You may wonder why there are vitamins or supplements that other companies sell that you can't find at Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage. This is because there are certain nutrients or ingredients that we have determined to be of questionable quality or safety, and therefore will not sell them. The following is a list of those types of products, along with explanations as to why we don't sell them. Also check out our Healthy Food Funnel graphic that represents how we weed out unhealthy products. Read about other criteria for submitting new products to us.
Ingredients in Food and Supplements
Products from Genetically Engineered Animals. This travesty should never have been allowed.
Acesulfame-K (Sweet One® or Sunette): A potassium salt, it is a non-caloric artificial sweetener approved by the FDA in the eighties. Although this substance is on the FDA's "Generally Considered As Safe" list, its safety is still in question. The chemical structure of acesulfame-K closely resembles that of saccharin, a weak carcinogen. Studies showed that rats fed acesulfame-K developed more tumors compared to those rats who were not fed the sweetener. Acesulfame-K was also found to raise the blood cholesterol levels of diabetic rats.
Aspartame (NutraSweet™ ): Aspartame is nearly 200 times sweeter than white sugar and is only useful in cold and uncooked foods. This chemical breaks down and loses its sweetness when heated. Its shelf life is about one year, after which time it decomposes into methanol-a toxic wood alcohol. The methanol then breaks down into formic acid and formaldehyde in the body. Formaldehyde is a deadly neurotoxin and a known carcinogen. It can cause retinal damage, interfere with DNA replication, and may cause birth defects. It can also cause damage to the immune system. Now that aspartame has been on the market for many years, its side effects are becoming apparent. Adverse reactions include high blood pressure, headaches, insomnia, ovarian cancer, brain tumors, seizures, brain damage in fetuses, extreme swelling, throat swelling, and retina deterioration. Keep in mind, these dangerous side effects are worsened when NutraSweet™ is heated or used in cooking.
Sucralose (Splenda®): Sucralose is a calorie-free sugar substitute derived from sucrose (white sugar) through a process that selectively substitutes three atoms of chlorine for three hydrogen-oxygen groups on the sucrose molecule. This makes sucralose a chlorocarbon, a substance that has long been known for causing organ, genetic, and reproductive damage. Sucralose has also been shown to cause swelling of the liver and kidneys. The structure of the sugar molecules is changed so that it's up to 600 times sweeter than sugar. There are limited human or long-term studies of this product.
Artificial Colors: Artificial in terms of food means "a substance not duplicated in nature." There are currently seven artificial coal tar-based dyes on the market. There is evidence that four of the seven cause cancer in laboratory animals. Furthermore, six of the seven being used in the US have been banned in other countries.
Artificial Flavors: There are more than 2,000 flavorings, of which 500 are natural and the rest are synthetic. The synthetic flavors are made from many different chemicals and can be toxic to the nervous system, kidneys, and liver, but because they are usually consumed in small amounts they are relatively safe. There are also "flavor enhancers," which are substances that improve the flavors of a food. As with any synthetic compound, sensitive people can have allergic reactions.
Bleached Flours: Milling whole wheat into white flour removes approximately 83 percent of the nutrients. Additionally, chemicals are used to whiten and preserve bleached flour. Chlorine dioxide, an irritant to both the skin and the respiratory tract (similar to Clorox®) is often used to bleach flour. Benzoyl peroxide is another chemical used to bleach flour. The bleaching process leaves residues of toxic chlorinated hydrocarbons and dioxins, both harmful for the body and the environment. Methionine, an essential amino acid found in flour, reacts with bleaching chemicals to form a toxic compound called methionine sufoxine, which has been found to cause nervousness and seizures in animals.
Dairy Products with rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone): Bovine growth hormone (BGH) is a protein naturally produced by cattle. The gene has been cloned into bacterial cells to create a genetically engineered version called rBGH. It has been available and used by US farmers since 1994 to increase milk production in dairy cows. Cows injected with rBGH have shorter life expectancies and increased incidence of disease. These cows have also been found to secrete higher levels of IGF-1 (Insulin-like Growth Factor), a hormone that is tied to increased growth of cancer cells. It is reported that an excess level of IGF-1 increases the risk of developing breast and prostate cancer in humans. Furthermore, rBGH is associated with high incidences of udder infections, internal bleeding, stress-related weight loss, and severe reproductive disorders in cows. Please be aware that at this time we are unable to ensure that all our powdered milk and whey products are produced from rBGH free cows unless the product is listed as being organically produced. Also, bovine growth hormone can only be used on cows and not on goats, therefore all goat milk products are produced without the use of rBGH.
