Sunday, September 23, 2012

Scandalous Supplements -- What you NEED to know!

This is one of the MOST IMPORTANT messages I want to share with everyone I can!

WHAT are dietary supplements?

ANYTHING that isn't considered a FOOD or a DRUG! This includes a surprising number of in-between items such as protein powders, energy drinks, certain oils (like flaxseed oil), and of course vitamins, minerals, and herbal remedies.

WHY is this important?

In 1994, the FDA's responsibility to regulate dietary supplements was TAKEN AWAY with the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA).

This law still stands. So, the FDA (or any governmental agency or law) does NOT exert any control over the manufacture of supplements as long as they make no claims about preventing, treating, or curing any disease. There is NO FDA approval system!

A manufacturer does NOT need to PROVE a dietary supplement is SAFE or EFFECTIVE before marketing it!

WHO can make and sell supplements?

Any company may promote its supplement as helping any human process to work normally -- "Supports a healthy brain!"

Be entertained and ASTONISHED with this clip from the movie Bigger, Stronger, Faster ...see how to make your own supplement company :)

HOW did the sales of dietary supplements change since DSHEA of 1994?

Look how it SKYROCKETED!

Trends in Global Nutrition Industry since 1994


Here is another alarming trend that the following visual communicates well! These bars represent 1000s of reports of adverse reactions to dietary supplements*. Until 2006, companies weren't even required to report complaints about (even deaths from!) their products!  Earlier this year (2012), the FDA found that up to 70% of companies STILL aren't reporting problems customers have had with their supplements the way they should be, even after they've received warning letters! (Wikipedia and FDA's conclusions from many laboratory inspections)

*I was unable to obtain such data after 2000.

Adverse Reactions to Dietary Supplements from
National Poison Control Centers and  FDA, 1994-2000
WHAT about EFFECTIVENESS of a dietary supplement?

Not a lot to say here, but there is an important answer. A manufacturer does NOT EVER need to PROVE a dietary supplement is EFFECTIVE at doing what it claims!


Buy US Pharmacopeia (USP) Verified Supplements! (USP Supplements)

Look for this seal on Dietary Supplement Labels!

USP is a nearly 200-year-old, scientific, nonprofit organization that sets standards to ensure quality, strength, safety, purity, and potency of dietary supplements in order to PROTECT PUBLIC HEALTH WORLDWIDE! It's been around since before the FDA! It's made up of a team of more than 800 VOLUNTEER experts!

WHAT about cost?

DO NOT trust the PRICE as a measure/predictor of safety or effectiveness of a product!

USP-labeled supplements are generally less expensive than non-approved supplements, so choosing USP is a win/win situation for your health AND your pocket book!

Costco Members: Costco sells lots of USP supplements, and for a much better value than anywhere I have found -- hooray!!

Consumerl Lab is a website/company whose mission is to identify the best quality health and nutritional products through independent testing. It tests many, many different supplement brands for similiar characteristics as described above for USP. You must pay for an annual membership.

Big name brands are generally safer -- it is harder for complications, complaints, etc to slip through the cracks with such mass production.
Avoid buying anything labeled as a dietary supplement at small, health food stores, or especially ONLINE!


  • If a product is labeled as a dietary supplement, TAKE CAUTION!
  • IMPURITY and CONTAMINATION in supplements are major risks!
  • You want to know that what is in the bottle is SAFE and also includes NO MORE or LESS than what is stated on the bottle!
  • Supplements boasting to help with a particular condition are a) BREAKING the law, and b) may be including in their product an unlisted prescription DRUG, or other contaminants, such as lead or mercury.
  • READ the scientific research regarding effectiveness of a dietary supplement, apart from what you find on a label or on a company's website.

Reliable Resources for Dietary Supplements

Wikipedia's Notes on Dietary Supplements

Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA)

FDA 101: Dietary Supplements

NIH's Office of Dietary Supplements -- they have a section with Dietary Supplement Fact Sheets

NIH's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine -- they have a section called Using Dietary Supplements Wisely

COMING SOON: which supplements (B12, etc.) and which brands do we use in my home, as well as how often/much, AND RELIABLE sources of health and nutrition information (and where NOT to look for info!)


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