Back in 2010 I wrote about a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that said nearly all of the supplements it tested contained contaminants … pesticides, lead, and other heavy metals. It wasn’t minor: “16 of the 40 supplements tested contained pesticide residues that appeared to exceed legal limits.”
Employees of the GAO also went undercover posing as consumers. Here are some clips of their conversations with sales staff:
The supplement industry is a mess. The problem is that they’re not regulated. I know some people are happy about that because they’re concerned they might not be able to get their hands on them. Or that regulation will increase their cost. Both of those things are probably true, to an extent. But I would rather see them regulated if it meant more assurance that what’s on the label is in the bottle. Right now, you don’t know. There’s no guarantee that stated potency is accurate. Or that there’s no contamination. Most fish oil pills contain mercury, some at dangerously high levels. Many herbs contain pesticides and heavy metals.
Another problem is that vitamin and mineral supplements often contain (or say they contain) more than the RDA, which I think is a bad idea. The RDA/DRI already includes a margin of safety. And too much of a vitamin can be a problem. Recall that too much vitamin C lowered endurance and mitochondria production in men who were training. I’ve written about others. Really, you don’t want to go over the RDA. But supplement makers capitalize on consumers’ erroneous belief that more is better.
Of course, testing comes at a price. A 2-month supply of their men’s multi retails for $84.