Saturday, September 12, 2009

Supplements

I am comforted to see that I am not the only one who expresses concerns about the sale and use of supplements and herbals. In reading a story in the WSJ recently, I also learned that some laws or regulations have been enacted since I first began to express my concerns in the pages of my blog.

Just briefly, my concern has always been lack of evidence, lack of oversight, lack of disclosure and lack of purity. These are still my concerns and the concerns of others, but you have options for vetting the products you would like to try.

There is also a little more accountability in that the FDA does have manufacturing standards for supplement makers and there is a law from 2007 that mandates a report to the FDA for any serious side effect. Really the big difference between supplements, which include your mulit vitamin, calcium, fish oil and all those products that promise less osteoarthritis, bigger muscles and weight loss, is that the manufacturer is responsible for proof of efficacy and safety and does not have to have FDA approval to sell or market the product. It is only after the product is on the market that the FDA can respond to problems and false claims. And as you may know, the FDA is somewhat overwhelmed with oh, all the meds and medical devices that are causing us problems.

There are resources for the consumer and it is up to us to use them. I would recommend the FDA site to check on any reports of problems, and I would recommend Medlines’ supplement page for research, efficacy and side effects. Be more careful with a supplement company website. Consumerlab is good, but you have to pay for it and I think that is unnecessary.

One piece of advice offered in the article is one I would caution against putting much faith in. That is to ask your physician about a supplement. I DO think you should tell physicians and hospital staff of anything you take, but to expect a doc to have had the time to evaluate a supplement is a little idealistic. You really have to do this work yourself.

For me, I again stick with the supplements I have found the most research to support which are vitamin D and fish oil. I stay away from any supplement promising weight loss, enhanced performance or joint repair. Be mindful that many products making those claims have been found to have undeclared and harmful ingredients with adverse outcomes of liver and kidney damage. Oh, and as a tobacco educator, skip those all natural quit smoking products also.

Here are the links I feel you would be wise to use:

http://www.fda.gov/Food/DietarySupplements/ConsumerInformation/default.htm

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginformation.html

http://www.consumerlab.com/

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