Sports dietitians are recommending that athletes stay away from supplements that contain “proprietary blends" on their labels. They say supplements should be avoided if they don’t specifically list the ingredients and the amounts.
Propriety blends and other red flags that appear on supplement labels were discussed yesterday at the annual conference of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Dietitians Association (CPSDA) held in Scottsdale, Arizona.
A long-time industry executive agreed that proprietary blends shouldn’t appear on labels. Keith Wheeler, Ph.D., global director of performance nutrition and chief science officer at the EAS Academy at Abbott Labs, which produces supplements in more than 150 countries, said supplement brands should be proud of the ingredient their products contain and should be ready to explain why they contain a certain amount of each ingredient.
During a panel discussion with Wheeler, Lara Ulfers, MS, R.D., CSSD, education services program manager, The National Center For Drug Free Sport Inc., noted the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA) requires companies to list the ingredients in their products, but not the amount if they are considered a trade secret.
However, Ulfers said some substances, such as caffeine, may be safe up to a limit, but are considered a banned substance above a certain threshold. So, if a supplement contains a propriety blend with caffeine, she said athletes don’t know if it’s at an approved limit.
If athletes are starting to avoid products due to their proprietary blend, it’s likely supplement companies will stop using them.
Proprietary blends was one of the many topic of discussed during an education tract on adulteration in sport supplements.
While many sports dietitians expressed concerns about supplement use in high school, collegiate and professional athletes, they noted that athletes will use supplements, and acknowledged the importance of supplements to help athletes meet their nutritional needs. CPSDA bills itself as a “food first" group, but realizes that supplements play an important role in athletic performance.
During a presentation, Lisa Thomas, general manager of NSF International’s dietary supplement programs, said if athletes and their dietitians are diligent, they can find the good supplements on the market. She said NSF tests many supplements, and unfortunately, it finds pharmaceutical adulterants, banned ingredients (such as DMAA) and concerning ingredients (such as methylamine analogues). However, she said there are safe products out there, and she noted more than 300 products are NSF Certified for Sport, meaning tests have found they are free of adulterants and banned substances.
Dave Ellis, sports nutritionist and former president of CPSDA, also spoke, saying most supplement adulteration is intentional and FDA doesn’t have the resources to stop it. He said the supplement industry—specifically the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP)—is working to develop better testing standards to reduce adulteration.
Doug Moyer, a researcher at Michigan State University’s Food Fraud Initiative, spoke about food fraud beyond adulteration, such as counterfeit products, tampering and theft, where criminals sell misbranded, illegal products on the black market. He said to avoid food fraud, firms, including supplement brands, need to ensure a tight supply chain, and control packaging and labeling.
It’s clear sports dietitians are concerned about the supplements their athletes take, but they are looking to work with responsible supplement companies. Sports dietitians recognized that supplements will be a part of athletes’ diets, but they want those supplements to be high quality and safe. It’s up to the supplement industry to provide those supplements and to let dietitians know that they are ready to safely help athletes perform to their best abilities.
INSIDER will be posting on-camera interviews with Moyer, Ellis and Thomas in the upcoming weeks, so check back for more information.