In The News: Are Melatonin Brownies Really Dietary Supplements?

| 5/23/2011 4:36:44 PM

S.McCabeYour daily dietary supplement may not actually be a dietary supplement at all.

This recent concern comes from the sale of pre-packaged brownies that contain doses of melatonin. The products (with names such as Lazy Cakes and Kush Cakes) are being marketed as dietary supplements that promote relaxation, alleviate stress and help combat insomnia. While they do have these desired effects, the brownies may be more dangerous than they appear.    

Brownies with melatonin are marketed to help people sleep.
Photo by yum9me/Courtesy

According to a statement released by the Natural Products Association, a product labeled as a dietary supplement may not actually mean that it is one. In order to qualify as a dietary supplement under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), a product:

• Must be inteded to supplement the diet
• Must be labeled as a dietary supplement
• Contains one of more dietary ingredients such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, metabolites, concentrates, herbs and other botanicals
• Is intended to be taken by mouth and comes in forms such as capsules, powder, softgels, gelcaps, tablets or liquids
• Cannot be represented as a conventional food item

Under DSHEA, companies do not need the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval to market their product as a dietary supplement. DSHEA leaves it up to the individual company to make sure its product is safe and that any claims it makes can be substantiated with evidence. U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) has raised concerns with the FDA about the amount of melatonin in the brownies. Although there is no recommended dose of melatonin, the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database shows a typical dose is between 0.3 and 5 mg. However, the brownies contain about 8 mg of melatonin apiece—way more than the normal amount.