I have been more direct in recent posts about the value of supplementing and specifically supplementing with Shaklee vitamins for alleviating arthritis pain, joint pain and muscle soreness. I assume that you, like me do a lot of research on the internet before making a purchase, or when confronted with a problem symptom or diagnosis. You are out there “googling” every aspect of a topic you care about.
In September one of the most revered journals we all turn to or have turned to in the past, Consumer’s Report, came out with an article titled: “10 Surprising Dangers of Vitamins and Supplements“.
In this and the next 2 posts I will share with you the analysis of this report by Dr. Steven Chaney, Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 1992-present. Dr. Chaney publishes an online “Tips from the Profession” blog in which he comments on the latest research in the health and wellness field. These critiques in journals such as Consumer’s Report, often miss important nuances that people need when researching value in the supplements they are taking.
Let’s look with Dr. Chaney at the warnings the authors have made one by one and put them in perspective. Dr. Chaney’s comments are in quotes.
#1 supplements are not risk-free.
“That is true up to a point. There are some bad players in the industry but they produce a very small minority
of the supplements in the marketplace – probably less than 2%.
“To understand just how small a problem this really is, we really need to put the warning into perspective. The
authors said that there were 6,300 reports of serious adverse effects and 115 deaths associated with dietary
supplements between 2007 and 2012. That corresponds to 1,260 serious adverse effects and 23 deaths per year.
“In contrast, there are over 2.2 million adverse drug reactions and over 125,000 deaths per year from medications taken as properly prescribed. [Does this make the press and head line our magazines and newspapers?]
“So which is more dangerous – food supplements or prescription drugs?
#2 some supplements are really prescription drugs.
“Again that is a true statement, but it represents only a few bad apples in the industry – it’s not the industry norm.
“The worst offenders are among supplements marketed for bodybuilding, weight loss, and sexual enhancement -especially those that promise instant or effortless results. These supplements often contain stimulants or synthetic steroids. As I have said in the past “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”. So just avoid those supplements that advertise that they will make the pounds just melt away or enable you to leap tall buildings in a single bound.
# 3 you can overdose on vitamins and minerals.
“That’s kind of a no-brainer. You can overdose on almost anything – even water.
“Now I do not want to minimize the possibility of overdosing on vitamins and minerals. It can happen.
Most of those 1,260 serious adverse effects reported each year are probably due to overdosing – although
some of them may represent drug – nutrient interactions.
“If you are taking high levels of vitamins and minerals, I do recommend that you familiarize yourself with the
safe upper limits set by the Institute of Medicine and the Office of Dietary Supplements. You can find that at
www.ods.od.nih.gov. [When I first starting using Shaklee, I worried about this. A person who had been taking Shaklee for 20 years told me the only way Shaklee vitamins could hurt you was by dropping a case of them on your foot.]
#4 you can’t depend on warning labels.
“Again, that is true with a small minority of the supplements out there. In fact, it is a good way to
distinguish between the fly-by-night companies and the reputable companies.
“My advice to you is to do your due diligence. Look for responsible, reputable companies that put warning
labels on their supplements.
#5 no supplements have been proven to cure major diseases.
“As the authors point out the FDA does not allow claims that supplements can diagnose, cure, mitigate, treat,
or prevent diseases. These claims are only allowed for FDA approved drugs.
“If you see claims that a supplement can cure or treat a disease, run the other way. Reputable companies would not make such a claim.
#6 buy with caution from botanicas.
“The authors are referring to stores that sell traditional medicinal plants for physical or spiritual healings. [We have a number of these in Seattle with Asian herbalists selling products traditional to their culture. I have safely used several items on the recommendation of my acupuncturist.] The botanica type stores are completely unregulated, so you have no idea what you’re actually getting. [This caution has] very little to do with the supplements that you and I are likely to be purchasing on a regular basis.”
I am grateful to Dr. Chaney for his thoughtful reading of the article’s findings. It helps us put the headliner in perspective. Don’t let those warnings scare you away from supplementation. Instead let Consumer Report’s 10 points help you choose high quality supplements from reputable manufacturers, and hopefully help keep you from falling for hype and deceptive advertising used by a very small segment of supplement manufacturers. In my next posting, I’ll bring Dr. Cheney on again to comment on the other 3 heralded causes for concern.
Now, take action: Leave a comment about your fears and concerns about supplements. Let’s get a conversation going about safety and supplementation.
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