Hydrogenated and/or Partially-Hydrogenated Oils: Hydrogenation is a process that takes an unsaturated fat, such as vegetable oil, and makes it solid at room temperature, thus more saturated. A large percentage of the once healthy fats are converted to the trans-configuration, also known as trans-fatty acids. This process changes the molecular shape of these fatty acids, which negatively alters their biological functions. Excess trans-fatty acids can promote increased cholesterol and triglyceride counts, make blood platelets stickier, which encourages blood clotting, worsen an essential fatty acid deficiency, interfere with the body's detoxification systems and with insulin receptors, increase inflammation, and negatively impact the immune system.
Irradiated Food: This is a process of exposing foods to radioactivity to prolong the shelf life and reduce the risk of bacterial contamination. It is currently approved for meats, grains, some produce, herbs, and spices. The radioactive rays can change the flavors and textures of food; reduce vitamins, minerals, and enzymes; and create chemical changes. All irradiated foods must be labeled as such; however, products containing irradiated ingredients do not require labeling. Prepared or packaged foods for restaurants, hospitals, or cafeterias are also exempt from labeling. Although you will NOT find irradiated food at Vitamin Cottage, keep a look out when shopping at other establishments.
Non-Organic Produce: Conventional farming uses numerous synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides to treat the soil and plants. There are many concerns with the use of these chemicals. First, many of the chemicals used are known to be toxic to humans. Secondly, large-scale pesticide spraying has created enormous pollution problems. A small percentage of the applied pesticide actually hits its intended target-the pests-and excess goes into groundwater, rivers, and into the air. Lastly, not only do these chemicals remain on the foods they are sprayed on, they also soak into the soil, where they may remain for years (pesticides that have been banned for years, like DDT, still linger in our soils). Organic farming is a method of growing foods with natural materials such as composted animal manure, fishmeal, seaweed, or alfalfa meal. Organic growers manage pests through prevention-proper soil management, cleanliness, timely planting, companion planting, and beneficial insects-and foster biodiversity. By law, certified organic foods cannot be genetically engineered, irradiated, or grown with synthetic materials.
Olestra: This synthetic fat is a combination of soybean oil and sucrose. These ingredients are manipulated into molecules too large for the intestines to absorb or digest. Therefore, Olestra passes untouched through the digestive system. Preliminary studies suggest that Olestra causes tumors in laboratory animals. Olestra interferes with fat-soluble vitamin absorption, which includes vitamins A, E, D, K, Co-enzyme Q10, carotenoids, lutein, lycopene, and beta-carotene. Studies have shown that 8 grams per day (equivalent to 16 potato chips containing Olestra) caused dramatic depletion of fat-soluble vitamins within two weeks. Olestra may also cause intestinal cramping, flatulence, and loose stool.
Ingredients Primarily in Supplements
Androstenedione: This is a metabolite of DHEA and the precursor to testosterone, the hormone responsible for making the male body masculine. An increase in testosterone levels can cause the same side effects as androgenic-anabolic supplements (steroids and growth hormones). Some side effects include muscle tightness, cramps, increased body weight, acne, gastrointestinal problems, changes in libido, lower HDL (good) cholesterol counts, liver damage, dependence, and a higher risk of prostate disease. Additionally, to date, there are no published studies indicating that it increases human muscle mass or strength.
Chaparral: There have been reports of people developing liver or kidney problems after taking chaparral, particularly in capsules. This herb should only be taken internally under a physician's supervision.
Colloidal Silver: Although silver is an effective antimicrobial agent, the concentrations required for any systemic effects are not likely to be obtained safely with oral administration. Silver is not an essential mineral for humans and can accumulate in the body's tissues, causing a disfiguring skin condition called argyria. Additionally, medical literature shows that neurological problems may develop with long-term use of oral silver products. None of the beneficial claims of silver supplementation have been proven.
