Claire Corlett

Fish Food, Fish Tanks, and More
Vitamins and Supplements: Magic Pills – the fifth estate

Vitamins and Supplements: Magic Pills – the fifth estate

(♪♪)>>Gillian: Tonight onThe Fifth Estate, they comepacked with promises.>>I will guarantee you that this will change your reality within three to five days.>>Gillian: Herbs, minerals, vitamins. Three out of four Canadians take them.>>Right here I have a Liposomal D –>>This is our bacopa, it’s a very potent anti-oxidant.>>Gillian: It’s a $1.4 billion industry with players from big pharma to mom and pop, but what is in the bottle?>>I go in to buy a product that I believe in, that I care about, and I pay a lot of money for it. It’s not even in the bottle, are you kidding me?>>Gillian: Could we be taking too many?>>Many people are taking too much Vitamin D. We can’t assume that more is necessarily better.>>Gillian: Could they be dangerous?>>You actually could hurt yourself. You actually can increase your risk of cancer, increase your risk of heart disease. I think few people know the risks they’re taking.>>Gillian: I’m Gillian Findlay and this isThe Fifth Estate.(♪♪) In the fields outside Guelph, Ontario, Steven Newmaster is on a quest. He’s a botanist at the University of Guelph, part of an international team collecting and cataloguing nature. Making a library of its DNA. For Newmaster, it’s a labour of love. He believes in the power of nature to heal.>>I buy and use natural health products. I believe in them. I’ve used them all my life. I use them with my family. We have that anecdotal evidence that you have some ailment and you take whatever the remedy is and it’s dealt with.>>Gillian: So it’s an irony that his study would shake the industry that makes those products. In 2012, Newmaster and his team randomly selected 44 herbal supplements sold in Canada and the United States. And started comparing what was in the bottle to the DNA in their databank.>>We looked at the results and I was fairly astounded, it was like wow.>>Gillian: 60 per cent of the products contained ingredients not listed on their labels. Even more astonishingly, one in three proved to be outright fakes.>>Really surprised me most were complete substitutions. That’s where there’s a product on the label and the only DNA we found is for some filler like alfalfa.>>Gillian: So they’re advertising it as being a particular product and there was none of that product.>>It wasn’t even in the label, and as a consumer, if I put my consumer hat on, that pissed me off because I go in to buy a product that I believe in, that I care about and I pay a lot of money for it and it’s not even in the bottle, are you kidding me?>>Gillian: At around the same time, in Long Island, New York, another case was coming to light. And this time, the contamination would hurt people. It started with a woman who decided she wanted to get into the vitamin business.>>I started in my kitchen making them by hand back in the ’80s. I would order the ingredients, I would order the capsules, and with a plate of a hundred capsules, I would weigh it out and fill them up and you have a bottle of a hundred capsules of any particular vitamin you wanted.>>Gillian: Do you have background in pharmacology or medicine or any expertise in this area?>>I did some college but most of my time was spent in the medical libraries at Stonybrook.>>Gillian: So you sort of were self-taught, then were you?>>Self-taught, correct, yes.>>Gillian: Candice Tripp called her company Purity First, the vitamin formulations were developed by her ex-husband, a chiropractor. And what was his academic background or expertise in this area?>>He was a chemist, he was a chemist in college, and then he went on to chiropractic school.>>Gillian: From modest beginnings, she grew the company into a half a million dollar a year enterprise selling Purity First on the Internet, in retail stores and through local alternative health care providers.>>Purity First is a great name and I said how could you go wrong, it’s what you would imagine you would want in every single vitamin, that it’s absolutely pure.>>Gillian: Vinnie Grosso was an early Purity First customer. The vitamins became part of his daily pursuit of better health.>>I’m running every day. I’m feeling great up until the October, November, December time frame of 2012 where I had some very unusual symptoms.>>Gillian: Unexplained back pain soon became debilitating. He then started hearing from other Purity First customers who told him of their own problems.>>I’m hearing stories. My daughter is an honour student and she’s on the swim team but she’s been thrown out of school for being overly aggressive. I’m talking to a woman who had lost her position in a choir because her voice had changed. I’m talking to another woman who said I’ve got these incredible bleeding scales on my head and I can’t go to work.>>Gillian: What they all had in common were the Purity First B-50 vitamins they were taking. Testing would reveal the vitamins were contaminated with anabolic steroids. By then, customers had started hiring lawyers. Chris Meagher was one of them, and the stories, as horrific as they were, started making sense.>>Hair growth on a young lady, with one of our clients, basically developing moustache, beard. There’s something called clitoromegaly, horrible, it’s something I was not familiar with. But it’s actually the female sexual organs taking on a male configuration. For the men who ingested these things, they developed gynecomastia. You’d end up with male breasts.>>Gillian: How the steroids got into the bottles didn’t turn out to be much of a mystery. Purity First had outsourced production to a manufacturing company that used to be based here, Mira Health Products, it turned out, made more than just vitamins. It was Candice Tripp’s current husband Joe Keuller who confirmed it with Mira’s owner.>>I called Mike and said pretty much, what could have happened, and, you know, he was making the male-enhancement pills, and he said, Joe, he said, if they found any type of steroids in there, the only thing I could possibly think is maybe the mixer was not cleaned enough.>>Some vitamins manufactured here in Long Island are triggering –>>The FDA recently issued a recall –>>Gillian: Mira, it was revealed, had a history of manufacturing violations. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration would eventually shut the company down.>>We’re in Farmingdale in front of Mira Health Product>>Gillian: As for Purity First, the FDA demanded the vitamins be recalled but that would take nearly six months. What it all revealed was how little oversight there is of an industry that affects so many.>>I was very concerned and then I realized that this whole industry needs change, and how much danger we’re all in, not just from Purity First likely but from others that can put anything in these little bottles and put a seal and a label on it.>>Gillian: When we come back, when it comes to supplements, how much is too much? Can they actually cause harm?>>You actually can hurt yourself. You actually can increase your risk of cancer, increase your risk of heart disease, I think few people know the risks they’re taking. (♪♪) (♪♪)>>Gillian: In Canada today, there are more than 27,000 natural health products licenced for sale. Purveyors from pharmacies to health food stores to international chains. GNC, the largest has 200 stores across Canada with plans for more. ♪ It’s a great big beautiful day ♪>>Omega 3s is essential for good health.