Aug 19, 2019 | Updated: 08:55 AM EDT

FDA: Some Brain, Energy, and Weight Loss Supplements Linked to Pregnancy Complications

Jun 08, 2019 08:20 AM EDT

(Photo : Steve Buissinne)

It has been a practice of many to take in supplements to improve brain function and other organ improvements. Some would also take supplements with the aim to lose weight.

As most of these supplements could pose improvements whether physical or mental, the increase in supply and manufacture of such supplements have been observed over the past years.

However, according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a widely available dietary supplement ingredient may cause problems with fetal development or even miscarriages if these supplements for use during pregnancy.

The FDA has issued on June 3 a warning for pregnant women and those of childbearing age to avoid using supplements which has vinpocetine. The ingredient is often marketed for enhanced memory or focus. It is also added to supplements for increased energy or weight loss.

Through animal studies, the scientists were able to find out that the ingredient vinpocetine caused decreased fetal weight and increased the risk of miscarriages in the animal subjects. In addition, the levels of the said ingredient measured in the animals' blood were similar to the levels for people who took a single dose of vinpocetine.

The FDA stated that these findings are particularly concerning since products containing vinpocetine are widely available. This study has prompted the FDA to advise pregnant women and women who could become pregnant to stop the intake of vinpocetine.

FDA also pointed out that vinpocetine can be named differently on product labels. Alternative names include Vinca minor extract, lesser periwinkle extract, or common periwinkle extract. The problem is that the said ingredient is not a natural extract even if product labels have made it seem so. Rather, vinpocetine is a synthetic compound.

The agency also pointed out that although in some countries vinpocetine is considered a prescription drug used for brain activity enhancement and blood flow, the ingredient is not approved to treat any conditions in the US. FDA added that dietary supplements with the said ingredient have not been reviewed for their effectiveness or safety.

FDA has tentatively concluded in 2016 that vinpocetine doesn't fit the definition of a dietary ingredient. Still, the ingredient is found in hundreds of brands of supplements sold in the US as pointed out by Dr. Pieter Cohen, a senior author of the study.

FDA has advised companies that market the supplements which have vinpocetine to put warnings on its product labels to inform pregnant women and those hoping to become pregnant about the ingredient.

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