Comfrey, internal sources: The herb comfrey contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids, substances that are known to be hepatotoxins (toxic to the liver) in animals, when used internally. The pyrrolizidine alkaloids that are present in comfrey have also been shown to be toxic to other tissues, and there is evidence that these substances may be carcinogenic. However, comfrey is safe when used topically.
DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone): This hormone, produced by the adrenal glands, has many regulatory functions in the body, but these actions are best accomplished when DHEA is produced naturally. There are numerous potential side effects with using supplemental DHEA. For example, it can promote tumor growth, encourage liver toxicity, and disrupt hormonal balance, which can produce a wide range of symptoms including facial hair on women. Self-diagnosis of low DHEA levels and self-prescribed supplementation is inappropriate and can be harmful. A doctor trained in the use of DHEA should regulate the intake of this supplement. 7-KETO (3-acetyl-7-oxo-dehydroepandrosterone) is a naturally occurring metabolite (breakdown product) of the hormone DHEA, which we also do not carry due to the reasons stated above.
EAS Sport Supplements: These products contain hydrogenated vegetable oils and artificial sweeteners. Please refer to sections below to learn more about these ingredients.
EDTA: EDTA (ethylenediamine tetra-acetic acid) is a synthetic amino acid used in chelation therapy. This therapy is done by administering repeated doses of EDTA to gradually reduce atherosclerotic plaque and other mineral deposits throughout the cardiovascular system. Despite the debate between intravenous and oral administration of this substance, Vitamin Cottage feels the use of EDTA should be medically supervised. Lab tests should be done to assess toxicity levels and whether or not the EDTA treatments are working. Taking the therapy when not needed may cause bodily damage. Furthermore, EDTA is a mineral chelator and removes minerals indiscriminately. This means that it may remove essential minerals needed for proper nutrition.
Ephedra in Weight Loss, Energy, or Sport Nutrition Products: The use of dietary supplements that contain ephedra alkaloids may pose a health risk to some persons. Sensitivities to this particular herb are hard to predict, but we feel that this herb is best used under a doctor's care. Ephedra's stimulatory effect can result in a number of negative side effects, such as dizziness, headaches, insomnia and other sleep disturbances, elevated blood pressure, muscle disturbances, dry mouth, nervousness, weakened digestion, and heart palpitations. Since this herb may have some value for asthma and other respiratory conditions, we do carry formulations that contain ephedra that support these issues.
A Note on Ephedra: In 2004, the FDA ruled that it would no longer be legal to sell dietary supplements that contain ephedrine group alkaloids because it determined that those alkaloids present unreasonable risks. The confusing part is which products this rule affects. Chinese herbal remedies are exempt and the rule "generally does not apply to products like herbal teas or conventional foods that contain ephedrine alkaloids." The rule applies to all dietary supplements that contain a source of ephedrine alkaloids, such as ephedra, ma huang, Sida cordifolia, and Pinellia. Additionally, dietary supplements that contain pseudoephedrine from ephedra or some other source are not banned. Essentially, the FDA has banned ephedra as an ingredient, not as a dietary supplement.
Germanium: Supplementation with germanium, a naturally occurring element, has resulted in renal, hepatic, and neurological toxicities. Although acute toxicity studies in animals reveal low potential for toxicity, low-dose chronic toxicity has been demonstrated repeatedly.
Glycols: There are three glycols added to supplements that Vitamin Cottage does not approve: Polyethylene glycol (PEG), propylene glycol, and propylene glycol alginate. PEG is a product of either petroleum gas or dehydration of alcohol. Implants of large amounts in rats caused cancer and large oral doses have produced kidney and liver damage. Propylene glycol in large oral doses in animals has been reported to cause central nervous system depression and slight kidney changes.
Human Growth Hormone (HGH): This is a pituitary hormone involved in growth and in the repair of organs and tissues. It is being touted as an anti-aging therapy, however there have been no studies on oral HGH products. Side effects can include joint pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, bloating, edema, breast tenderness in men, diabetes, and it may possibly lead to prostate problems. However, we do carry homeopathic versions by Lidell and Renewal that are safe.
