Supplement Safety By Ken Bendor
Medical Science vs. Natural Health & Alternative Medicine
In our society of quick fixes, we have supplements that solve every imaginable problem ranging from too much belly fat to improving memory and even stopping hair loss. If only fixing bad memory was as easy as popping a few pills each day, no one would forget to pay their credit card bills anymore, and if we could take something to make us skinny, 2/3 of the population wouldn't be obese. Unfortunately, most claims made by supplements have no real science to back them up.
Companies that manufacture supplements want to portray their products as being on par with medicine and food which are tightly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). There are many laws regulating food safety to ensure the food that comes to your table won't harm you. Most food is inspected at warehouses and recalls are issued for food that is deemed unsafe. Medicines for diabetes or high blood pressure have to go through years of testing and peer reviewed studies before they are allowed onto the market. These studies are important because they allow for transparent and careful examination of data by people who did not originally do the study. Most studies done on supplements do not undergo this rigorous peer review.
Supplements rarely go through this sort of scrutiny. Unlike medicine, supplements do not need to be approved before they are put onto the market they also don't have to go through the careful study that medicine is put through. Most studies on supplements are biased because they are done by either the company selling the product or a third party that is paid to come up with favorable results. Surprisingly, you can twist and distort data to make it say whatever you want.
The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA) did attempt to introduce some regulation into the market. It does require nutrition labels and ingredient lists on supplements but the problem is you don't always get what you pay for. Even though a label might say a supplement contains 60mg of ginkgo biloba, it might only have 20mg. Yes they are lying to you but there aren't enough resources to check the claims of each product. Unlike foods, supplements are not tightly regulated.
There is also a problem of safety. If you buy that ginkgo biloba and only get 20mg per serving when it supposed to contain 60mg, what is the rest of it filled with? Some companies use cheap filler ingredients that might not be safe. Some supplements can also have dangerous effects when taken with common medicines. They can block absorption or increase the effect of certain drugs. You should always ask your doctor about possible interactions between supplements and medicines you are taking. Some supplements (ephedra) are dangerous on their own and have caused deaths ([http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/baseball/news/2003/02/18/bechler_investigate/index.html?cnn=yes]Steve Bechler ) in the past. The DSHEA gives the FDA power to remove a supplement from the market only after it has been proven to be dangerous, after it may already be too late.
Having said all that, there are benefits to some supplements and even some independent studies that prove this. Before taking any supplement, you should always do research including Consumer Labs (a third party that does tests on supplements to ensure ingredients listed on the label are included in the product) and asking your doctor or dietitian for advise. Not all companies aim to deceive but unfortunately, the problem lies with a large number of them that hope to improve their bottom line rather than your health.
For more information on supplement safety, visit the [http://straighthealth.com/pages/guides/understandnutrition.html]Guide to Understanding Nutrition. You can also check out what others think about supplements and share your own thoughts and reviews at the [http://forums.straighthealth.com]nutrition forums. [http://www.straighthealth.com]Straight Health was started in July 2006 to spread accurate and easy to understand information about health, diets, exercise and nutrition. At StraightHealth.com you can read articles and tips, use the tools and gain a further understand about the world of health.