“Just imagine, how much easier our lives would be if we were born with a ‘user guide or owner’s manual’ which could tell us what to eat and how to live healthy.”
― Erika M. Szabo
For those of us who care about what we put in our mouths, the PBS FRONTLINE report on supplements that aired on January 19, 2016 was downright scary – until you start paying attention to reality.
I went to my supplement cabinet. The first bottle I pulled out was manufactured by NOW®. It has the little green Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) emblem on it. (All my supplements except LifeExtension have that symbol.) What that means is that NOW® was certified with the Natural Products Association (more stringent than the FDA standards which were “Johnny-come-lately”). NOW® also conducts independent inspections of their ingredient suppliers. Resveratrol was the next supplement I pulled out of the cabinet. The resveratrol I am currently taking is by BRI Nutrition. BRI Nutrition is also GMP certified which once again means it meets all FDA requirement for health supplements. Every supplier must provide a certificate of analysis for each of their raw material as a consistent measure of quality. BRI conducts random and independent laboratory testing on all raw materials. BRI also test its final products to make sure that the product complies with all the product label claims.
Things I have learned about whether my dietary supplements are safe include:
- Supplements are regulated. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on their own website states that it regulates both finished dietary supplement products and dietary ingredients. I highly recommend that everyone interested visit the FDA webpage and see for themselves how dietary supplements are regulated.
- Supplements are not in and of themselves dangerous – many pharmaceutical drugs are. There were no deaths from vitamins in the year 2014 as reported in the 32nd annual report from the American Association of Poison Control Centers. In 2013, 44,000 people died from drug overdoses. Over 50 percent of these deaths were related to prescription drugs. These data represent people who abuse prescription drugs. What few people understand is that new prescription drugs have a 20% chance of causing serious reactions after they have been approved. As reported by Dr. Donald W. Light systematic reviews found that even properly prescribed drugs cause about 1.9 million hospitalizations a year. Another 840,000 hospitalized patients are given drugs that result in serious adverse reactions. Approximately 128,000 people die from drugs prescribed to them making prescription drugs the 4th leading cause of death.
I am not averse to prescription drugs. According to the Mayo Clinic, nearly 70 percent of Americans are on at least one prescription drug and more than 50% take two. I believe that many people can be helped by drugs.
I also believe that the pharmaceutical industry would like to shut down the natural supplement industry and will use any means necessary to do so, including supporting one-sided reporting on the highly respected news show – FRONTLINE.
An example of one-sided reporting was that Dr Paul Offit was featured on the show, but there were no disclosures that Dr Offit and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia had received multiple millions of dollars for worldwide royalty interest for the Merck Rota Teq vaccine. In fact, the promo above from the FRONTLINE show was filmed at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. There was a “Conflicts of Interest in Vaccine Policy Making Majority Staff Report” published on August 21, 2000 that identified Dr Offit among others as being involved in conflicts of interest over vaccines. The conclusions section of this report quoted a New England Journal of Medicine editorial.
“What is at issue is not whether researchers can be ‘bought’ in the sense of a quid pro quo, it is that close and remunerative collaboration with a company naturally creates goodwill on the part of researchers and the hope that the largesse will continue. This attitude can subtly influence scientific judgment.”
The global pharmaceutical industry is a $300 billion industry that is expected to grow to $400 billion in the next 3 years, as reported by the World Health Organization. The US supplement industry is a $37 billion industry. It actually turns out to be an easy target. While I do not have a desire to spend my time and energy trying to determine if “Big Pharma” is trying to destroy the supplement industry, I do believe it is important to be aware of the vast and influential nature of the industry and to listen to reports like the report on FRONTLINE with the jaded ear they deserve.
Thanks for taking the time to let me rant.