>>Gillian: Our screens blare advice on how supplements can make us healthier.>>Supplements, I get this question all the time, I only take four pills.>>Gillian: Reputations and fortunes have been built on dispensing that advice.>>The leading nutritional experts agree that everyone should be taking a multivitamin, multimineral product.>>Gillian: But amid the hype, what’s often lost is the science that increasingly warns what we’re taking to feel healthy might actually be doing us harm.>>When people walk into the dietary supplement or vitamin store, they think that everything is just perfectly safe.>>Gillian: Dr. Paul Offit is an infectious disease specialist and best selling author. His book “Do You Believe In Magic” questions whether we’re taking too many supplements starting with vitamins.>>You need vitamins to live. The question is do you get enough in food and I think the answer to the question is yes but now there’s studies showing if you take a megavitamin you actually can hurt yourself, you can increase your risk of cancer, increase your risk of heart disease. I think few people know the risks they’re taking.>>Gillian: And how do you know what’s too much?>>Here’s how you know what’s too much. You shouldn’t by-pass the satiety level. Your stomach is only so big for a reason.>>Gillian: He illustrates the point with 1,000 milligrams of Vitamin C. That’s one of these tablets. But consider this: The Vitamin C in that one tablet is equal to not one, not two, but between seven and eight entire canteloupes.>>You’re not meant to eat eight canteloupes, it’s a dangerous thing to do, to go against what nature intends.>>Gillian: It’s even worse, he says, with Vitamin E. This capsule contains 1,000 international units. You can also find Vitamin E naturally in almonds but to get the same amount, you’d have to eat a lot of almonds, 1,670 to be precise. Scientific studies have shown that too much Vitamin E can be dangerous, especially to men.>>If you take large quantities of Vitamin E as a supplement, you clearly and definitely increase your risk of prostate cancer and in a better world, in a regulated world, where Vitamin E, a regulated product, it should have a black box warning on it that says just that.>>Gillian: Vitamins E and C are anti-oxidants. For years, we’ve been drawn to them because anti-oxidants are the mortal enemy of free radicals, cells linked to cancer and other diseases.>>I mean, if you look at people, for example, who eat diets rich in fruits, rich in vegetables, that contain anti-oxidants, they do seem to live longer and have lesser rates of cancer and heart disease so the thinking was great, now we figured out a way to make ourselves healthier. Now let’s — let’s double down and take even larger quantities of anti-oxidants and that’s where we cross the line and now study after study shows in fact it’s true, you can take too much in the way of anti-oxidants.>>Gillian: But that message hasn’t reached the public. Even though it appears the scientific world has reached consensus. In 2013, The Annals of Internal Medicine published an editorial, enough is enough, argued the case is closed, supplementing the diet of well-nourished adults with most mineral or vitamin supplements has no clear benefit and might even be harmful. So what about Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin? Next to multivitamins, it’s the top-selling vitamin out there. Promoted by everyone from family doctors to those on TV like Dr. Mehmet Oz.>>Vitamin D, if I could take one vitamin to push, to everybody to think about in their lives, it’s Vitamin D.>>Gillian: It’s true we do all need some Vitamin D. Health Canada, like U.S. authorities, recommends adults get 600 international units a day. But look at the doses some are pushing.>>My patients I’ve recommended 5,000 I.U.s daily.>>Around the 5,000 I.U. tends to be perfect when people are initially really low–>>Gillian: On this Canadian website, I answered three questions, my height, my weight and my age and was told I needed 10,000 international units a day, 16 times what Health Canada recommends. That advice came from this health research foundation in Calgary. Pure North S’Energy, a non-profit enterprise, is on a mission to improve Canadians’ health by, among other things, increasing our levels of Vitamin D.>>So Vitamin D, do you want to take that right now?>>Okay.>>Yes. And that will boost your Vitamin D level.>>Gillian: Here they test blood levels and say none of their participants has ever been harmed by taking more Vitamin D. They believe Health Canada made a mistake in calculating the daily amounts it recommends. They base that largely on a study by an Alberta epidemiologist. For its part, Health Canada and the U.S. Institute of Medicine have rejected that Alberta study but Pure North continues to disagree.>>Those recommendations that Health Canada makes are a blanket recommendation and what they assume is that the population is healthy.>>Gillian: That’s the problem, says nutritional scientist Samantha Kimball, head of Pure North research department.>>We know that 60 per cent of the population is overweight or obese. We know 50 per cent of the population has digestive issues. The rates of chronic disease, et cetera, et cetera, but those assumptions just don’t apply to our population.>>Gillian: Okay. Well, I went on to your website, I went to your Vitamin D calculator and I put in my age and my weight and my height. And the recommendation that came out of that was that I needed 10,000 international units of Vitamin D. What is the evidence that you can point to to say that your numbers are right?>>Well, there’s plenty of evidence that demonstrates that that level is safe. The other component of that is that in order to reach an optimal blood level, that is the best available evidence demonstrates that 10,000 is what you would require.>>Gillian: First of all, you didn’t take my blood level, I did this all on the computer so you don’t know what my blood level is. But nevertheless, you’re recommending I need that kind of –>>As a Canadian in the winter, if you’re not already taking supplements, that’s –>>Gillian: That’s your best guess.>>– what you require, yes.>>Gillian: But it is a guess.>>Oh, no, it’s definitely a guess. Everyone has a different response to Vitamin D.>>When I hear that various groups are recommending 10,000 I.U.s a day or even 5,000 I.U.s a day routinely, I really want to say show me the data, show me the evidence.>>Gillian: Evidence is what Dr. Joann Manson is accumulating here. The Brigham and Women’s Hospital researcher has collected blood samples from 25,000 people, making her Vitamin D study one of the largest in the world. She’s comparing disease rates between those who take Vitamin D supplements and those who don’t. Final results won’t be known for two years but, already, Manson has concerns.