The supplement sleuth

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Science  21 Aug 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6250, pp. 780-783
DOI: 10.1126/science.349.6250.780

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Since 2005, when internist Pieter Cohen of the Cambridge Health Alliance in Massachusetts found that his patients were being sickened by a Brazilian weight loss supplement containing antidepressants and thyroid hormones, he has become something of a mix of Indiana Jones and Sherlock Holmes of the supplement world. With chemist colleagues in the United States, Brazil, and Europe, he hunts for drugs illegally buried in supplements. Then he goes public. Ultimately, he hopes to inspire new regulations. So far, Cohen and his collaborators have identified three hidden stimulant drugs in supplements. The discoveries also highlight a broader problem, Cohen and others contend: a dysfunctional system for policing dietary supplements.