NETfacts: Natural Health Products, Self-care, Quality

Raspberry Ketones and Quality Regulation: Self-Care’s Role

A recent post to CHP Canada’s Facebook page asked for our take on raspberry ketones and whether the quality of such products is regulated in Canada.The question reflects one of the many issues we hope to explore with Canadians in this blog.In a nutshell, we are hoping to start a conversation about self-care’s role in the health of Canadians and their health care system.To say that that conversation has many facets is a bit like saying that Justin Bieber has a lot of followers on Twitter. 

In this instance, the poster raises a couple of the concerns that anyone practicing self-care might have about a consumer health product.Does it work?Can I be sure that the quality is consistent?How are these things regulated?

But embedded in the question is perhaps an even bigger issue. Raspberry ketones are on the radar because they’ve received a good deal of attention in the media for their potential weight-loss benefits, particularly from the very popular Dr. Oz Show.

This highlights another challenge for people interested in self-care. The breadth and range of health information sources, from mainstream and social media, product advertising, word-of-mouth, health professionals, books, websites and even health food store clerks, is staggering.  How do you separate the wheat from the chaff?The explosive growth in the availability of health information is tightly related to the growing importance of self-care in overall health care, but how does one differentiate between solid guidance and hucksterism?

It’s not always easy.Dr. Oz puts forward what, at first blush, looks like a pretty substantial scientific argument for the value of raspberry ketones in weight loss.Others aren’t so sure about his methods.  

What to do?One way to approach it is to check the label of any consumer health product you’re contemplating for the presence of an eight-digit Health Canada registration number, which will be preceded by the letters DIN if it is approved as an over-the-counter medicine (OTC) or the letters NPN or DIN-HM if approved as a natural health product (NHP).  These numbers mean that Health Canada has reviewed evidence of the product’s safety and effectiveness and authorized the claims made on the label, and that they believe the company is complying with Good Manufacturing Practices to ensure consistent quality (more on that latter point in my next post).  We checked the Licensed Natural Health Product Database to see if any product had been approved with raspberry ketones as an active ingredient, but came up empty.  In all likelihood, that is because none of the science Dr. Oz referred to actually involved studying this ingredient in humans.

That could change.Perhaps the evidence in humans will emerge and get a thumbs up from Health Canada.  Keep your eye on those product labels and you’ll be among the first to know.In the meantime my best advice to our Facebook poster who is curious about raspberry ketones and weight loss goes like this:  If you pass on the chocolate cheesecake and go for the bowl of berries instead, you can’t go wrong.