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What’s Really in Your Dietary Supplement?

The agency does maintain a Tainted Supplements database – a record of “potentially hazardous products with hidden ingredients” that are marketed as dietary supplements.

It’s important to know that the FDA cannot test every dietary supplement on the market, and there might be products in the tainted category that are not included in the database. Consumers should always use caution and consult with their doctor before using them.

In a recent study published in JAMA Network Open, experts analyzed ten years of data (2007 – 2016) from the Tainted Supplements database. They identified 776 adulterated dietary supplements, which contained ingredients that were not FDA-approved. Most of the time, these ingredients were not listed on the label.

Almost 46% of these products were marketed for sexual enhancement. Of these, over 80% contained sildenafil and/or a structural analogue of it (a very similar compound.) Sildenafil is the active ingredient in the erectile dysfunction (ED) drug Viagra.

Some products contained other ED medications. Tadalafil (the active ingredient in Cialis) was found in 20% of the sexual enhancement products. Vardenafil (Levitra) was present in 1%.

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