>>Many people are taking too much Vitamin D. The Institute of Medicine also recommended avoiding getting above 4,000 I.U.s daily because that could be associated with adverse events. Calcium in the urine which can be associated with kidney stones, high blood calcium, calcium of arteries, vascular calcification as well as soft tissue calcification and there are now studies that show a U-shaped curve that those who have high as well as low blood levels of Vitamin D have higher risk of cardiovascular disease as well as all-cause mortality. So we can’t assume that more is necessarily better. (♪♪)>>Gillian: Then there’s fish oil. The third most widely-used supplement in North America. The Omega 3s contained in the oil are believed by many to be essential for good health.>>DHA Omega 3 in particular is extremely important.>>Gillian: Adam Ismail is executive director of one of the world’s largest fish oil trade associations.>>There’s certainly ample evidence that helps things like reducing blood pressure, reducing your risk of coronary death, reducing triglyceride levels, heart rate.>>Gillian: But the science behind fish oil is a little more complicated.>>So these are two capsules. This is an FDA-approved product, this is a very commonly sold supplement.>>Gillian: Preston Mason is a Harvard University researcher.>>And give it a smell.>>Gillian: It smells a little bit fishy but not bad.>>Right. So you’re going to have always some smell.>>Gillian: One of the issues with fish oil is it’s delicate. It’s extracted as a by-product from oily fish like anchovies. As the fish get crushed, the oil is exposed to oxygen and it doesn’t take much oxygen to turn the oil rancid.>>This is a common supplement for fish oil.>>See what that smells like.>>Gillian: Oh.>>What?>>Gillian: That doesn’t smell good. That smells like it’s going bad.>>Yeah, right, yeah. That’s a very strong fishy smell.>>Gillian: If it was simply an odour issue, that would be one thing. But oxidized oil contains oxidized lipids, lipids are one of the building blocks of cells. Scientists have long known that lipids, when oxidized, may do harm.>>So oxidized lipid triggers inflammatory responses within our body, particularly in our cells, and if we ingest oxidized lipid, we can trigger these inflammatory changes that can lead to things like cardiovascular disease.>>Gillian: No one yet knows at what point oxidized lipids may become dangerous, but over the years, studies have shown Omega 3 supplements containing high levels of them. In 2002, the industry set a maximum oxidation standard, a voluntary one. And yet just this year in New Zealand, a study found 83% of fish oil supplements failed to meet the industry standard.>>It was shocking to see such a high proportion of products that had high oxidation levels and so we went and actually bought 47 products from the New Zealand market and had them tested.>>Gillian: What was the percentage that you discovered that were not in compliance with your standards?>>It was around 20 per cent.>>Gillian: Would you agree that 20 percent is still problematic?>>Well –>>Gillian: From the consumer’s point of view?>>If it’s truly 20 per cent, then, yeah, we would like to see those 20 per cent improved.>>But even if the industry improves the quality of fish oil, it won’t address the other issue about Omega 3 supplements and that is the growing evidence that they don’t live up to their claims, that they don’t help prevent disease. Two years ago, endocrinologist Dr. Andrew Grey compiled all the best studies on fish oil as reported in the world’s most prestigious scientific journals. The vast majority were in agreement.>>I think the cardiovascular disease one has to say there is no compelling evidence that taking fish oils protects against the first heart attack or a second heart attack, and so people who are advised to do that or are doing it are wasting their time and their money.>>Gillian: But the fish oil industry continues to insist the benefits are real. We asked the industry association to send us their best evidence which, strangely, turned out to include some of the same studies Grey cited and didn’t seem to help the case that Adam Ismail was trying to make. This one says it doesn’t appear to reduce sudden cardiac death. The next one, insufficient evidence. JAMA 2012, overall, Omega 3 supplementation was not associated with a lower risk of all-caused mortality. Another journal 2012, the evidence is not clear-cut that any benefits are almost certainly not as great as previously believed. So that doesn’t seem to be suggesting there’s an overwhelming amount of evidence.>>Yeah, well, I think what you’re looking at are the abstracts and I brought the studies with me so I can show the actual data from inside the full papers.>>Gillian: But the conclusions are the conclusions.>>Well, but again, those papers are looking at very large areas of cardiovascular disease and, you know, I think it’s hard to argue that Omega 3s aren’t important for how your heart functions.>>Gillian: It might be true, if you get the Omega 3s from eating actual fish. The problem is science has yet to prove the same is true for supplements.>>We would think that something that’s natural, that’s essential to normal cell function and body function would have clinical benefits. It just has to be proven. There’s a lot of important and noise or promotion but we still need the strong clinical trials to validate those hypotheses.>>Gillian: So in the absence of scientific evidence for so many supplements, why are regulators so eager to approve them? When we come back.>>This says to us that they know that the products are of low quality. (♪♪)>>Gillian: North America’s love affair with dietary supplements came of age in the ’80s. Everyone, it seems, was on a quest for better health.>>That is an anti-oxidant, synergistic with “E.”>>Gillian: Fed up with a traditional medical system that too often seemed cold and impersonal, people were embracing alternatives. Science was out, nature was in. And an industry was poised to take advantage. Back then in Canada, most natural health products were regulated as food. There was no requirement for testing, no need for manufacturers to prove their products safe or effective before putting them on the market. But some people got sick and that put pressure on government to do something. It would lead to a battle. Manufacturers and believers against scientists and regulators. Those with the responsibility to protect public health. The battle first erupted in Washington.>>We are back at the turn of the century when snake oil salesmen could hawk their potions with promises that couldn’t be kept.>>Gillian: In the early ’90s, David Kessler arrived at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration promising tougher regulations for supplements. In particular, demanding manufacturers back up health claims with evidence.>>The industry went bonkers. I’ve taken on some of the hardest regulatory issues. I did tobacco. Tobacco looked easy compared to dietary supplements. What happened was the dietary supplement industry recognized that the standard that we set, significant scientific agreement, would require it before it could make a claim to have a scientific basis, and they just couldn’t make any claims. And they saw literally billions of dollars at stake, and they unleashed a lobbying campaign that was second to none.>>Gillian: The campaign was as dramatic as it was effective. Framed by the industry as an attack on fundamental freedom. Even got Hollywood involved.