Some More On the Supplement Safety ‘Controversy’
Last month, we wrote a post about supplement safety. We want you to be absolutely confident that supplements have an excellent safety record, so this month we are going to continue addressing this topic.
If you pay attention to your body, you can quickly identify supplements that you shouldn’t be taking. I am one of the people who has trouble with L-glutatmine. So guess what, I eliminated it from my regimen and that’s that. One of our staff doesn’t do well with Ashwagandha. The effects are mild and very transient – as soon as she eliminates products that include this herb, she is just fine. For other people L-glutamine and Ashwagandha have fabulous benefit. You will need to pay attention to your own body, for heaven’s sake.
To understand the reports in the news about supplement safety, you need to first understand the game to understand what the players are up to.
The game is control of your health and your body. Billions of dollars are at stake and so is your right to decide what is right for you. How you line up on this topic depends on how you feel about health freedom and whether you think backroom meetings in Washington should decide your fate.
You may have heard of the revolving door system of government and industry. This is the system where a person works for a time at a major pharmaceutical company and then takes a position in the FDA for a few years and then goes back to the pharmaceutical industry. This keeps the FDA and pharmaceutical companies on very friendly terms as they play golf together, play poker together, fly on the same corporate jets and sail on the same corporate yachts. To learn more and get really depressed, search FDA and/or Wall Street revolving door connections.
That’s what I am talking about when I say the goal is control of your health, and one part of that is the impending takeover of supplements by the pharmaceutical industry. This recently just played out in wild yam-derived progesterone drops. The FDA has determined that this has to be a prescription item even though it is has been used for decades without any significant problems. We have recommended this as a supplement for our patients for at least 20 years and I can’t recall a single significant problem.
This changes a $19 bottle of progesterone drops into a $200+ prescription item. Factor in $130 or so for the office visit plus $70 for the pharmaceutical company’s prescription-only progesterone. Wealthy people will find this an inconvenience, but people of more moderate means will have to decide between paying a utility bill and balancing their hormones.
Running point on this campaign is Senator Dick Durbin, who has worked hard to get more supplement control into the hands of the FDA. If that doesn’t send a cold chill up your spine, you don’t have enough facts. One recent bill that he introduced in 2011 (S 1310) would actually establish more stringent controls over the supplement industry than exists for pharmaceuticals. Fortunately for all of us, his bill failed to get the needed support in the Senate. We can thank the natural health community for their effective action.
Back to the real question here: are dietary supplements safe? Let’s consider some government data. Since 2008, the supplement industry has been required to report adverse events to the FDA’s AER system.
In 2008, the FDA reports:
- 1,080 reports related to dietary supplements
- 526,527 reports related to prescription drugs
- 26,517 reports related to vaccines
Of course, Durbin thinks that the problems with supplements are just underreported. There just aren’t that many adverse reactions to dietary supplements to report.
Poison control centers reported zero deaths related to vitamin and mineral supplements in 2010. FDA approved drugs are responsible for 80% of poison control fatalities each year. Poison control centers report 100,000 calls, 56,000 emergency room visits, 2600 hospitalizations and 500 deaths each year from acetaminophen (Tylenol) alone.
Data from the European Union indicates that pharmaceutical drugs are 62,000 times more likely to cause death as dietary supplements. To put it another way, you are more likely to drown in your bathtub than die from nutritional supplements.
Let’s discuss a particular study. The National Cancer Institute published an article in July 2013 that suggests an association between elevated plasma omega-3 fatty acids and an increase in prostate cancer risk.
There are several problems with this type of study. The first is that this contradicts several studies that find the opposite to be true.
Other problems with the conclusion of this report are as follows:
Only a single blood test (plasma levels) was used for each person. They did not follow omega-3 fatty acid levels over time. Is it possible that the men with prostate cancer had upped their intake of omega-3 fatty acids in an attempt to improve their health and that these men already had the prostate cancer prior to the increased fish oil intake?
If they really wanted to know omega-3 fatty levels, they should have sampled EPA and DHA within red blood cells which gives a much better indicator of actual levels. Plasma levels are fairly volatile and subject to day to day fluctuations.
Did other factors compound the prostate cancer risk?
- 53% of the subjects with prostate cancer were smokers
- 64% of the subjects with prostate cancer were regular alcohol consumers
- 30% of the cancer subjects had a family history or prostate cancer
- 80% of the cancer subjects were overweight or obese
These studies are trotted out like champion thoroughbreds when in reality they are more like sickly, old skinny horses that need help standing up.
The body of literature that supports the anti-inflammatory effects of omega-e fatty acids (fish oil) is extensive. These biased studies and conclusions need to be illuminated for the deceptions that they are.
It has always been and it will remain our goal at OVitaminPro.com to help you make the best decisions about your supplements and health. Of course it is easier when we have some decent blood tests to work with but that is a topic for another day.