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“Nutritionists maintain that a balanced diet that includes 5 daily servings of fruits and vegetables, as well as grains, gives most people all the B vitamins they need. Only small amounts of these vitamins are needed to reach the recommended dietary intakes.” (American Cancer Society)

Vitamin B is actually a combination of 7 different types of B vitamins, each with a specific purpose in helping keep bodies healthy:

  • Vitamin B1 (thiamin) and vitamin B2 (riboflavin) help the body produce energy and affect enzymes that influence the muscles, nerves, and heart.
  • Vitamin B3 (niacin) has a role in energy production in cells and helps keep the skin, nervous system, and digestive system healthy.
  • Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) influences normal growth and development.
  • Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) helps the body break down protein and helps maintain the health of red blood cells, the nervous system, and parts of the immune system.
  • Vitamin B7 (biotin) helps break down protein and carbohydrates and helps the body make hormones.
  • Vitamin B9 (folic acid or folate) helps the cells in the body make and maintain DNA and is important in producing red blood cells.
  • Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) plays a role in the body’s growth and development. It also has a part in producing blood cells, nervous system function, and how the body uses folic acid and carbohydrates.

Doctors prescribe vitamins, and less frequently, supplements for patients based on blood results indicating a deficiency or in the case of medical concerns indicating a need for vitamins. Individuals choose to take vitamins, often swayed by advertising or the suggestion of some well-meaning person who thinks everyone could benefit from vitamins or the newest health fad. Vitamins are readily available; you can even buy them at gas stations. The problem arises when people self-diagnose, take too much of a supplement, or unknowingly purchase a product that is tainted or mislabeled.

Last week the FDA issued a recall for a vitamin B dietary supplement that contained unlisted substances-anabolic steroids. The Healthy Life Chemistry by Purity First B-50 was found to contain methasterone, a controlled substance, and dimethazine, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

“Products marketed as a vitamin but which contain undisclosed steroids pose a real danger to consumers and are illegal,” said Howard Sklamberg, director of the FDA’s compliance office. Regulators received 29 complaints associated with the product, including fatigue, muscle pain and cramps, and liver and thyroid problems,the FDA said. (CNN News, 7/27)

There have been no deaths, but some of the patients were hospitalized. According to a NBC News report, the issue was reported to the FDA by a physician who treated 20 patients with similar symptoms of fatigue and muscle pain as well as abnormal lab tests. All the patients had been referred by another physician who had been prescribing a regime of dietary supplements. Each of the patients had been taking the Healthy Life Chemistry product.

We usually trust doctors to act in our best interest. Prescribing vitamins is standard practice and necessary for certain conditions. The news story assumes that the doctor in question prescribed a specific brand of supplements, Healthy Life Chemistry by Purity First B-50. The doctor may have been following proper medical procedure in prescribing a vitamin regime. The problem lies in the unscrupulous practices of many manufacturers of dietary supplements compounded by the lack of regulatory statutes governing additives, manufacturing conditions and labeling.

As I noted in an earlier story on Jack3d, a supplement with potentially lethal side effects, A 1994 US law declared dietary supplements exempt from pre-market FDA approval. So, when you go to GNC, your grocery store, or a reputable health food store you cannot assume that products sold there have been tested for safety. The B-50 product produced by New-York based Mira Health Products Ltd contains steroids that were not listed among the ingredients. The company has not issued a response to the FDA’s warning at this point.

We do not know what target market the company had in mind for this product, but at least 29 unknowing individuals have been made sick.

Men showed signs of low testosterone levels and impotence; women reported abnormal hair growth and disrupted menstrual cycles. Serious side effects of steroid use included liver and thyroid damage.

If you want to learn more about supplements and how to make safer choices when purchasing these products, this Consumer Reports article contains useful information.

The FDA’s Recall Announcement:


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