>>Vitamin C, you know, like in oranges.>>Gillian: The appeal for letters produced millions, more mail than congress received about the Vietnam War. And it worked.>>784, a bill to amend the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act to establish standards with respect to dietary supplements and for other purposes.>>Gillian: The law that passed was a victory for the industry. In the United States, there would be no requirement to prove supplements safe or effective before allowing them on the market. In Canada, a few years later, the same battle would play out as industry and its advocates took aim at Health Canada’s plan to clamp down. Among the proposals, to regulate natural health products as pharmaceuticals, hold them to the same scientific standard as prescription drugs. Dr. Stuart MacLeod sat on a Health Canada advisory board that recommended just that.>>That we should have a single standard of evidence, and we should not be endorsing any products that didn’t meet that standard, and we were really talking about the standards of efficacy, the kind of thing that comes from a randomized control trial.>>Gillian: As in the United States, the pushback was intense.>>It’s about control and big money. Why, after centuries of successful use of these herbs and plants throughout the entire world, would the government butt in now to tell you that you can’t make decisions for your own health or yourself and your family?>>Gillian: There were letters and petitions, and, in the end, the campaign worked here, too. Then health minister Allan Rock backed down.>>We must respect and allow room for Canadians’ freedom of choice when it comes to natural health products. The government should not be in the business of micromanaging people’s lives.>>Gillian: But unlike in the U.S., in Canada, there would be some rules. If Canadian manufacturers wanted to make health claims, they would have to provide some evidence the claims were true. They also committed to following good manufacturing practises. It was a deal the industry still holds up as a reassurance for consumers.>>Health Canada has provided us with one of the strongest regulatory frameworks in the world.>>Gillian: Helen Long heads the Canadian Health Food Association.>>Before a product even goes to sale, you must provide proof that your product works, that it has quality ingredients, that it’s effective, that it does what it says it will do on the bottle.>>Gillian: But what constitutes proof? In 2001, Wayne Friesen of Winnipeg got into the supplement-making business. Today, his company, Innotech, markets 16 products. His biggest seller? A vitamin powder called Cardioflex.>>Basically, it’s an amino acid formula. You’re elevating your essential amino acids like lysine, you’re elevating that from whatever you’re eating in your daily routine with your diet. Okay, so that’s not going to work very good unless you have adequate levels of Vitamin C so we have three kinds of Vitamin C.>>Gillian: Who formulated this?>>Well, we worked with a chiropractor and we challenged the formula, do we want this in it, do we want that in, like how — is it going to taste good?>>Gillian: what expertise does a chiropractor have when it comes to cardio health?>>Well, just — there’s a lot of chiropractors that believe in the Linus Pauling theory for the nutrients that are missing out of the Western diet.>>Gillian: Linus Pauling was once a giant in the world of science. A double Nobel prize winner in chemistry and peace who became even more famous for his theories about high doses of Vitamin C which he claimed could cure everything from the common cold to cancer.>>He was a scientific hero who was making that statement and that changed things.>>Gillian: A hero Dr. Paul Offit has famously called arguably the world’s greatest quack.>>I think when he made those statements in the late ’60s and early 1970s, megavitamins, taking vitamins vastly in excess of the recommended daily amounts became something people thought was a good idea.>>Gillian: Was there science at the time that suggested that he was right?>>There was not a shred of science to suggest that he was right. In fact, some of the early studies done in the early ’70s showed quite the opposite.>>Gillian: Over the decades, study after study refuted Pauling’s theories, and yet 40 years later, it’s still hard to disabuse the believers. Wayne Friesen sells a product based on Pauling’s ideas, all approved by Health Canada. You know that Dr. Linus Pauling’s science on this has been discredited for many years now, that the scientific community has essentially written off Dr. Linus Pauling when it comes to Vitamin C in these kinds of formulations and the prevention of disease.>>Yeah, there is some press on that with some medical doctors and that but not amongst the health industry, the natural health industry has embraced it.>>Gillian: In the early days of regulations, Health Canada seemed to be proceeding cautiously, rejecting more applications than they approved. But that created a backlog, and it wasn’t long before the government was under political pressure from an industry anxious to get the system moving again. In 2012, Health Canada went on a cross-country tour to hear from the industry directly.>>So this was a PowerPoint presentation given by Health Canada.>>Gillian: Michael Kruse of the watchdog group Bad Science Watch attended some of the sessions and kept the hand-outs. Health Canada was promising a new approach. But the slides reveal problems Health Canada was aware of. For example, 40 per cent of complaints received were about natural health products, 40 per cent of those were about quality.>>They say contamination, they say purposeful adulteration.>>Yeah, those are all certainly things that we brought up as well. And supported by loads of evidence. This says to us that they know that the products are of low quality that are getting to market.>>Gillian: And yet the solution seemed to be to trust the industry even more. According to this slide, it was up to the licence holder, not Health Canada, to ensure quality. For many claims Health Canada would accept what it acknowledged was weak evidence. It was all part of its effort to make the approval process quicker and clearer. Kruse couldn’t believe what he was hearing.>>One of the outcomes of that was that you could get approval in as little as ten days for your product. Now, I thought ten days? How is that possible? But there was a small manufacturer who stood up and said ten days is too long. We want to be able to respond to what’s called the Dr. Oz effect, what Dr. Oz has, raspberry ketones, for example, on his show and says these are the new miracle product, we want those products on our shelves within a couple days and I just thought, well, this is the problem.