingredients, such as glucosamine, to imply a health benefit when this was not supported by evidence.

All took advantage of additional ingredients, such as vitamin C or calcium, which do have real and proven health benefits, to imply all of the ingredients were also proven to be effective.

Which? pointed out that glucosamine supplements can cost up to £1 per day, while a multivitamin could cost as little as 3p per day. Both could contain vitamin C, which has proven health benefits, as opposed to glucosamine that has none.

The consumer group’s executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: ‘It’s worrying that some manufacturers aren’t playing fair on the packaging of food supplements.

‘We have campaigned for health claims on these products to be backed up by scientific evidence, so it’s disappointing that manufacturers are still using clever language to imply unproven benefits.’

Graham Keen, director of the Health Food Manufacturers’ Association (HFMA), hit back saying: ‘This new report is inaccurate as it infers that manufacturers are misleading their customers – which is simply not true.

‘Just because a certain ingredient does not have an EFSA-approved claim, does not mean that it doesn’t have a beneficial effect.’

He said the reason that EFSA has rejected many claims made for these products is because the assessment process has been too strict.

‘The huge quantity of claims that have been rejected is largely a result of EFSA applying an inappropriate pharmaceutical-style assessment to generic health maintenance claims on food ingredients, an approach usually used for assessing illness-related claims on drugs which are obviously completely different,’ he said.

Glucosamine and chondroitin are molecules that make up the type of cartilage found within joints.

They are claimed to help in the treatment of arthritis.

Phosphatidylserine is a naturally occurring nutrient that is an essential component of human cell membranes. It is marketed as helping to maintain optimum brain and cognitive functions.

L-arginine is an essential amino acid and one of the building blocks of proteins in the body.

Critics say it is not necessary to take as the body usually produces enough.

5-HTP is a natural amino acid found in the body which is anecdotally claimed to raise serotonin levels in the brain.

Ginkgo biloba is one of the oldest living tree species. Some studies have claimed it can help with memory problems caused by dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids necessary for human health but the body can’t make them – they have to be obtained through food and are common in oily fish.

They play a crucial role in brain function, as well as normal growth and development.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2399370/Health-supplements-Which-says-firms-like-Seven-Seas-Vitabiotics-exaggerate-benefits.html#ixzz2cggYbMoa

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