Where Local and Global Appetites Collide

Health Food Blog:Nutritional Dietary Supplements-Healthy or Fake?

Heparin, a blood thinner, used primarily in kidney dialysis centers or to prevent blood from clotting during heart surgery has been found to be contaminated not by the heparin active ingredient but rather by a cheap, toxic hypersulfinated chondroitin sulfate substitute from China.

Awareness of the killer substitute ingredient happened around the first anniversary of the pet food recall when a cheap, toxic ingredient (melamine) was substituted in the manufacturing of pet foods. An epidemic of thousands of pets because seriously ill or died.

One year later, bad things are still happening without scrutiny of U.S. food and drugs (and toys) supplied from China and other countries.

According to Wikipedia, chondroitin sulfate is made from the cartilage of cows, pigs, sharks. Chondroitin sulfate is used to treat osteoarthritis in people and also in veterinary medicine, to treat dogs with arthritis.

In 22 countries, chondroitin is a prescription item but in the United States, it is not. Here it is considered a dietary supplement without mandatory standards for formulation and labeling as to the percentage of actual chondroitin in the dietary supplement.   

Unlike chondroitin sulfate, the culprit was oversulfated chondroitin sulfate which is a man-made chemical.

Oversulfated chondroitin sulfate mimics heparin’s qualities and is a chemically modified form of chondroitin sulfate.

Currently the FDA doesn’t know if this man-made contaminant found up in the heparin was deliberately or by accident. Oversulfated chondroitin sulfate is less expensive than the active pharmaceutical ingredient in heparin.

The moral of the story is that you really don’t know what is in those nutritional supplements and dietary supplements that you buy. Not only can you be paying for a product that doesn’t have the percentage of ingredients necessary to help you lose weight, feel good, yadda yadda — but these same products and drugs could be filled with toxic substances.

Buyers beware.

  1. Your conclusion is blatantly flawed logic.

    The drug Heparin, is a pharmaceutical drug manufactured by Baxter International. It was this pharmaceutical drug, regulated by the FDA, that was found to be contaminatied – not a dietary supplement.

    Further, the compound contaminating the drug – as you point out – is not the chondroitin sulfate found in supplements, but a hypersulfinated form of chondroitin, which is not taken as a supplement for joint pain.

    So – you write about a contaminated pharmaceutical drug, which is not a dietary supplement, but a regulated, prescribed medical blood thinner. Then you point out that the contaminate is not, in fact, a substance that is used in dietary supplements.

    Finally, you draw a conclusion that has no connection, logical or factual, to the supporting facts of your blog. The fact that Heparin was found to be contaminated simply shows that even government regulation cannot prevent all contamination.

    Having illuminated that egregious flaw in your thinking, I will, nonetheless, agree with your unsupported proposition. One must be educated regarding supplements. As with any other product – including regualted pharmaceutical drugs – there are the good and the not-so-good.

    Research the supplements you plan to purchase and use. Advise your physicians of your intentions. Purchase quality products from reputable manufacturers that adhere to the government’s Good Manufacturing Practices.

    You can find an herbal data base at http://www.theorganicaffair.com to obtain objective information on herbals and dietary supplements. You can also read about high quality products there that are not the subject of lawsuits, government regulation and product recalls.

    Thanks for allowing me to clarify your blog.


  2. My understanding is that a large percentage of both prescription and non-prescription drugs sold in the United States are compounded from chemicals made in India and China. Those manufacturing locations are the result of the efforts of U.S. companies to cut costs and increase profits. Like the food industry, the drug industry has been left to be essentially self-policing. As we can see from the recent problems with pet food as well as drugs, this is an imperfect scheme.

    Reading of someone else’s loss of a loved one or pet as a result of a product contamination may not raise one’s anger. But, for those who knew and loved the nineteen people who died as a result of the heparin problem, it is an unforgivable situation. Our government has not properly addressed this because the food and drug lobby is powerful enough to keep effective controls out of their business. As consumers and citizens we must demand that our government implement effective monitoring of all products, including nutritional supplements, critical to our health.

  3. Great post,

    Nutritional supplements can come in all different shapes and sizes – many different nutritional supplements can make a huge difference in your life. Nutritional supplements are exactly what they imply; they are the vitamins and minerals and other nutrients that your body needs to be healthy.

  4. That artice about heparin is disturbing. It makes me terrified to take prescription drugs. I have always felt more comfortable dealing with the supplement world. some people call me crazy, but I think the supplement industry in a lot of ways is leaps and bounds ahead of the prescription medication companies. They have so much red tape to trip over and cut through before they can release a product that it takes years and insane ammounts of money. Supplement companies dont have as many problems because they dont promise a cure or treatment of any disease (even though in a ton of cases that is exactly what you get). Pharmecutical companies actually study the newest and the leading health supplements, and some of their products are surprisingly similar in some cases Identical. They just pay the FDA fees and jack up their prices in order to be able to promise treatment of a disease.

    Another source of comfort for me has been that alot of health suplements are produced right here in the states. Not In China like Heparin. I have been taking Orovo supplements for quite a while now and all their stuff is made in the western U.S. They even have comprehensive lists of all their ingredients right on their site in plain view and are honest about what they put in their pills and drinks . The are just one of a million great supplement companies, but I would recomend finding a supplement company like them to anyone looking to feel better and get some peace of mind.

  5. All supplements (as well as food) are suspect until I know thoroughly the manufacturer. Make sure that you find out who is making the supplements that you buy. Often the company that is selling the herbs or supplements are not making the product. Only buy from reputable companies, who have high standards. Some that are excellent are Standard Process, Gaia Herbs, Eclectic Institute, HerbPharm, Metagenics, & Thorne. These are just a few of the very good reputable companies. Lucky for us, most of the companies out there are providing us with safe good products. Research any company before you buy their products. The following URL will take you to the site of the organization that works to self regulate the industry. http://www.ahpa.org/ . Be careful and be healthy!

  6. Taking health supplements, as the name implies, is simply to supplement your diet but these pills and tablets should NEVER replace your healthy eating plan.

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