Iron Oxide: Oxygen, oxidation, and free radicals are essential to health, but uncontrolled free radicals lead to physical damage and disease. A common example of damaging oxidation occurs when oxygen combines with the element iron to create iron oxide, better known as rust. Even though iron is essential to body function, too much combined with poor antioxidant defense, due to poor intake of antioxidants, can put someone at a higher risk for increased oxidative stress, which is believed to be the culprit in a number of health conditions. If iron supplementation is needed, non-oxidized forms of iron, like fumarate, gluconate, and glycinate, are recommended.
Limited Weight Loss Supplements: We have limited the number of weight loss and energy enhancing products on our shelves that contain ingredients that may be harmful to some individuals due to high amounts of caffeine and/or stimulant effects. These ingredients include kola nut, bitter orange, pseudoephedrine, and guarana.
Phaseolamin: This is a derivative of the white kidney bean that is used as a "carb blocker." It slows down the digestion of starch by inhibiting alpha-amylase, an enzyme that breaks down starch to be more fully absorbed by the body. Since "carb blockers" interfere with enzymes once the food moves into the stomach and intestines, partially digested fragments may result. These fragments can create two problems. First, unhealthy bacteria devour these particles causing fermentation, which leads to gas, bloating, and other gastrointestinal complications. Second, these fragments can pass through the intestinal wall and cause allergic reactions. Because they are not properly broken down, the immune system sees these particles as foreign and responds accordingly. This response can manifest itself in a number of symptoms, including fatigue, headaches, liver problems, anxiety, or skin conditions. For more information on healthy weight loss, see the customer literature file titled "Weight Loss the Healthy Way."
Potassium Iodide/High Dose Iodine: High dose iodine is often used to help with an overactive thyroid and may help protect the thyroid gland from the effects of exposure to radioactive iodine, but high amounts of iodine may produce adverse reactions such as rashes, itching or lesions on the skin, gastrointestinal symptoms, or hypothyroidism. Because of this, a doctor should supervise the use of high dose iodine therapy.
Pregnenolone: This hormone is a precursor to DHEA and other hormones. As mentioned previously, there are numerous risks involved when supplementing with DHEA. Minimal research exists on pregnenolone's use in humans; therefore, we do not feel it is safe to self-prescribe. The chance of causing hormonal imbalance is high and could result in negative consequences.
Talc (magnesium silicate): This anti-caking agent is used in some dry foods, personal powder products (bath, baby, face), creams, and supplements. Talc is similar in chemical composition to asbestos, and like asbestos, prolonged inhalation can cause lung problems. It is suspected that the high incidence of stomach cancer among the Japanese is due to the fact that their rice is treated with talc.
Testosterone Cream: Although some men may benefit from testosterone, the use of any steroid hormone should be supervised by a trained physician. Even bio-identical hormones can be dangerous in excess. Testosterone does not cause prostate cancer, but it does increase the growth rate of any cancer already present. It is important to not take more than directed by a physician.
Ingredients in Other Products
Artificial Antibacterial Soaps: Such soaps contain synthetic antibacterial agents (like triclosan) that work like antibiotics. Researchers are concerned that through the process of natural selection, bacteria that survive exposure to antibacterial agents pass along their resistant genes, making the next generation even tougher to combat. This is exactly what has happened with medical antibiotics due to unnecessary prescriptions. Vitamin Cottage only sells soaps that use natural antibacterial ingredients, like tea tree oil.
DEET (diethyl-meta-toluamide): This insecticide can be found in most over-the-counter insect repellents. However, there are some concerns about the toxicity of DEET. A Duke University Medical Center pharmacologist, Mohamed Abou-Donia, Ph.D., has conducted animal studies that found the chemical causes widespread brain cell death and behavioral changes in rats after frequent and prolonged use. While the chemical's risk to humans is being intensely debated, Abou-Donia says his 30 years of research on pesticides' brain effects clearly indicate the need for caution. Children in particular are at risk for subtle brain changes caused by chemicals in the environment, because their skin more readily absorbs them, and chemicals more potently affect their developing nervous systems. With heavy exposure to DEET and other insecticides, humans may experience memory loss, headache, weakness, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, tremors, and shortness of breath. There are many insect repellants that are DEET-free on our shelves that we are comfortable selling.