Monday, August 10, 2009

Mislabeled Vegan Supplements?

It appears that some vitamin brands are listing their products as Vegan, yet formulating them with vitamin D3 synthesized from Sheep's Lanolin. There is no Vegan source of vitamin D3, which is produced by chemical synthesis when animal fats called sterols are exposed to Ultraviolet light (UVB rays). D3, or cholecalciferol, is always made from animal fat. The other form, vitamin D2, or ergocalciferol, is from a Vegan source; though one has to watch out for animal gelatin stabilizers and microbeads in microencapsulated dry forms, especially. Vegan microencapsulation for dry forms of fat-soluble nutrients including beta-carotene and lutein was only perfected in mid-2005, so it is possible that some products made before then were mislabeled as Vegetarian if the company did not investigate its raw material sources carefully. (Many brands do not manufacture their own vitamin supplements, relying on contract manufacturers to make their outsourced formulas for them. In many cases, the brands do not normally have access to the full ingredient and finished product specifications of the actual manufacturer. This can lead to ignorance and errors when making label claims related to the presence or absence of allergens and animal products.) The D2 form is synthesized from plant sterols exposed to the same kind of light. Plant sterols, by the way, have an FDA-approved health claim that they "may reduce the risk of heart disease" and are considered healthy. There is also a controversy over whether D3 is much better than D2. D3 is the form found in fish liver oils and is often added to fortify foods such as milk and orange juice. D3 is also the form that we synthesize in our own bodies when cholesterol (that animal sterol aforementioned) is exposed to UVB rays. D2 is likewise made by plants when their oils (plant sterols, or phytosterols) are exposed to UVB light. In modern studies, both forms are equally well absorbed and both are good at preventing rickets and maintaining bone mass. Both forms equally maintain the level of the active compound serum 25(OH)D3 levels. "Therefore, vitamin D2 is equally as effective as vitamin D3 in maintaining 25-hydroxyvitamin D status." It appears that D3 tests better than D2 in an occasional dosing schedule, like if you got it once a month from a doctor's office. But the assay is apparently flawed and is now known to not measure D2 very well, underestimating its circulating level. For everyday supplementation and fortification, both forms work equally well by all current measures. Some brands with "cultured" or "fermented" ingredients apparently believe that adding lanolin-sourced vitamin D3 to a yeast culture, then drying the whole thing and using it to make vitamins, somehow transmutes the animal fat form of the vitamin into a Vegan-friendly ingredient. They say that the yeast consumes the lanolin-derived vitamin and that the yeast is Vegan no matter what it is fed. But they present no evidence that yeast consumes vitamin D or changes it in any way. Quite the contrary; they brag about providing vitamin D3 – a known animal product - in a supposedly Vegan supplement. This indicates that they know that the form is not changed in any significant way by the yeast culture. One major brand, when asked by me only today, said that they do not disclose their D3 source for their vitamin labeled as Vegan because the source is both "irrelevant" and "proprietary". In other words, they won't tell us and we don't need to know. That pisses me off, pardon me for taking this apparent contempt for Vegans personally. I am not a Vegan but have been a vegetarian since 1972. I do not eat any type of flesh; avoiding not only all forms of meat but also animal broths, gelatin and leather. I scrutinize labels to assure that I am getting no animal products except for dairy, eggs, and honey. Now the Honest Nutritionist in me wants to sound the alarm that some companies are using animal products like gelatin and lanolin in their Vegan-claimed dietary supplements. Whether it's an honest (though sloppy) mistake or a deliberate attempt to have their cake and eat it too is hard to say for sure, but either way this is not fair to Vegans. I tend to fear the worst since they claim the supposedly superior and more popular D3 form in a product whose label also appeals to Vegans and Vegetarians who are being led to erroneously believe that there is now a Vegan-friendly source of D3. There isn't. It is just not true. We are being misled. D3 is not Vegan. D2 is, and is not a bad form as some try to claim. Some medical experts even want to routinely fortify the food supply with D3 because of the largely mythical superiority of that form; that would deprive all Vegetarians and Vegans of their right to avoid hidden animal products in our food. I believe that we have a fundamental right to select our diets based on individual religious, ethical, and cultural beliefs. It is wrong for a corporation to take that right away from us by incorrectly labeling their products that are marketed to Vegetarians and marked as Vegan. Mislabeled products are considered to be adulterated. Obviously, there is no safety issue here and it does not seem as if this matter has attracted much attention, as of yet. But these jokers have attracted my attention and I think that they deserve to get grassroots attention to their attempt to sell non-Vegetarian products to Vegetarians and Vegans. I am not naming names here but will not buy products made by any companies which suggest that animal-source D3 can ethically be sold to Vegans. If you are of the Vegetarian or Vegan persuasion, please check your product labels. If I see vitamin D3 in a product labeled as Vegetarian, I’d feel free to return it to the store as a mislabeled product and get my money back. Vote with your dollars and read product labels carefully before buying anything. If enough people do this, the companies with questionable products will have to deal with a lot of returns from unhappy customers and stores, combined with a drop in sales. Eventually, they will be forced to either correct their labels or change their formulas.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Vioxx withdrawn