>>Gillian: In the end, the industry got what it wanted. From rejecting more than half of applications, Health Canada today approves more than 90 per cent of them. It does retain the right to conduct spot inspections, but it employs just ten inspectors for an industry that now boasts nearly 800 licence holders. Which brings us back to manufacturers. Wayne Friesen says Health Canada has inspected his factory. No one has ever suggested his Cardioflex has caused harm. But given its roots in now discredited Vitamin C science, on what basis did it get approved? Health Canada tells us Cardioflex’s ingredients meet established standards for promotion of cardiovascular as well as general good health. And yet at $49 a jar, Innotech’s claims for Cardioflex go far beyond that. I’ve looked at some of your marketing and these are among the claims that you make: That this product lowers cholesterol, it increases energy, it lowers high blood pressure, it improves HDL cholesterol, the good one, it alleviates chest pains, it improves circulation, and it makes you feel younger. So what evidence do you have to support any of those claims?>>Those are the — not necessarily the claims but those are the — some of the things that are reported by our customers who use it over the last 12, 13 years.>>Gillian: But I’m trying to get at is there any science that you have done or anybody has done that supports those claims that you make in your marketing?>>With this product?>>Gillian: Yeah.>>Well, we’re about to do a study with –>>Gillian: You haven’t done any to this point.>>Right, nobody has.>>Gillian: How do you know it’s actually effective is I guess what I’m asking?>>Well, we wouldn’t put it on the market unless it was effective.>>Gillian: Repeatedly, we asked Health Canada for an interview to discuss all of these issues. Repeatedly, they refused. For critics, it raises the question, given the weaknesses of the Canadian system, is it really any better than the unregulated system in the U.S.?>>There really is nothing different, you know, in the final accounting between the two systems and that’s what concerns us.>>Gillian: We have lovely regulations on paper but in practise –>>They’re not being enforced, yeah.>>Gillian: When we come back, what can happen when regulations are missing.>>We found the results to be shocking, we found asparagus DNA, houseplant DNA, rice, and other things, but not the product that was on the label. (♪♪) (♪♪)>>Right here I have our Liposomal D –>>This is our bacopa.>>This is an herb that would be great for older individuals that are –>>Essential nutrients like chromium.>>Gillian: For as long as there have been supplements, there have been concerns about contamination, adulteration, even fraud. But few studies have had more impact than the 2013 study led by Guelph University’s Steven Newmaster. 60 per cent of products he tested had ingredients that shouldn’t have been there. One in three were fakes.>>When we got the results, I remember saying to my colleagues, this is very, very important information, and the public is going to be very concerned.>>Gillian: It wasn’t just the public. After the study appeared in a scientific journal, it was picked up by the New York Times and read by New York’s attorney general.>>Last December, my office purchased a variety of store brand herbal supplements from stores in different parts of New York state.>>Gillian: Eric Schneiderman ordered up his own tests of herbal supplements which produced even worse results.>>Found that only 21 per cent of the products we tested in fact had DNA evidence that they contained the product listed on the label.>>We found the results to be shocking. We found asparagus DNA, houseplant DNA, rice, and other things, but not the product that was on the label so there were people selling what reported to be ginseng that clearly contained no ginseng and this is a multibillion dollar a year industry and it seemed that there was just a massive fraud going on.>>Gillian: Schneiderman started by ordering retailers to stop selling the products in question. He then went looking for political support. Today, 14 states attorneys general are calling on the U.S. congress and the FDA to finally get serious about supplement regulation. But the FDA’s equivalent in Canada has been strangely unconcerned. Since publishing his study, Steve Newmaster has heard from regulators and industry players around the world but he has yet to hear anything from Health Canada.>>No, I don’t recall an e-mail from them, a phone call. We haven’t crossed paths in meetings that we go to.>>Gillian: So this has been published in a major scientific journal –>>I’m waiting, and I’d love to work with them and I’m not sure how this fits with their mandates and how they could move it forward, the technology.>>Gillian: We asked Health Canada why they didn’t act on Newmaster’s work, especially since the Americans did. In a written reply, they said they did review the study but because Newmaster didn’t list all ingredients and brands that he tested, Health Canada decided no action was necessary. So what about the industry? One in three products tested were fakes? Is it not concerned? Canadian Health Food Association’s Helen Long…>>Well, I think it’s important to remember that there are varieties of testing. I’m not a scientist so I can’t speak to the specifics of the testing but I think it’s important to remember there are various methods.>>Gillian: You don’t accept the method that was done here, the DNA –>>I’m not suggesting that, but I’m not a scientist. Health Canada has not yet approved that method of testing.>>Gillian: Health Canada may not have approved it but some in the industry are starting to embrace it.>>Take some of the sample and simply –>>Gillian: Since publishing his study, Newmaster has refined his DNA barcoding technology. Made it more portable and cheaper to use.>>Load it into the machine. Press “Go.”>>Gillian: The giant supplement retailer GNC has now agreed to start using DNA barcoding, Walmart has expressed interest, too. And what is North America’s largest manufacturers, Nature’s Way, recently formed a partnership with the scientists at Guelph in a renewed effort to put quality first. Travis Borchardt is a Nature’s Way V.P.>>It is a game changer, right? We started working with Dr. Newmaster and started a relationship which included testing many of our herbal dietary ingredients for identity.>>Gillian: If Newmaster has his way, supplement makers will soon be able to test ingredients all the way back to the source.>>Easy — it can be tested all the way along and I think that’s an appropriate way to solve a problem.>>Gillian: But that still leaves the question of what, if any, of this stuff actually works.>>We’re using the herb combined with the standardized extract –>>That contains perna–>>Gillian: In the absence of science, in the absence of meaningful regulation, what is a consumer supposed to believe? The problem may all be encapsulated in this. Every natural health product approved for sale in Canada is given a number, it’s right there in the small print. It’s Health Canada’s assurance the product is both safe and effective. But critics say it’s meaningless.>>I think the government is misleading the public and suggesting that they have validated the efficacy and quality of natural health products.>>People are spending millions of dollars on these products every year. And most of them have no evidence of efficacy. So they’re being duped by a manufacturing lobby that really is focused on profit and not on the person’s health.>>Gillian: And yet people buy and still they believe. Perhaps there are some things that science will never change.>>We love the notion of the magic pill, we do. Something that makes it all better. It’s just too seductive. (♪♪) (♪♪) (♪♪) (♪♪)

