nos-trum. pronunciation: \nos'-trum\. noun. Etymology: Latin, neuter of noster our, ours.
1. a medicine of secret composition recommended by its preparer but usually without scientific proof of its effectiveness.
2. a usually questionable remedy or scheme.
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Saturday, April 3, 2010

Par For The Course: Many Pomegranate Health Supplements Contain No Active Ingredient

Studies showing benefit from pomengranate led to commercial supplement capsules--which have none of the beneficial pomegranate ingredients.

A study in Israel a few years ago showed that a small group who drank pomegranate juice daily over 3 years experienced a 20 mm Hg drop in blood pressure, and a reduction in thickness of their carotid artery walls.  Thickening of artery walls is a possible indicator of "narrowing" in the artery--a great concern in the arteries to the brain.  A control group who drank a substitute containing no pomegranate experienced no changes.

First of all, I question those results, but with the speed of light, our supplement industry began producing pomegranate extract in tablet, capsule, and softgel form.

Researchers at UCLA published a study last year in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry about these pomegranate supplements.  Note that no studies have ever been done to show that these supplements accomplish anything, and the findings in Israel were tentative at best.

The UCLA researchers purchased 27 commercial products and tested them for the presence of the anti-oxidant tannins, or the metabolic product of tannins, ellagic acid, commonly found in pomegranate and thought to be the biologically active components.

Of the 27 products, only 5 had tannins typical of pomegranates.  17 had no pomegranate tannins, and 5 more had neither tannins nor ellagic acid. 

There is also a possibility that manufacturers were adding ellagic acid from cheaper sources, like chestnut bark.

This is the height of lunacy:  a preliminary research result out of Israel creates an entire industry of supplements based on an unproven benefit, offering products that have not been shown to bring about the putative benefit, and, finally, the products frequently do not have anything to do with the original substance investigated.

Lack of regulation in the supplement industry is a crime and an outrage.  The economic loss to the gullible who have swallowed the New Age belief that nature is always good for us is considerable, and the products sometimes harmful (see my post on gingko).

On the other hand, drugs and other medicines, which are tightly regulated, are viewed with suspicion.  They are so closely monitored that when a 1 in 26,000 chance of serious adverse reaction is encountered after the produced was approved, there's a huge outcry.  Recognize the product?  Vioxx.  And if you think 1:26,000 is too high a risk, you need to look at the data on penicilliin, which is higher.

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