Prenatal supplements are taken by millions of women in the US and they can play a crucial role in supporting the health of both the mother and the developing baby during pregnancy.
These supplements are supposedly formulated to provide essential nutrients like folic acid, iron, iodine, and vitamins A, C, and E.
However, recent reports indicate that the labels on many popular prenatal supplements may not accurately reflect the actual amounts of these nutrients.
This is concerning on a number of fronts as it highlights that several manufacturers in the supplements industry are cutting corners with lack of oversight.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) Report
In a comprehensive study conducted by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), 12 over-the-counter prenatal supplements were tested for their nutrient content. The results were alarming—11 out of the 12 products had at least one nutrient that deviated from the levels stated on the labels. This means that pregnant individuals consuming these supplements may be getting too much or too little of certain vital nutrients.
Now, it’s important to note, that getting a little bit too much of one nutrient isn’t going to do all to much harm in most cases and the RDI’s are recommended minimums not maximums. But, this was still concerning none the less as consumers should be getting what is on the label.
Some manufacturers do undergo third party testing, and there is supposed to be some oversight at FDA registered facilities. However, it isn’t unheard of for manufacturers to simply state this is the case without it being true.
There was however, 1 of the 12 products that was very far off the label to the point of being concerning.
Deviations in Nutrient Levels
Among the tested nutrients, folic acid, iodine, iron, and vitamins A, C, and E were evaluated. The GAO found that the average amounts of these nutrients in many of the supplements did not align with the label claims. In fact, one product's folic acid content was so high that it raised concerns about potential health risks, according to metrics established by the Institute of Medicine.
Vitamin E showed the highest variability among the different prenatal supplement products, ranging from 28% to a staggering 332% of the amount stated on the label. Vitamin A was also frequently found in amounts outside the acceptable deviations from the label value.
The Impact of Heavy Metals
The GAO also tested the supplements for heavy metal contaminants, such as lead, cadmium, arsenic, and mercury. Traces of lead or cadmium were detected in half of the tested products.
However, these amounts were deemed to be within safe limits according to the Food and Drug Administration's metrics. And ultimately this was deemed none concerning. We do have to remember that traces of these elements are found in a lot of our day to day food as well.
The GAO Has Advised
The GAO has petitioned congress to give the FDA more power to regulate supplements and suggested a requirement to register supplements withing the US before sale. This is not an uncommon practice in other countries with several EU companies already doing this.
What Can I Do To Make Sure I get Good Supplements?
At CenterTRT we do not list any product as recommended unless we have been provided with a 3rd party testing certificate from our list of accepted testing facilities.
This means that if you buy a product we recommend then you should expect to get a supplement that is actually valid.
Unfortunateley, we can’t say the same for most places that make recommendations on supplements. For example, you will often see lists in newspapers, these articles are rarely checked for such certification as we have seen on multiple occasions products which have failed lab tests run by ourselves or our partners recommended on these lists. Generally speaking if the author doesn’t say they’ve seen the certification, they probably haven’t.