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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.
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.
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