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Supplements May Be Harming Elderly

September 13, 2001

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Senior citizens may be risking their health and wasting their money by using dietary supplements touted as anti-aging potions, congressional investigators say.

Medical studies have shown a variety of common supplements can have ``serious health consequences″ for the elderly because the supplements aggravate medical conditions or interact with medications, said a General Accounting Office report.

The report by the investigative arm of Congress also said that up to 11 percent of herbal supplements may contain harmful contaminants, including pesticides.

The dietary supplement market is a nearly $6 billion annual industry. It has boomed since it was significantly deregulated in 1994.

Neither the Food and Drug Administration nor supplement manufacturers are required to test supplements to determine if they work or if they are safe.

If the FDA determines a supplement is unsafe, it can order that it be stopped being marketed.

The Federal Trade Commission regulates cases involving false claims.

The report also found that senior citizens spend millions of dollars on products that do not work as promised or sometimes do nothing at all.

A spokesman for the Council for Responsible Nutrition, an industry group that represents about 110 supplement producers, said the industry takes pains to self-regulate and follows to a strict code of ethics.

``We don’t believe that senior citizens should be taken advantage of,″ Mike Greene said. ``But we also don’t feel that senior citizens should be misled to stay away from dietary supplements, because dietary supplements can provide a lot of nutritional value to senior citizens.″


On the Net:

GAO Report: http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d011129.pdf

Council For Responsible Nutrition: http://www.crnusa.org/

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