Dietary supplements may cause miscarriages, FDA warns

An ingredient found in dietary supplements may harm fetal development or even cause a miscarriage, according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Recent studies confirm that taking vinpoecetine, in levels equal to human dosages, result in decreased baby weight and increased miscarriage risk in pregnant animals. Vinpocetine is an ingredient found in some dietary supplements which may be related to adverse reproductive effects.

These research findings are mainly concerning since goods containing vinpocetine are commonly available for use by women of childbearing age. That is why the FDA warns pregnant women and women who could become pregnant not to take vinpocetine.

Vinpocetine is a man-made chemical which is derivative of an alkaloid extract from the periwinkle plant Vinca minor. Countries such as Australia and Canada have already banned supplements containing this drug. While other countries have approved the synthetic substance for prescription use; yet, the drug has mostly flown under the radar of the FDA.

Vinpocetine is believed to increase blood flow, boost energy, enhance memory and focus, and supposed to treat health concerns like strokes, Alzheimer’s, and even menopause. Sometimes, on labels, it referred to as Vinca minor extract, common periwinkle extract or lesser periwinkle extract— but there is nothing normal about it.

Findings of the study

According to the report, vinpocetine decreased the fetal weight and increased the chances of a miscarriage in test animals. Researchers measured the blood levels in pregnant animals. These levels were similar to those reported in people after taking a single dose of vinpocetine.

This indicated that pregnant women may experience hostile effects similar to those seen in pregnant animals. Toxicology tests also verified that in many products, the content of vinpocetine varied from what was specified on the label. Thus, this could lead to higher doses than what is suggested.

In 2015 study, researchers found that doses of vinpocetine varied extensively in dietary supplements sold in the United States, from around 0.3 milligrams to 32 mg of vinpocetine. According to this study, published in the journal Drug Testing and Analysis, the recommended dose is between 5 and 40 mg when the drug is prescribed.

In 2016, the FDA uncertainly concluded that vinpocetine does not fit the description of a dietary ingredient. Thus, it cannot be marketed as, or be an ingredient in, dietary supplements.

But, the agency demanded comments on the problem. But, it has not reached an absolute conclusion on whether vinpocetine is lawful for sale as a dietary supplement. The agency now plans to expedite the completion of these proceedings which began in 2016.

The bottom line

Still, this drug is found in many supplement brands sold in the U.S. However, the FDA is counseling companies which market these supplements comprising vinpocetine. The main purpose of counseling is to make sure that labels provide warnings against the product’s use by pregnant women.

Manufacturers and suppliers of dietary ingredients and supplements are liable for assessing the labeling and safety of their products before marketing. According to the agency’s website, this needs to be done to ensure that they meet all federal requirements.

Areeba Hussain

Areeba is an independent medical and healthcare writer. For the last three years, she is writing for Tophealthjournal. Her prime areas of interest are diseases, medicine, treatments, and alternative therapies. Twitter @Areeba94789300

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