Food Supplements: Be an Informed Consumer. Part 2Thursday, September 1, 2011 8:48
On the other hand, we have natural food supplements. The FDA does not regulate these substances and they don’t require a physician or pharmacist to purchase them. The only quality check is the manufacturer, which is required to ensure that the food supplements they produce are safe.
Now that I have you really concerned, let’s look at the safety track record of drugs verses food supplements. In 1998, a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association estimated that adverse reactions to prescription drugs were killing about 106,000 Americans each year, almost three times as many as killed by automobiles (4). Of these 106,000 people, 41% (43,000) were hospitalized due to an adverse drug reaction; the other 59% (63,000 people), developed a fatal reaction to prescription drugs they received while in the hospital. The most disturbing fact about this report is that the study only included drugs that were given properly and under normal circumstances, and excluded drugs that were administered in error or taken in attempted suicides. Wow! It just keeps getting better and better for those prescription drugs, doesn’t it?
Now let’s look at food supplements. In 1997, approximately 40% of the United States population (267,743,595 people) took dietary supplements, of which 18,000 had adverse reactions (5). However, these 18,000 poisonings were in children under 5 years of age that overdosed or took excessive amounts of vitamin supplements. So we see that life threatening adverse reactions to vitamins, mineral, and herbal supplements rarely occur in the adult population. Clearly, food supplements are much safer than prescription or non-prescription drugs any day of the week!
Now that you feel comfortable again in regards to the safety of food supplements, there is the issue of effectiveness, or what we in the biz like to call “efficacy.” In essence, do food supplements do what you think they are doing?
This is where being informed really comes in handy. Remember that the FDA holds manufacturers responsible for the safety of their products? Well, that doesn’t mean that their products will do you any good. For example, I’m sure you have all heard or read about the benefits of Glucosamine Sulfate and Chondroitin Sulfate for joint pain and mobility, and rightly so. These food supplements have been clinically shown to improve joint function. However, the manufacturers of products that contain these substances are not really being honest with you. What they are not telling you is that oral Chondroitin Sulfate is too large (molecularly) to be absorbed by the body and that, in clinical trials, the injectable form of Chondroitin Sulfate was used, not oral (6). Yes, that’s right my friends, the pill form of Chondroitin Sulfate that you are taking is doing absolutely nothing for you. Yet, there are hundreds of food supplements out there that have oral Chondroitin Sulfate in their products, imagine that!
The moral of the story is that you are responsible for the food supplements that you take. Yes, food supplements are very safe if taken in accordance with the label instructions (or as instructed by a healthcare professional), but you don’t take them just for the fun of it. You take supplements to improve or maintain your health. So, unless you like spending money on products that do nothing for you, or don’t do what you think they’re doing, it is important to research and understand the products that you are taking. And hey, don’t always believe what the manufacturer tells you, research it for yourself. Food supplements can be a very valuable tool in the quest for optimum health, but they need to be used wisely. So don’t fall for all the media hype! Become an informed consumer. You’ll be better off and save some money to boot! Can’t beat that!