100 comments on “Vitamins and Supplements: Magic Pills – the fifth estate

  1. We are dealing with demons wearing ties and withe coats…..with dishonest people that only serve money lobbies.

  2. Another marketing scam. To eliminate free radicals, fast few days a mount. It rests the dif-gestive system, eliminate toxins and its free

  3. Offitt as your "expert" to minimise or take down intake of supplements? Yoiu must be kidding, CBC! He also said 10,000 jabs of vaccine in one day to a baby is okay.

  4. All health benefits for ANY vitamin of health supplement if tested can be found by doing a basic simple search on the US National Library of Medicine's database website at:
    What's so difficult about that? People can easily read for themselves what something does – I'd never rely on any commercial company to tell me what any vitamin/ supplement does.
    Yes, there is the problem of not knowing what's actually in unregulated vitamin/ supplement capsules.

  5. The blonde woman championing massive vitamin D doses, avoided the question, when asked if she had any scientific evidence for her claims. She got nervous, swallowed a couple of times, paused, and said, there's lots of evidence, did not mention one peer reviewed paper, just says the evidence is there. Not nearly good enough.
    The peer reviewed papers on the subject contradicts what that person tells people, in order to sell product.
    The few studies I have read about chemical analysis of "supplements" sold in stores that sell supplements, have found many strange and dangerous substances in those products and usually little or none of the ingredient people believe they are buying.
    That is what happens when such consumables are unregulated. You have no way of actually knowing what is in the pill, capsule, or liquid you are putting into your body.
    I laughed big when I learned that the man who concocted the Purety products was a chiropractor. He was not a "chemist", he had some chemistry in university but gave up science to pursue chiropractic garbage. Chiropractic practice is also full of unverifiable claims.

