France investigates pregnancy supplement safety following abortions

By Annie Harrison-Dunn

- Last updated on GMT

ANSES investigates supplements for pregnancy, increasing muscle mass and reducing body fat as well as supplements with Spirulina
ANSES investigates supplements for pregnancy, increasing muscle mass and reducing body fat as well as supplements with Spirulina

Related tags Food supplements Pregnancy

The French food safety agency is investigating risks associated with the intake of vitamins and minerals from food supplements during pregnancy after it received two reports of termination on medical grounds.

The Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety (ANSES) said it had received “several reports”​ of adverse effects potentially associated with the consumption of food supplements during pregnancy since it established the nutrivigilance scheme in 2010. Fourteen of these reports were since ruled admissible”​, largely relating to endocrinological or obstetrical effects. Two of the pregnancies concerned were terminated on medical grounds.

The severity of the effects, affecting vulnerable populations (pregnant women and newborns), and the occasionally high causality led ANSES to issue an internal request in order to assess the risks associated with the intake of vitamins and minerals during pregnancy,”​ the authority said.

ANSES was also looking at risks associated with sports supplements to increase muscle mass and reduce body fat and had just begun work on food supplements containing the algae Spirulina.

The three separate ongoing investigations came as part of the authority’s nutrivigilance scheme, a health monitoring system that aimed to improve consumer safety by rapidly identifying potential adverse effects of food supplement or novel food consumption. The online nutrivigilance portal was open to submissions of concerns from health care professionals like doctors, pharmacists and dieticians. 

The results of the pregnancy and sports supplements investigations were promised in the first half of this year. No details of focus or deadline were given for the opinion on Spirulina supplements.

Tremor, anxiety disorders, dizziness

The assessment of ‘pregnancy supplements’ focused on the composition of the implicated products. In particular description, pharmacology, metabolism and main effects observed and the special needs for these compounds of pregnant women and foetuses. Relevant literature would be used to find likely explanations for the reported adverse effects.

The second assessment on supplements for muscle-mass increase and body-fat reduction was spurred by 11 admissible reports, primarily described as cardiovascular (tachycardia, arrhythmia, stroke) and neurological (tremor, anxiety disorders, dizziness).

This investigation focused on what was available on the market, composition and nutritional benefits. It would also look at the age profile of these consumers and what effects they sought when buying the products. Again a literature review would be used to find possible mechanisms likely to explain the adverse effects reported.

Last week the agency confirmed it was also looking into the safety of glucosamine and chondroitin supplements​ for joint health after it received warnings of liver and endocrine damage. 

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