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Supplements and Safety; PBS Frontline + New York Times. Follow-on from New York Attorney General's actions against major retailers last yr

Supplements and Safety; PBS Frontline + New York Times. Follow-on from New York Attorney General's actions against major retailers last yr

A year ago, on the basis of DNA barcoding technology tests conducted on top-selling store brands of herbal supplements at four national retailers in New York State — GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart, the New York State attorney general’s office demanded that retailers remove the products from their shelves. Following on from this, PBS Frontline and New York Times showed a documentary exposing the hidden dangers of vitamins and health supplements on 19th January this year. Australians can watch the program on ABC TV Four Corners this Tuesday morning at 10AM or Wednesday at 11PM. The program is also available via iView (ABC's video streaming service):

I'd appreciate it if someone outside of Australia can confirm this link works overseas, or alternatively, can provide a link to the PBS program.

Rachael Dunlop, Visiting Associate, Macquarie University and who has a patent pending for L-serine use as a supplement in the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders, provides an overview of the program and covers the situation in Australia here:

'It’s an eye-opening report that details a web of lobbying and legislation designed to protect the industry, but which ultimately leaves consumers at risk.

The issue of harm is covered upfront with a group of patients in Hawaii who suffered liver failure following the ingestion of a dietary supplement. Many required transplants.

At the other extreme is the revelation that 60% of supplements analysed for the active ingredients didn’t contain what was stated on the labels.


But even in the case of unadulterated supplements, scientists and doctors warn, in the absence of a medically diagnosed deficiency, we are taking too many. A recent study reports that taking extra vitamins and minerals can do more harm than good and may even increase cancer risk rather than reduce it.

In addition, some commercially available preparations of fish oil have been shown to be rancid, as a result of poor processing procedures. This can trigger inflammatory pathways in our cells – the exact opposite of what they are designed to do.

If you’re thinking that “what happens in North American doesn’t affect me”, you might be wrong. Herbal supplements bought online have been linked to at least six Australian organ transplants since 2011.'

Post on New York Attorney General's actions from a year ago:

There are similar concerns in UK and Canada:

If you are taking supplements, have you informed your medical team and do you know whether you are affecting your liver and kidney health - is someone monitoring your blood biochemistry results to check your liver and kidney remain at healthy?


2 Replies

The Jan 19 documentary is online (for me in the US) at


Thanks Shoshanaz! It's blocked for me in Australia, but if anyone else can watch this via the PBS link: , that's the full version, not the slightly edited version shown in Australia.



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