It’s estimated that around 75% of consumers in the US take dietary supplements on a regular basis. Among older people, it’s higher with around 80% taking supplements. The industry has soared in value. It’s now thought to be worth over $40 billion.
However, the claimed benefits of some of these supplements are now under the spotlight of the FDA. The agency has announced that they plan to launch new action against companies who claim that their products can “treat” or “prevent” diseases, including diabetes, cancer, or Alzheimer’s.
Currently, the FDA doesn’t review any new supplements when they are entering the market. However, they do interfere if they have reason to believe they are using false or misleading claims about health benefits.
Last year, a study was published that found almost 800 types of supplements sold between 2007 and 2016 in the US contained unapproved ingredients. Furthermore, one particular unapproved pharmaceutical ingredient was found across 20% of the products.
The FDA has pledged to update its current policies. In a statement issued by FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the agency promised “one of the most significant modernizations of dietary supplement regulation and oversight in more than 25 years.”
He added: “As the popularity of supplements has grown, so have the number of entities marketing potentially dangerous products or making unproven or misleading claims about the health benefits they may deliver.”
The FDA also pointed out that when consumers use supplements to replace approved medical treatments, they are putting themselves at risk, and it can cause real harm. Earlier in the week, warning letters were issued to five companies marketing their products as a treatment for Alzheimer’s.
The Alzheimer’s Association has raised concerns over the increasing number of dietary supplements being “promoted as memory enhancers or treatments to delay or prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.” Among the concerns are possible safety issues, unknown purity, and the possibility of the supplements interfering with other drugs.