Discrepancies in antiaging supplements raise quality control concerns

Recent study reveals significant deviations in the active ingredients of popular NMN and UA supplements, urging stricter regulatory oversight.

A recent investigation into the quality of nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) and Urolithin A (UA) supplements has uncovered substantial discrepancies between the labeled and actual contents of these products [1]. Both compounds are marketed as geroprotectors, and longevity supplements containing these ingredients often trumpet their ability to slow or reverse aging processes.

The study, which counts Elena Sandalova, Brian Kennedy and Andrea Maier among its authors and is published in Geroscience, was funded by the NUS Department of Medicine. It tested 18 NMN and 5 UA supplements, revealing deviations ranging from complete absence to significant excesses of the active ingredients. These inconsistencies highlight the pressing need for stringent regulatory oversight to ensure consumer safety and product efficacy in the longevity supplements market.

Longevity.Technology: The integrity of labeling in the longevity supplements industry is paramount – accurate labeling not only fosters consumer trust but also ensures that individuals receive the intended therapeutic doses. Transparency in labeling allows consumers to make informed decisions and safeguards them against potential health risks associated with incorrect dosages. Given the growing reliance on these supplements for health optimization, particularly among aging populations, it is imperative that manufacturers adhere to rigorous quality standards; effective regulation and industry-wide commitment to transparency are essential to maintain the credibility and efficacy of these products.

Supplements were sourced from various channels, including online stores, pharmacies and manufacturers, and then randomly numbered and aliquoted to ensure unbiased analysis. The research, which was performed using high-performance liquid chromatography coupled with triple quadrupole mass spectrometry (HPLC-QqQ-MS), investigated 18 NMN and five UA supplements, comparing these measurements with the labeled amounts to identify discrepancies. The researchers found deviations from from -100% to +28.6% in the labeled amounts of NMN, and in the case of UA supplements, the deviations were similarly concerning, with actual content differing by -15.5% to +28.6% [1].

This variability was not attributed to matrix effects, suggesting, say the researchers, that the inconsistencies were due to the manufacturing process rather than interactions with other components in the supplements.

NMN supplements: A closer look

Nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) has been extensively studied for its potential geroprotective effects, including enhancing NAD+ levels, improving insulin sensitivity and boosting aerobic capacity. However, this study highlighted severe inconsistencies among commercially available NMN supplements. Five out of the 18 tested products were in powder form, with the remainder in various other formats such as capsules and liquid. The cost per gram of NMN varied widely, indicating significant market discrepancies. The measured NMN content ranged from undetectable to 99.2% of the total sample weight, with some products containing none of the labeled NMN [1].

UA Supplements: A Similar Story

Urolithin A (UA), derived from dietary sources like pomegranates and walnuts, has become a recent longevity poster child due to its ability to improve muscle performance and reduce inflammatory markers. However, the study found that the UA content in supplements was equally inconsistent – while one product contained as much as 95% UA, others had none, with deviations from the labeled amount ranging significantly. One product, marketed as pomegranate extract, did not specify UA content on its label, complicating the assessment of its quality.

The need for quality control

The study’s findings make the urgent need for stricter regulatory measures very clear. The NMN supplements showed the most significant discrepancies, with some products containing no detectable NMN at all, and this raises concerns about the quality control practices of manufacturers and the overall efficacy of these supplements. Urolithin A supplements also exhibited considerable variability, though less extreme than NMN supplements.

The results indicate that some supplements may degrade over time, resulting in lower active ingredient levels than initially present. Conversely, some manufacturers appear to add excess amounts of the active ingredient, known as overages, to compensate for potential degradation. While overages might ensure the product remains effective over its shelf life, they complicate dosing and efficacy expectations – after all, if a product is good for 12 months, a customer will expect the same efficacy on day one as day 365, not to have to wrangle with efficacy fuses that burn shorter on a possibly erratic timeframe.

What can be done?

Given these findings, the researchers recommend several steps to improve the quality and reliability of geroprotective supplements:

  1. Enhanced regulatory oversight: Stricter regulatory frameworks are necessary to ensure that supplement labels accurately reflect their contents; this would involve regular testing and validation of products before they reach consumers.
  2. Collaboration among stakeholders: A coordinated effort between healthcare professionals, industry stakeholders and regulatory bodies is crucial to developing and enforcing quality standards for these supplements.
  3. Consumer education: Educating consumers about potential discrepancies and the importance of purchasing from reputable sources can help mitigate risks; introducing a quality mark for tested and verified products could also empower consumers to make safer choices.

Relevance to clinical practice and future research

Of course, the implications of these findings also extend to clinical practice. Clinicians would do well to exercise caution when recommending NMN and UA supplements, given the potential for significant discrepancies in their content, and accurate and consistent labeling is vital for making informed recommendations and ensuring patient safety. Healthcare providers need to be aware of these variability issues to guide patients effectively.

Importantly, the study’s findings advocate for regulatory changes to enhance quality control and accurate labeling of dietary supplements; these measures would not only protect consumers, but also ensure the efficacy and safety of these products. NMN and UA are hot topics for longevity research, and future investigations would do well to include commentary on the long-term efficacy and safety of NMN and UA supplements, particularly in the context of aging and age-related diseases.

Following their findings, the research team has initiated dialogues with supplement manufacturers and regulatory authorities to establish quality standards for the industry. They plan to implement this quality testing methodology for supplements used in future clinical research, aiming to ensure consistency and reliability in their studies.

As the global population ages, the demand for geroprotective supplements like NMN and UA is likely to grow; ensuring these products meet their label claims is essential for consumer health and confidence, and this study’s revelations about content discrepancies will add to the calls for stringent regulatory measures and industry collaboration to improve supplement quality. By enhancing oversight and educating consumers, the industry can ensure that these products fulfill their potential in promoting healthy aging.

[1] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/38935229/