Among the supplements that had too little of a particular nutrient were Trader Joeâ€™sVitamin Crusade (just 59 percent of the vitamin A advertised on the label), Melaleuca Vitality Multivitamin & Mineral (just 42 percent of the touted vitamin A) and All One Active Seniors (less than 2 percent of the beta-carotene, 73 percent of the retinol and 49 percent of the vitamin A listed on the label).
Centrum Chewables had the opposite problem, with 173 percent of the vitamin A listed on the label. This is of particular concern because too much vitamin A can spell trouble.
â€œIf you get too much vitamin A it can be toxic to your liver,â€ explained Dr. Michael Cirigliano, an associate professor of medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. â€œPeople donâ€™t realize that everything they put in their mouths is bioactive. Whether itâ€™s baby aspirin or food, it has an effect on the body. People think that if you can get it without a prescription itâ€™s safe â€” thatâ€™s baloney.â€
One product, Alpha Betic, took twice as long as it should have to break apart in solution, found ConsumerLab. The supplement also contained less vitamin A than it should have.
Particularly worrisome were high levels of certain nutrients in some of the childrenâ€™s multivitamins.
Hero Nutritionals Yummi Bears, if given to children at the suggested dose, would exceed recommendations by the Institute for Medicine for Vitamin A in youngsters aged 1 to 3. However, the multivitamins were found to be in compliance with the standards set by the FDA. ConsumerLab considers the FDAâ€™s standards to be outdated.
ConsumerLab found almost no connection between price and quality. Many of the cheaper pills (prices ranging between $0.03 and $0.14 per day) passed all the tests, while some of the most expensive ones (priced as high as $1 per day) failed.
Among the supplements that passed testing were several very inexpensive options, such as Equate Mature Multivitamin, at $0.03/day, Kirkland Signature Mature Multivitamins and Minerals Adult 50+ at $0.03/day and FlintstonesPlus Bone Building Support at $0.14/day.
ConsumerLab also tested several pet supplements, one of which, Pet-Tabs Complete Daily Vitamin Mineral Supplement for Dogs contained lead at unhealthy levels.
Ultimately the new report is a strong argument for more regulation of the supplement industry, both Cirigliano and Hurley said.
â€œPeople are using these products more and more,â€ Cirigliano explained. â€œThere needs to be more regulation.â€