Dietary Counseling and Consultations

Alternative Perspective

Everyone is an Expert – Supplements

Published October 19th, 2010 in Alternative Perspective

I had the distinct privilege of meeting one of my nutritional gurus in person, Diana Shwarzbein, M.D., her warm personality made it possible to have an engaging conversation with her.  During our conversation Diana made a very astute observation – “you give some people a little information and all of a sudden they become an expert”.

This statement holds true for those who are looked to for unbiased information such as the revered Consumers Reports.  Now when it comes to cars, refrigerators, computers and household appliances, I like many check the report guide for intel. But when the September issue arrived and I saw the cover headline “The 12 Most Dangerous Supplements”, my curiosity was pricked, then as I read on, my ire was awakened.  Diana’s words echoed in my mind…. Did the authors of this publication consult leading health experts from the Scripts institute, UC Davis, Harvard or a host of others available to them in the North East? It appears not, instead they began by compelling readers to take action and pressure congress to give more power to the FDA and institute new laws prohibiting and regulating the use of supplements.  They questioned the efficacy and safety of the nutrition industry and products.

As the report points out there are over 54,000 dietary products available to consumers on the market with a reported 1,000 more entering the market every year.  We are looking at an industry that has an average $26.7 million dollars in sales. That is a lot of money, and if we are to believe the Consumers reports one of the most efficient businesses around at pulling the wool over the eyes of consumers.

A few years ago I was presenting a health program for employees of a local business, these are smart consumers, so I knew I had to do my homework and be up on statistics about safety in supplement use. I went to the CDC and Scripts Institute websites as well as others and collected information on reported problems with supplement use, here is what I found.

  • The Script’s Institute Reported in 2005 – the average patient admitted, had 91 chemical and metal contaminants found in their blood.
  • According to the PCC – The supplements with the most exposures in 2005, were ordinary vitamins, accounting for nearly half of all the reports received that year, 62,446, including 1 death. Minerals were linked to about half as many total reports, 32,098, but that number included 13 deaths. Herbs and other specialty products accounted for still fewer total reports, 23,769, and 13 deaths. Essential oils were linked to 7,282 reports and no deaths.
  • The Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), reported to congress in May 2006 the following –           in-hospital, adverse reactions to prescribed drugs to be 2.2 million annually. Unnecessary antibiotic prescribed for viral infections is 20 million per year. An unnecessary medical and surgical procedure performed is 7.5 million per year. Unnecessary hospitalization is 8.9 million per year. Total number of deaths caused by conventional medicine is nearly 800,000 per year. An estimated 164 million people—more than half of the total US population—receive unneeded medical treatment over the course of a decade.
  • The CDC found the range of children potentially exposed to lead in dust and soil is estimated at 5.9 million to 11.7 million children. Some actual exposure to lead occurs for an estimated 3.8 million children whose drinking water lead level has been estimated at greater than 20 mcg/dl.
  • Savannah River Site Health Effects Subcommittee (SRSHES) Meeting –  January 10, 2002. – Heavy-metal exposures are not limited to site-related activities; instead, exposures to individuals occur on a daily basis through food, soil, water and air. Of all heavy metals, lead has been in use for the longest period of time followed by mercury and arsenic.
  • New York Times- May 11, 1994 – By Jane E. Brody – nutrition experts assumed that people of 70 or 80 were no different from those of 50. But now researchers seeking to correct this oversight are finding that millions of older Americans are nutritionally deprived either because they consume too little of various vitamins and minerals or because certain medical conditions or treatments prevent them from making full use of the nutrients in the foods they eat.
  • 2006 – Scientists examining the use of vitamin D3 to reduce the risk of no fewer than 17 different types of cancer, ranging from colon, breast, and prostate cancers to ovarian, esophageal, renal, and bladder cancers. Researchers believe vitamin D3 may even improve treatment outcomes in people already diagnosed with cancer. A recent review article estimated that 50,000-70,000 Americans die prematurely from cancer each year due to insufficient intake of vitamin D3.

Now I could go on and on about the efficacy of nutritional programs for the prevention of chronic illness and the improvement of over-all outcomes for those with illnesses who use supplements and nutritional programs, but you already know that.  What I want to point out is “personal responsibility” is a factor in all that we do – if an athlete making millions uses steroids to improve his performance, a Nutrition reporter takes outrageous dose of a nutrient thinking more is better, a college student decides to down 12 cans of energy drinks with espresso dies of a heart attack, or a desperate overweight consumer goes on a 500 calorie diet; these individuals all made the choice and had the ability to gain information on the appropriate dosage, protocol or dangers of what they were doing.

When I review the statistics the numbers are still on the side of safety and efficacy in the use of nutraceuticals, dietary programs, herbs, essential oils and nutrition verses the calculated risks of the pharmaceutical and medical industry.  Don’t get me wrong – If I need a doctor or prescription I will research, interview and use their services and I will do it as an informed consumer taking responsibility for my decisions and asking congress and the FDA to mind their own business.