ARTHRITIS DRUG WITHDRAWN, PEOPLE ARE LOOKING FOR ALTERNATIVES By Neil E. Levin, CCN, DANLA A major pharmaceutical company has announced a worldwide recall of its top arthritis drug due to cardiovascular problems seen in long-term users. Merck has withdrawn Vioxx from the market after a study was halted because users of the drug had 200% as much risk of getting heart attacks than participants taking a placebo. Medical experts are advising patients taking Vioxx to consult with their physicians about a substitute. If you are one of these people, there is no better time than now to discussthe use of natural alternatives to drugs with your doctor. If you can get temporary relief of aches and pains by using natural herbs and foods with minimal side effects rather than with more dangerous prescription drugs, why not? After all, dangerous side effects are one reason why drugs have restrictions on their sale in the first place. You have three basic choices to inhibit inflammation. Here they are, one at a time: PRESCRIPTION COX-2 INHIBITORS COX-2 Inhibitors help to prevent inflammation from developing by blocking the action of a certain chemical called COX-2. These drugs are noted for reducing "risk of clinically important GI (gastrointestinal) events" by some 50-60% versus non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen. However, most of the COX-2 Inhibitor drugs are also associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular problems. And there are still a goodly number of GI complaints in the COX-2 groups. Now one of the most prominent COX-2 inhibitor drugs has been pulled off the market for doubling the rate of heart attacks. Over-The-Counter NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) Doctors reportedly recommend NSAIDs, which are COX inhibitor drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen, more than they prescribe COX-2 inhibitor drugs like Celebrex and Vioxx. But there are also problems with NSAIDs. Gideon Bosker, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor at Yale University School of Medicine, reports on the use of NSAIDs for Osteoarthritis (OA) and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): "As every primary care practitioner knows, NSAID-associated GI toxicity has become a public health problem, especially among older patients with OA and RA. Gastrointestinal intolerance has been reported in up to 50% of patients on long-term NSAIDs. "NSAIDs cause irritations in the gastrointestinal tract, leading to bleeding and iron loss. (Bjarnason I, Macpherson AJ. Intestinal toxicity of non-steroidalanti-inflammatory drugs. Pharmacol Ther 1994;62:145-57) Going off drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen often causes a rebound effect that creates a cascade of inflammation in the Cox and Lox enzyme pathways. In one report the levels of these inflammatory markers was over 500% higher even two weeks after going off aspirin and ibuprofen! (Endres S. Oral aspirin and ibuprofen increase cytokin-induced synthesis of IL-1 beta and of tumour necrosis factor-alpha ex vivo. Immunology 1996;87(2): 264-270) Ibuprofen has caused kidney dysfunction and water retention. (Threlkeld DS, ed. Central Nervous System Drugs, Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Facts and Comparisons Drug Information. St. Louis,MO: Mar 1993, 251j-1l) There are about 16,000 deaths a year from NSAIDs, and 100,000 people hospitalized with serious complications. NSAIDs are blamed for over half of all liver failures in this country. These serious side effects have caused a demand for the COX-2 inhibitor drugs, which do not inhibit the COX-1 enzyme like some NSAIDs do. Two recent large studies (called CLASS and VIGOR) looked at the relative safety of NSAIDs versus COX-2 drugs. NSAIDs were shown to be associated with significantly more upper G.I. tract complications, including ulcers and bleeding. Partly because of such studies, COX-2 drugs have become a major success story for pharmaceutical companies over the past few years, becoming a multi-billion dollar a year business. Research published in the British Medical Journal found that 21% of adults with asthma are sensitive to aspirin. Aspirin may trigger a deadly reaction; as may ibuprofen, diclofenac and naproxen. The doctors recommend new warning labels on all products containing these drugs. DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS There are dietary supplements that may help control the inflammation associated with osteoarthritis. In some cases these will block the inflammatory COX-2 enzyme while not blocking the beneficial COX-1 enzyme. Some of these supplements will also block the 5-LOX inflammatory enzyme that is not blocked by many of the arthritis symptom relief drugs. SAMe (S-Adenosylmethionine) has been studied for depression, arthritis, and a host of other ills. Pronounced "Sam-ee", this substance was deemed effective enough to be studied in comparison to the COX-2 Inhibitor drug celecoxib (Celebrex), reportedly the least dangerous COX-2 drug in terms of cardiovascular risks. In this study 61 patients were enrolled in a randomized, double-blind, cross-over trial over a 4-month period. The researchers found that "SAMe is equivalent in almost all measures to COX-2 inhibitors (celecoxib) in relieving pain and improving function in subjects with osteoarthritis of the knee." Their functional parameters included depression, pain, impairment of physical activity and knee mobility and strength. The anti-inflammatory effects of aspirin and other drugs can also be achieved more safely with concentrated blends of spices and herbs that have a wide range of benefits. These formulas will block the COX-2 enzyme, which triggers inflammation in tissues as a response to chemical signals. NSAIDs block not only the inflammatory enzyme COX-2, but also the beneficial enzyme COX-1. The natural ingredients do not have this problem, because they block only the inflammatory enzymes. These natural ingredients will prevent the actions of not only the COX-2 inflammatory enzyme, but also of the 5-LOX inflammatory enzyme that the drugs do not usually affect. Look for an herbal formula that uses ingredients that have been shown to be helpful for inflammation and joint health, and also promoting normal cell growth (preventing abnormal growth). It should contain highly concentrated common spices like ginger and turmeric, which have been naturally extracted to contain the therapeutic chemicals in the plants. Other ingredients that will enhance an herbal formula are holy basil, EGCg-rich green tea extract, Boswellia, the antioxidant resveratrol and the enzyme bromelain (which helps digest damaged tissues so the inflammation can subside and you can rebuild). The herbs also serve as antioxidants and mild anticoagulants (bloodthinners). RELATIVE SAFETY The tremendous safety difference between dietary supplements and drugs is staggering. There are over 100,000 deaths a year from drugs versus a handful from all dietary supplements, which are far safer than any other category offered. Our risk of dying from eating dinner is far greater than from taking any dietary supplement. originally published September 30, 2004