According to an investigation made by Consumer Reports, dietary supplements could be very dangerous for health, in spite of how they are marketed.
The study found that as much as twenty-three thousand people end up in the emergency room per year. But why? The problem resides in the fact that unlike ‘formal’ medication, dietary supplements do not have to get FDA approval, so they are not investigated and deemed safe for consumption, and could even be adulterated before they hit the shelves.
Ellen Kunes, Consumer Reports’ health content team leader, has proposed that manufactures must be required to pass the FDA approval and that in the meantime, those who use them ditch them for exercise, less alcohol and cigarettes and more fruits and vegetables.
Dr. Pieter Cohen, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, has advised customers not to trust what is listed in the dietary supplements labels since they are not being monitored by the FDA and can list whatever they want in the tags.
Yes, consumers have been taking probiotics, minerals, vitamins and herbs for decades, and there is little evidence that they have any benefit in the user’s health. There is the added fact that consumers do not tell their doctors what supplements they are consuming, and so, they are not warned of the health risks.
The president and CEO of The Council for Responsible Nutrition (leading trade supplement group) even stated that “there is a small minority of products that do contain ingredients that shouldn’t be in there.”
— GraciousMi Lifestyle (@gracious_mi) July 28, 2016
The severity of the side effects on the user’s health with depending on a variety of factors, such as the dosage, the longevity of the use and pre-existing medical conditions.
For the FDA these claims are not new. The Government Accountability Office discovered that from 2008 to 2011, the organization received more than one thousand serious injuries and almost one hundred deaths related to dietary supplements consumption.
Consumer Reports discusses a particular case, in which an eight-day-old preemie baby, Calvin Jimmy Lee-White, died in 2014, after being administered probiotics.
Calvin had to get emergency surgery after his tiny abdomen became full of bulges. At that moment, Doctors discovered his body was overrun by a rare fungus infection that ended up blocking his aorta.
Turned out the probiotic, ABC Dophilus Powder, made by Solgar manufacturer, was contaminated with the fungus, and the FDA itself conducted the investigation. Calvin’s family filed a lawsuit against the hospital and Solgar, claiming their son was poisoned. The FDA decided to release a statement urging doctors to be more cautious with the use of probiotic supplements.
The Consumer Reports research focused on fifteen ingredients that can be found in a lot of supplements. These culprits include caffeine powder (especially when taking alongside a cup of coffee), which is supposed to improve weight loss and attention, but can cause cardiac arrest and even death.
The famous green tea extract powder is also very dangerous, causing elevated blood pressure and heart rate, liver damage, worsens glaucoma, dizziness and can also mean death. The ‘verbal viagra’, Yohimbe, is supposed to treat erectile dysfunction, depression, and obesity, but can increase the risk of seizures, liver and kidney damage, cause panic attacks and death.
— foodology180 (@foodology180) July 28, 2016
A history of health fads
In 1970, Linus Pauling, two-time Nobel Prize winner, claimed that 3,000 mg of vitamin C a day creates immunity against common cold. In the nineties, the supplement industry grew in large steps. The FDA tried to regulate it at first, but Gerald Kessler, the founder of the company Nature’s Plus, led a group of executives, arguing that the products were ‘inherently safe,’ since they could be all found in nature.
For Kessler, dietary supplements could not be compared with the ‘unnatural’ medications and pharmaceuticals, and as such, they did not need to be monitored.
Kessler was not alone in his claims, and even Hollywood starts like Mel Gibson fought against the FDA. Henry Waxman, a former Democratic Congressman from California, remembers the debate as the unique lobbying campaign he ever saw.
“People believed what they were being told because it fed into their view that doctors, pharmaceutical companies, and the FDA wanted to block alternative medicines that could keep people healthy. What they didn’t understand was that this picture was manipulated by people who stood to make a lot of money” claimed Waxman, remembering the controversy.
The supplement industry won at the end: In 1994 the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) was approved.
Source: NY Daily News