Are Disease-Specific Herb Formulas a Good Thing?

Q. I?ve noticed new vitamin-mineral-herb combinations for specific conditions like heart health, menopause, memory and prostate health. Do they work?

A. There’s no data showing these combos work any better than single herbs. In fact, experts are concerned about the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to some formulas.

For example, the makers of Centrum and One-A-Day have each recently launched a line of supplements (Centrum Focused Formulas and One-A-Day Specialized Blends) promoted as tailor-made for conditions such as bone health, energy, mental clarity, stress, prostate health, memory and concentration, tension and mood and bedtime and rest.

Specifically, One-A-Day BedTime & Rest contains calcium, magnesium, lecithin, kava, valerian and rosemary to help “support rest and relaxation at bedtime.” Centrum Focused Formulas Heart contains vitamins B6, B12 and E, folic acid, selenium, manganese, garlic powder, taurine and coenzyme Q10 to help “maintain healthy blood pressure, normal cholesterol levels, and homocysteine levels.” Centrum Focused Formulas Mental Clarity contains the full array of B vitamins, vitamin E, zinc, ginkgo biloba and choline and “helps support energy to the brain and supports normal alertness and concentration.”

Little to Go On. The problem, says Felicia Busch, M.P.H., R.D., spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, is that “most of the data we have on herbal products comes from single herbs. There’s still a lot we don’t know about vitamin-herb and herb-herb interactions.”

And because these products are packaged with the same logo as their parent lines of multivitamin formulas, it’s easy to regard them as simply multis with the added benefit of herbs. While most contain at least a few vitamins and minerals, they do not replace a daily multi. In EN‘s opinion, major manufacturers have seen the marketing light and blindly jumped into the lucrative fray. Caveat emptor.

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