Among the supplements that had too little of a particular nutrient were Trader Joe’sVitamin Crusade (just 59 percent of the vitamin A advertised on the label), Melaleuca Vitality Multivitamin & Mineral (just 42 percent of the touted vitamin A) and All One Active Seniors (less than 2 percent of the beta-carotene, 73 percent of the retinol and 49 percent of the vitamin A listed on the label).
Centrum Chewables had the opposite problem, with 173 percent of the vitamin A listed on the label. This is of particular concern because too much vitamin A can spell trouble.
“If you get too much vitamin A it can be toxic to your liver,” explained Dr. Michael Cirigliano, an associate professor of medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “People don’t realize that everything they put in their mouths is bioactive. Whether it’s baby aspirin or food, it has an effect on the body. People think that if you can get it without a prescription it’s safe — that’s baloney.”
One product, Alpha Betic, took twice as long as it should have to break apart in solution, found ConsumerLab. The supplement also contained less vitamin A than it should have.
Particularly worrisome were high levels of certain nutrients in some of the children’s multivitamins.
Hero Nutritionals Yummi Bears, if given to children at the suggested dose, would exceed recommendations by the Institute for Medicine for Vitamin A in youngsters aged 1 to 3. However, the multivitamins were found to be in compliance with the standards set by the FDA. ConsumerLab considers the FDA’s standards to be outdated.
ConsumerLab found almost no connection between price and quality. Many of the cheaper pills (prices ranging between $0.03 and $0.14 per day) passed all the tests, while some of the most expensive ones (priced as high as $1 per day) failed.
Among the supplements that passed testing were several very inexpensive options, such as Equate Mature Multivitamin, at $0.03/day, Kirkland Signature Mature Multivitamins and Minerals Adult 50+ at $0.03/day and FlintstonesPlus Bone Building Support at $0.14/day.
ConsumerLab also tested several pet supplements, one of which, Pet-Tabs Complete Daily Vitamin Mineral Supplement for Dogs contained lead at unhealthy levels.
Ultimately the new report is a strong argument for more regulation of the supplement industry, both Cirigliano and Hurley said.
“People are using these products more and more,” Cirigliano explained. “There needs to be more regulation.”