A new health scare concerning bioflavonoids is raging in Italy, and it's something that could soon be hitting a health store near you if the regulators of the European Union have anything to do with it.
The Italian government is warning pregnant women not to take supplements that contain bioflavonoids. They could cause severe disease in a child's first year if he was exposed to them in the womb, says the warning that now appears on the labels of all supplements that contain bioflavonoiods.
The Italian government acted after several studies suspected a link between dietary flavonoids and infant leukemia in particular.
It's certainly had an impact. Women in Italy have stopped taking the supplements when pregnant, which means they are also depriving themselves of other helpful ingredients such as folic acid, proteins and minerals.
So were the Italian authorities right to issue the warning? A closer reading of the studies suggests not. The association is very questionable, and is certainly not good science. In fact, the converse may be true: there's much more evidence to suggest that dietary bioflavonoids protect against cancer because of their antioxidant properties.
Supplements may also be an unnecessary target. The average Mediterranean, and Italian, diet contains more than 2000 mg of bioflavonoids a day, whereas a supplement delivers just 60 mg daily. At worst, it suggests that supplements are unnecessary, but certainly not dangerous to the unborn child. We hope the EU regulators are listening.