Saturday, May 18, 2013


Health supplements are flooding the market all over the world making claims often not supported by scientific evidence. Since this industry is one of the least regulated most players in this game of charade get away by making health claims often outlandish in nature. The authorities vested with the responsibility of protecting citizens from spurious foods either are ignorant to deal with this industry or powerless to take the industry head on or simply looking the other way to avoid unnecessary controversies. It is only recently that the EU safety authorities took serious note of the uncontrolled growth of healthy foods that many products were disallowed from making claims not substantiated by scientific evidence. In India also lot of noise was made by the food authority about major industry players making spurious clams but nothing concrete came out from this paper tiger. Since food safety is a top topic of concern, ceaseless vigilance can only weed out fraudsters from this field. One of the latest issues now being scrutinized is how far products containing bitter citrus extract and caffeine can seriously compromise the health of the consumers if taken regularly and it is now believed that such products must be banned in the market. Here is a take on this interesting development. 

Some products sold as sports or weight loss supplements may contain synephrine, which may enhance the effects of caffeine, according to the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR). Synephrine is a compound found in plants such as bitter oranges (Citrus aurantium). Bitter orange comes from a flowering, fruit-bearing evergreen tree native to tropical Asia, but is now widely cultivated in the Mediterranean region and elsewhere. Bitter oranges have been used in ancient Chinese medicine to treat constipation, improve energy, and calm nerves in cases of insomnia and shock. Amazon rain forest tribes have used bitter orange tea as a laxative and to relieve nausea, stomach pains, indigestion, gas, and constipation. According to BfR, sports or weight loss supplements often contain caffeine in addition to synephrine and are often referred to as food supplements or dietetic foods by manufacturers. Because caffeine and synephrine both affect the heart and blood pressure, they may increase each increase the other's effects when taken together. Most notably, taking caffeine and synephrine together may increase heart rhythm and blood pressure. Other ingredients contained in bitter orange extracts may also add to the effects of synephrine on the heart. The BfR recommends that quantities of these compounds ingested through such products should be limited to food intake levels from oranges and bitter oranges. The institute advised that no more than 6.7 milligrams of synephrine be taken daily in the form of a food supplement. This quantity of synephrine may help ensure that even frequent consumers do not exceed a total daily intake of more than 25.7 milligrams of synephrine. Due to dosage levels, some products that are currently available on the market may be classified as unsafe. The effects of these products on the heart may be more intense in people who are already putting increased strain on the heart due to physical activity or being overweight. It is claimed that bitter orange is an effective aid to weight loss and a safe alternative to ephedra, a plant that contains compounds that may stimulate the nervous system. In 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a final rule prohibiting the sale of dietary supplements containing ephedra because such supplements present an unreasonable risk of illness or injury. Due to the ban on ephedra in the United States, some products previously containing ephedra have been reformulated to include Citrus aurantium.

It is rather queer that consumers are having a fatal affinity to Caffeine which is categorized as a brain stimulating addictive chemical not to be taken by children and pregnant women and why industry is marketing products containing this chemical in concentrations much higher than that present in coffee beverage consumed world over is beyond comprehension. How can a normal consumer get any benefit by drinking water containing Caffeine? There is no scientific justification for creating such outlandish products though industry stands to benefit in the form of high profits dealing with such psychotropic products! Already the extract derived from Bitter oranges is implicated in episodes related to heart and kidney and when industry tries to formulate products containing Caffeine and Bitter orange extract, both anti-cardiac substances, possible synergistic effect may magnify the damage much more than either of the substances consumed singly. Scientists do believe that substances like Caffeine present in Coffee or tea are safe as long as their daily consumption is not more than what is ingested daily in the natural form. Also not known is the possible protective effect of ingredients other than Caffeine in Coffee or Synephrine in bitter oranges on alleviating the negative impact of the chemicals when consumed in natural form. Every consumer must bear in mind that natural food products consumed for centuries can invariably be less dangerous than the isolated constituents present in them!.     


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