    The claim that uncleaned mixers might be the source of the steroids in the purety products is absolute BS. To get those kind of symptoms from steroids, you are taking a lot of it, not just the traces a mixer might leave in a batch.

  6. Ah, so congress and the Canadian parliament are full of law makers who care more about their political careers and the lobbyists, than they care about the health and safety of their constituents.

    This is not about robbing consumers of choice, it is about making the industry safe. It is about making the industry stop using false ingredients lists, it is about seeing that the consumer is getting what they are told they are buying. Why should these companies be allowed to make claims that are blatantly false? You would not accept that from auto manufacturers, mattress manufacturers, or even toy manufacturers.

    We actually worry about what is in the paint on a children's toy, and for good reason. But, we care less about what is in a thing you are putting into your body or the bodies of your children???????????????

    How is it that we can be so cynical and so distrustful about so many things, while being OK with blindly believing what some unknown manufacturer claims, about pills they want you to buy, for very high prices, and to swallow. That is a huge and frankly irrational amount of trust.

    I am not trying to insult people for their choices, I am commenting on how irrational some of those choices are and why regulation will not hamper YOUR choices, but will help ensure the honesty of manufacturers and marketers.


  8. Taking more than the recommended dose of vitamin D means I don't fall into a horrible depression every winter. It makes things more tolerable.

    THere's the other problem that agricultural soils are badly degraded and there is simple not as much nutrition in industrial food as there used to be.

  9. The Secrets to Healthy Hair, Skin, and Nails.
    If you wanna be healthy, include biotin as your main ingredient. for more visit:

  10. vitamine D in holland is very very small, and aren't alloud to take more than 1 small pill. if you do it wil harm you, like all the other viatmine pills. atleast it warns people not to go about a certain amount.

  11. ive been taking supplements most of my life and ive still got autoimmune disease,,hypothyroidism,,bleeding gums,,cfs,,ibs,,indigestion,,inflammation,,pain etc..waste of just stick with healthy food…if you can FIND it..(gmo etc,,yuk..

  12. those issues are as old as more than ten years ago and still today there's no regulation..there's no actual doctor behind those claims and they don't shos any data…so…what did change?

  13. Basically it's the business man who are ruling all over the world. They are influencing people and also getting laws passed accordingly to ensure zero threat on their existing business. And celebrities are just paid puppets who endorse products irrespective of its effects.

  14. The major issue in the US is the high price of fruits and vegetables. People prefer to spend money on placebo pills and junk food than taking the time cooking and eating healthier (without pesticides & chemical fertilizers). As long as there is demand there is supply. Unfortunately lots of people fail to understand that taking supplements isn't going to replace a healthy diet and a minimum of outdoor exercise at least once a week. More importantly keep in mind that there is nothing in the world that will rejuvenate you or maintain your health other than what nature have gave us for free in it's primary form.

  15. If you eat right you’ll be fine and won’t need to take it, also I’m not including older women if you know what I mean

  16. I don't think that we get enough vitamins with food – iron, magnesium, calcium and vit. d deficiency are quite common among people I know.

  17. Just go back to the way it was when we were kids simple fix …seems now a day it's pills here pills there and doctors giving same to patience,,the side effects on some of the pills is unbelievable,,very dangerous stay away from the gimmick,,all about money they don't care about our health,,beware

  18. Vitamin supplements are meant for people who don’t get enough of a vitamin or doesn’t eat the food that contains those vitamins

  19. I would think pills with 1000 IU of vitamin E are rare. there's only NINE IU in my fish oil capsules for example. People should inform themselves on the products they buy, it's that simple. Sadly they can't be trusted to. Too much of anything is harmful, of course. Doesn't mean the premise of supplements is wrong. I've tried a lot of them and I won't reorder a lot of them. But some of them are actually useful. I inform myself about studies and then make my own judgements as well. Governments should regulate the quality of food, supplements and medicine very tightly. Just like they should regulate what we do to our environment. Some people are like little children that need guidance. And the rest are misled, manipulated and misinformed by marketing.
    I hope that the craze around supplements will lead to more rigorous research into their effects.

  20. How do industries expect to sell their products if are not tested first for their ingredients' quality and effectiveness? Also why they have the Why this problem still continue to grow? This is bad!

  21. zinc magnesium and b complex are not a scam nor fish oil. Scam is pills pharmacy sells that only treats chronic disease and causes all other kinds of side effects. So fed up of these mainstreamers saying supplement is dangerous when drugs are way worst. If you want to ban a supplement ban

  22. Fish oil? More like snake oil, amirite? Gangsters everywhere. From The IT Crowd – "People? What a shower of bastards."

  23. Yea, they are largely unnecessary… Not many health professionals would recommend that you take supplements unless you have specific health issues or unless you are pregnant or elderly…

  24. Of course, what do supplement companies have to gain? They just want us to be healthy. It's not like they're not making millions of dollars in sales.

  25. Yet another counter-argument against pilled vitamins and supplements is that they have no cumulative effect, i.e., they're working as long as you're taking them; you stop for a month, and all the good work is undone. So, basically, you're hooked for life, to the joy of the manufacturing companies :))

  26. As with anything, there are a lot of opportunists in this area and a lot of trendy products. There are also a few very good brands. You have to be discerning and educate yourself. A cheap supermarket variety of supplement is going to be a waste of money compared to the best. Its typical that these shows attempt to discredit the whole business based on a few obvious charlatans and gimmicky products which companies will capitalise on – that's true of any area of business and commerce. I've been taking the same multivit for decades and I notice the difference when I don't take it.

