Tests B Vitamin Products

January 8, 2002

3 Min Read Tests B Vitamin Products

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y.--Today, reported that almost half of the vitamin B supplements it tested exceeded the Upper Limits (ULs) posted by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). In some cases, reported that products contained 10 times the UL for niacin. However, only one of the 21 products the company tested did not contain its labeled amount of vitamin B, a prenatal vitamin that only had three-quarters of its claimed amount for folic acid.

"While there is scientific evidence behind the excitement over B vitamins, consumers should be aware that more than 40 percent of the products that we evaluated exceeded levels at which they are known to be safely tolerated, some having more than 10 times the [UL]," stated Tod Cooperman, M.D., president of "There may be good medical reasons for exceeding these levels, but there may also be significant side effects. People interested in using high doses of B vitamins should consult with a health care professional." tested seven vitamin B products, four B6 products, four B12 products three niacin (B3) products, two folic acid supplements and one thiamin (B1) product. The company analyzed products for seven of the eight B vitamins. Biotin was not evaluated, due to the lack of a suitable analytical standard, reported.

All three of the niacin products exceeded the UL for niacin, as did six of the seven B-complex supplements. The niacin products had daily doses ranging from 400 mg/d to 510 mg/d, while the B-complex products contained doses ranging from 40 mg/d to 150 mg/d. The UL set for adults falls between 30 and 35 mg/d, according to NAS, which also reports that too much niacin may lead to liver damage, peptic ulcers and even diabetes.

Niacin, however, is a popular complement for those people taking statin drugs to manage cholesterol levels. In a recent study in the American Journal of Cardiology (21, 86:46L-50L, 2000) (, 2,000 mg/d of niacin alone or in combination with other lipid-altering agents was shown to be effective for reducing total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides, as well as for increasing high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels.

"Some of these products contained a `slow release' form of niacin (inositol hexanicotinate) were extended-release pills, both of which are less likely to cause skin flushing," noted in its report. "But [they] are known to cause serious toxicities at much higher doses."

"I think a lot of these products have been on the market for a long time . and there is still significant scientific dispute about those [UL] levels," stated Marc Ullman, a partner in the New York-based legal firm Ullman, Shapiro & Ullman. "I think it's typical that, in order to generate publicity for itself, will find some negative item with which to sell its press releases." He added that ULs for vitamins in products are not a legal question, but an issue for product formulators.

"The amount of niacin used at higher therapeutic amounts are primarily used to lower cholesterol," stated Phil Harvey, Ph.D., chief science officer at the National Nutritional Foods Association (NNFA) ( "I wouldn't call high amounts of niacin toxic, but rather therapeutic. The NAS ULs shouldn't be discounted, but taking niacin should be based on the individual's needs." He added, " Just like RDAs (recommended daily allowances), ULs are also recommendations."

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