Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Vitamin pills could damage your health by making misleading claims, says British watchdog

People who pop vitamin pills in an effort to boost their health could be jeopardising their wellbeing as well as wasting their money, according to the consumer watchdog.

A survey by Which? found two-thirds of us have taken supplements in the past year. But on closer study many products were found labelled with misleading or insufficient information.

Researchers who visited supermarkets, chemists and smaller health shops in London in October found numerous examples of unsubstantiated claims on supplements.

Which? chief executive Peter Vicary-Smith said the worst culprits were those that claimed to maintain healthy bones and joints. Claims about key ingredients including glucosamine and long chain omega-3 fatty acids have all been turned down by the European Food Safety Authority. However, until the regulations have been fully implemented they will still appear on bottles.

Mr Vicary-Smith added: 'Researchers also found high-strength supplement products containing vitamin B6 and beta-carotene on sale, without the recommended warnings that taking too much of them could be harmful.'

In addition to visiting retail outlets, Which? conducted an online survey of 1,263 supplement takers across the UK. 'A third didn't realise that taking too much of some supplements could damage your health,' Mr Vicary-Smith said.

He called on the European Commission to address the issue. 'We're concerned that people are being taken for a ride, needlessly paying a premium for many products on the basis of health claims that haven't been backed up by scientific evidence,' he said. 'We want to see the European Commission release a list of accepted and rejected claims as soon as possible, so consumers won't continue to be bamboozled by health claims they can't trust.'

The NHS advises to always seek medical advice before taking supplements, stick to the recommended daily intake and don’t take them for too long. A spokesman added: 'Vitamin and mineral tablets are no substitute for a healthy diet. We tend to absorb nutrients more effectively if they’re in our food, rather than taken via a tablet.'

You can see which supplement health claims have been accepted or rejected at the EFSA website


New Drug May Ease Social Impairment of Autism

Since autism seems to be caused by some structural abnormality in the brain, I doubt that much will come of this

Researchers have launched a pilot clinical trial of a new medication aimed at relieving the sociability problems of adolescent and young adult patients with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The medication used, D-Cycloserine, originally was developed to treat tuberculosis, but previous studies showed, by chance, that it might change social behavior.

”What makes this important is you might have someone with a 125 or 130 IQ who’s unemployable” because of their social impairments, said lead investigator Maria R. Urbano, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS). Their difficulties in social functioning significantly reduce quality of life for those with ASD.

Researchers say that individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders are either disinterested in social interactions or find them unpleasant. “They often don’t understand what other people are thinking or feeling and misinterpret social cues,” said Stephen I. Deutsch, M.D., Ph.D., of EVMS. ”Sadly, persons with autism spectrum disorders are often painfully aware of their limited sociability, which can lead to profound feelings of sadness and frustration.”

The trial will show whether the medication, which is already known to be safe for use in humans, has similar effects on the sociability deficits of persons with autism as it does in mice. As part of their research, EVMS scientists verified that is a valid animal model of the limited sociability seen in persons with ASD.

EVMS scientists found that in the presence of another mouse, a specific mouse strain known as the BALB/c mouse moves as far away as possible and does not interact as normal mice do — just as people with autism often avoid making social contact with other people.

This finding gave researchers a way to test whether D-Cycloserine can alter the function of certain receptors in the brain known to affect sociability and help the animals be more at ease around others.

In preliminary studies at EVMS, the medication appeared to resolve the Balb/c mouse’s deficits of sociability; it behaved as a normal mouse would when placed near another.

EVMS’ laboratory studies with the Balb/c mouse led investigators to hypothesize that D-Cycloserine could ease the impaired sociability of people with autism, such as avoiding eye contact and personal interaction. Those traits can severely limit the possibility of employment and independent living.


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