This article is part of the Arthritis Archives.
Dateline: April 12, 2000
Consumer Lab Raises Questions About Dietary Supplements
Since the popularity of dietary supplements has dramatically increased in recent years, the non-regulation of the supplement industry has become a serious concern. It has remained unclear to consumers, however, exactly how the non-regulation of the industry has been directly affecting them. Questions have begun to flourish about the efficacy and quality of dietary supplements and whether consumers have been getting what they have been paying for.
Consumer Lab Tests SAM-e Brands
ConsumerLab.com is a company which performs independent analyses of dietary supplements. In January 2000, the company tested 13 brands of SAM-e and the results were surprising to say the least. SAM-e is also known by the names:
SAM-e is a molecule normally produced by the body from dietary proteins. It assists the body in the production of a wide array of compounds, including cartilage components known as glycosaminoglycans. As an over-the-counter dietary supplement, SAM-e is used to treat osteoarthritis and depression. Theoretically, the dietary supplement SAM-e helps with production of the various compounds, especially when natural SAM-e levels are low.
Results from the ConsumerLab.com analysis of 13 brands of SAM-e revealed that only 7 of the 13 tested were accurately labeled. Of the 6 products which did not pass, the amount of SAM-e averaged less than half of the amount designated on the label. One product actually contained less than 5% of the labeled amount of SAM-e.
SAM-e is sold in many forms, containing an additional compound which is attached to the SAM-e molecule, for the purpose of stabilizing the SAM-e molecule and preventing degradation. Some of the inaccurately labeled products combined the weight of the stabilizing compound with the weight of the "free" SAM-e. To exemplify this, consider that a product claiming to have 200 mg. SAM-e may have contained only 100 mg. "free" SAM-e and 100 mg. of the stabilizing compound.
What's Missing From SAM-e?
It is imperative that consumers know the actual amount of SAM-e in the product which they are purchasing for both the therapeutic value of the product and for price comparison. It is also better to purchase enteric-coated tablets so that the product is less likely to break down in the stomach, prior to reaching the intestine where it is primarily absorbed.
SAM-e has been sold in Europe for over 20 years as a prescription drug. In the United States, SAM-e has not been classified as a drug and therefore is not subjected to government regulations or testing for quality control. Recommended doses of SAM-e range from 200 mg. to 800 mg. a day, taken in divided doses, depending on the condition and the severity of the condition. Small studies have been reported in the United States which deem SAM-e as safe and effective. More research and more conclusive evidence from larger studies is needed though.
Consumers are strongly advised to consult a physician prior to using any dietary supplement.
Sources: Product Review: SAMe, ConsumerLab.com; Some SAMe Supplements Found Lacking, WebMD, 3/29/00
First published: 04/12/2000