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Weight loss, energy supplement ingredient could cause miscarriage, FDA warns

Supplements for enhanced memory may also have this ingredient, which pregnant women are urged to avoid.

The Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning, urging some women to stop using certain dietary supplements because of an ingredient that could lead to a miscarriage. The warning is being issued to both pregnant women and women who could become pregnant.

The ingredient is called vinpocetine, a synthetically-produced compound. The FDA says it is a prescription drug in some other countries but has not been reviewed by the FDA under its safety and effectiveness standards. 

This warning is based on the FDA's reviews of data, including a recent report from the National Institute of Health's National Toxicology Program.

"... consumption of vinpocetine is associated with adverse reproductive effects – in other words, vinpocetine may cause a miscarriage or harm fetal development," the FDA said in a statement Monday.

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According to the FDA, scientists found pregnant animals who were given vinpocetine suffered decreased fetal weight and increased chances of a miscarriage. Studies found both people and pregnant animals experienced the same drop in blood levels after taking vinpocetine. That led to the concern that pregnant women could suffer the same effects as the pregnant animals.

The FDA says supplements marketed for enhanced memory and focus or mental acuity, increased energy, or weight loss may contain vinpocetine.

If you're checking the label, the FDA said vinpocetine may be referred to as Vinca minor extract, lesser periwinkle extract, or common periwinkle extract.

The FDA is also urging manufacturers to put clear warning labels on the packaging if their supplement contains vinpocetine.

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