  27. Pregnant women need folic acid. Many people need calcium, iron, and vitamin D. Many people do not eat their veggies and need more. Vegan's need B12. Everyone is different. I have COPD and take carnitine and nac. It helps me

  28. 18:42+ they worry about oxidize oil/lipids that can do harm. What do you think of boiling pots of oil for your french fries??? Or any frying you do in your house???
    Find a good Nutritional Supplements you can trust. It only takes 3 months or 6 you should feel big improvements or even better… Got Better from your ailment.

  29. With glyphosate all of our food has become toxic by omission > of all the vitamins and minerals necessary for the proper operation of our immune systems. Also when is Health Canada going to test all vaccines for safety and effectiveness and publish the results.

  30. Urbanisation is evil. It deprives you from naturally grown food and good environment so you need medicine to balance it. Lol.

  31. Someone should try selling SNAKE OIL CAPSULES, just to see if they sold. Whey to go! Is there ever a placebo effect? Does anyone care?

  32. The fact that the supplement industry successfully convinced the consumers to take action against their own self-interest paints a terrifying picture of what happens when uninformed populace meets propaganda. I mean, what they managed to pull off is a testament to the advances in behavioural psychology and how effectively the people can be herded into believing what those in power want them to believe.

    I bet all of those who must have sent letters to the Congress to ban regulations on the supplement industry must have thought of themselves as some noble warrior who is protecting his rights against "BIG GOVERNMENT" without having the faintest idea that the supplement industry must be laughing all their way to the bank. Democracy is truly a double-edged sword.

  33. 16:00 That’s why you take Vitamin D3 With K2. “Show me the evidenceeee” okay how about being honest and telling the viewers that most supplement sellers recommend ingesting K2? No she won’t tell you that.

  34. This is a hard issue, though science could not really proof whether they are working or not. For me, a regular upplement of fish oil helps my good cholestorol level a bit, and I just take a small dose that my physician recommended.

    Well, to my knowledge, get in touch with a real doctor of your health condition, as they have better knowledge of how human body works, and what nutritions makes what organs function. Get a checkup, follow the prescription, and follow up with your doctor of your condition. You should always get advise from a doctor (a few, actually).

  35. I absolutely love how they show the equivalent in food source for the vitamins, like that's all that the source contains is the vitamin portion. Yes the cantaloupe only contains vitamin C! Sad part not a lot of people actually analyse what they are showing and how everything is presented.

  36. The supplement industry came when Orrin Hatch’s deregulation of vitamins law in 1994. The public was protected before that. Why did he do this? Because the top 3 supplement companies set up shop in UT and gave him boatloads of “campaign” money.

  37. You don't need to take vitamins if you eat healthy. Vitamins is mostly for people who are sick and has been prescribed them by a doctor.

  38. BBC! this is so irresponsibly bad-researched, anti-information. shame on you! Supplents are very important amogst healthy nutrition, lifestyle and much more….

  39. The law should not allow these to be sold in "pharmacies" unless they have been scientifically validated. Selling them in a pharmacy indicates to consumers that everything has been verified by a "trusted" pharmacist so it must be safe and effective.

  40. So what about prenatal vitamins?? Has anyone looked into that? They are not made any different than all other supplement vitamins. They also have way too much IUs/mcg/mg than what we are supposed to take a day (as a pregnant woman). And the vitamins are often in a synthetic form, really bad for you and baby. But it's what Doctors recommend to pregnant?!

  41. Most of the vitamins industries are basically another junk food. Is God create pills for us to swallow? All natural food is the key… Not pills.. U can't find any pills eater can live up to 100 years old.

  42. Depends how they make vitamins. It's not problem herbs, it's problem if they mix some chemicals drugs with herbs.

  43. Does anyone else not wonder how come in 2019 we still don't have a clue what is good and bad for us or what the exact amount of vitamins we need.

  44. which is worse, pharmaceutical drugs, and vaccines (neither of which have a list of ingredients readily available to the injected before injection; does the good doctor tell the patient, this pill, medicine has all these ingredients in it? Or do they even know?), or 'pharmaceutical' vitamins ?
    God gave man in the beginning a perfect range of vitamins and minerals in untainted unprocessed natural foods., naturally bio-dynamic and brimming with natural goodness.

    But 'man' did and has and still does, as usual mess up the natural programme. Something that mankind is very adept at doing.
    The so calledd "Food (processed) Industry" is also another monolith disaster. I have never seen on a package of processed food a list of side effects if taken or the warning – "Dangerous for your health!" As long as it has sugar in it and some salt – who cares?

    If at all possible it is better to have as much natural home grown food, even if it is plain and simple; even if it is a home grown potato, and a home grown spinach plant, and a chook that eats worms or scraps and some grass..

  45. 24:21 You had plenty of studies and scientific proofs that tobacco is harmfull and yet it's still up for sale ! What a shame!

  46. Don't be dumb people, listen to (actual) doctors and not marketers. Of course vitamins gotta be regulated! How the f*** anyone can state otherwise? Don't be ridiculous.

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