Interesting programme on TV last week, BBC's 'Trust Me I'm a Doctor', that is relevant for anyone buying supplements in the UK.
I always thought that the UK supplement industry had no regulation. I was wrong. I still don't think there is enough and the risk of people ingesting rubbish and quite possibly harmful unknown ingredients is unbelievably high. But there is an organisation called THR (traditional herbal regulation) and supplements that have been tested by them bear the mark THR - this is worth looking for and seems to be the ONLY guide to buying a reliable product in the UK.
The TV programme looked at whether herbal supplements actually contain the herbs they list on the label. Along with a team from UCL team they carried out tests on both food supplements and supplements approved by THR. In every THR product tested, the product contained what was claimed on the label. But other food supplements showed a wide and disturbing range of quality.
Knowing that some people with PBC and liver issues take milk thistle, it is worth being aware of the following result from the programme's tests:
'36% of the food supplement milk thistle products contained no detectable milk thistle. Although this is quite a small sample size it is still a startling result. Furthermore, in one case of milk thistle, unidentified adulterants suspected to be synthetic compounds were present in place of milk thistle.'
Personally I don't use milk thistle but I'll certainly be looking out for the THR mark on other supplements.