YONKERS, N.Y.--Consumers Union, the non-profit publisher of the magazine Consumer Reports, published the results of its tests on 19 widely available brands--four of which failed to meet label requirements and two of which recommended too low a dose per day (based on clinical studies using 1,500 mg/d of glucosamine and 1,200 mg/d of chondroitin). Through these tests, the magazine evaluated the safety and efficacy of glucosamine and chondroitin, something it has done in the past several years with such supplements as SAMe, kava, saw palmetto and echninacea, using official methods for analyses or, if ones did not exist, using an appropriate method based on industry practice and/or sound science. The organization reported that two or three independent laboratories tested each supplement.
Due to the side effects evolved with over-the-counter anti-inflammatories such as aspirin and ibuprofen, the Consumers Union evaluated widely available brands, 68 percent (or 13 brands) of which passed with flying colors. In its report, the organization listed the product's name, pill count, percentage of glucosamine and chondroitin the products contained compared to labeled amounts, labeled recommended doses, the doses used in Consumers Union tests and the cost per daily dose.
The four which did not pass due to being less than the 90-percent standard suggested by the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP) were Now Double Strength Glucosamine & Chondroitin, ArthxDS Glucosamine Chondroitin, Now Chondroitin Sulfate and Solgar Extra Strength Glucosamine Chondroitin Complex. The two products that recommended a dosage that was lower than what has been seen in successful clinical trials were Solgar Extra Strength Glucosamine Chondroitin Complex and Twinlab CSA. In terms of which brands passed, one of the cheapest--at $.45 per day--was Puritan's Pride (www.puritanspride.com).
The magazine stated in its article that the supplement industry is not as enforced as the drug industry in regards to standardization and label claims. However, "...we are encouraged by [industry organizations] implementing Good Manufacturing Practices that make sure the products contain what they say they do," stated Jeff Martin, director of consumer science and public service at Consumers Union, during an audio news conference today.
However, the glucosamine/chondroitin report concluded that some makers of glucosamine and chondroitin products need to do a better job of producing standardized, appropriately labeled product.
What can manufacturers do whose products did not pass and might possibly be marred by the magazine's negative publicity? "In the past, we heard from the manufacturers whose products were rated by us in regards to the analyses," Martin stated. "It's our policy to give as much information as possible to the manufacturers as to how we came to our conclusion."
"We would like to see all products contain their purported claims," stated Phil Harvey, Ph.D., chief science officer at the National Nutritional Foods Association (NNFA) (www.nnfa.org). "However, this is only one test." Earlier this year, NNFA had tested glucosamine-only products, one of which was Solgar's Glucosamine Sulfate 1000 mg--it passed. Three out of four of the products that did not pass Consumers Union's tests had lower-than-labeled amounts of chondroitin.
"We haven't tested chondroitin because the methods haven't been solidified," Harvey stated. CPC is usually the recommended method, "but there have been challenges and debates as to if it's the best method." He added that there is still some debate about whether chondroitin is as effective as glucosamine as a joint-health supplement.
MSNBC.com, an online media outlet that usually reports the negative side of dietary supplements (visit www.naturalproductsinsider.com/hotnews/12h23112328.html), reported in its coverage of the Consumer Reports story that taking a glucosamine/chondroitin combo may be a smart move for the arthritic generation.
David Seckman, executive director of NNFA, stated, "Overall, I think this story was very positive for the industy."
Of the two companies that INSIDER reached for comment, Solgar was still preparing a statement and Puritan's Pride had not returned a call for comment. The article, "Joint Remedies," is in the January 2002 issue, on news stands Dec. 18, and is available for free online (www.consumerreports.org).