Too Much (Or Too Little) of a Good Thing? Study Finds Vitamin D Label Information is Often Wrong

Posted by Pharmacist on May 20, 2013

We’ve all heard about the importance of vitamin D. It’s good for our heart, our bones and may even help prevent cancer. Because most Americans spend their workdays indoors many take a vitamin D supplement to ensure they’re getting the recommended daily allowance of 600 to 800 IU. Independent vitamin and supplement tester conducted a study that found more than 55 percent of the 10,000 people involved were taking a daily dose of vitamin D, which ranks it as the most popular supplement, ahead of fish oil and multivitamins.


A recent independent analysis of over-the-counter vitamin D supplements conducted by Kaiser Permanente found some disturbing results: the vitamin content varied from 9 percent to 146 percent of the amount on listed on the label. And not only did the study find incorrect content listed among different manufacturers, but also between pills from the same bottle.


The study covered 55 bottles of vitamin D purchased from 12 different companies in five different retail outlets as well as from a compounding pharmacy, all located in the Portland area.


Supplements are not regulated, so there’s no absolute way for consumers to know what dosage they’re getting. Still, there are options to find a reliable product.


The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) is a nonprofit, independent organization that has established safety and quality standards for supplements. The Kaiser Permanente research team said that manufacturers who voluntarily submitted their products to the USP for annual testing were more precise than other supplements. Consumers can look for the USP verification mark on the bottle to know if their supplement has been tested. It’s important to note that just because one supplement is accurate not everything from that company may have USP approval.


Francine Pierson, a spokesperson for USP said “We don’t grant a blanket verification for all of a manufacturer’s products; we verify each one individually. Before earning the mark, USP tests samples of products but also does a manufacturing facility audit and manufacturing and quality control/product document review — so the program is very thorough and involves more than just testing to help ensure quality.”


Just over one half of the retail products and one third of the compounding pharmacy’s product used in Kaiser Permanente’s study met USP standards.

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