This dietary supplement ingredient could cause a miscarriage or harm a fetus, FDA warns women

WASHINGTON — An ingredient found in dietary supplements may cause a miscarriage or harm fetal development, the US Food and Drug Administration warned women of childbearing age on Monday. Vinpocetine, a synthetically produced compound sold by itself or combined with other ingredients, is usually marketed for increased cognitive performance, enhanced energy and rapid reduction of body fat.

Product labels may refer to vinpocetine as “Vinca minor extract,” “lesser periwinkle extract,” or “common periwinkle extract.”

By any name, this supplement may cause harm to pregnant women, a report from the National Toxicology Program of the National Institutes of Health suggests.

Vinpocetine decreased fetal weight and increased the chances of a miscarriage in test animals, according to the report. Blood levels measured in the pregnant animals were similar to those reported in people after taking a single dose of vinpocetine, indicating that pregnant women may experience adverse effects from vinpocetine similar to those seen in the pregnant animals. Toxicology tests also proved that in a significant number of products, the actual content of vinpocetine varied from what was stated on the label; this could result in higher doses than what is recommended.

All of these findings are “concerning since products containing vinpocetine are widely available for use by women of childbearing age,” stated Principal Deputy Commissioner Dr. Amy Abernethy and Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response Frank Yiannas, both of the FDA, in their warning to women.

Manufacturers and distributors of dietary supplements and dietary ingredients are “responsible for evaluating the safety and labeling of their products before marketing” to ensure that they meet all federal requirements, according to the agency’s website. “FDA is responsible for taking action against any adulterated or misbranded dietary supplement product after it reaches the market.” This means the FDA has not reviewed each individual vinpocetine dietary supplement or its labeling before the product has become available to consumers.

Along with a warning for pregnant women, the FDA is also advising manufacturers to evaluate their vinpocetine supplement labeling “to ensure that it provides safety warnings against use by pregnant women and women who could become pregnant,” the FDA stated.

More than half of all Americans take at least one dietary supplement on a regular basis, according to the agency. Earlier this year, the FDA announced new efforts to strengthen the regulation of dietary supplements, including the introduction of a new tool, the Dietary Supplement Ingredient Advisory List, to more quickly alert the public of unlawful ingredients. To help ensure your own and your family’s safety, check this advisory list before purchasing dietary supplements.

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