Dietary Supplements Supply the Missing Nutrients...Get Smart!

What is meant by "dietary supplements"?  Well, they are things that make us complete.  If you ever feel like a part of you is missing, maybe it's your vitamin D or calcium or omega-3 or coenzyme Q10.  On the other hand, maybe it's just your yacht or new Porsche that's missing. 

In a word, they are specialized food.  "Diet" refers to the food and drink that we normally consume so "Dietary" means something that is intended to be consumed as food or nourishment.  

"Supplement" means an addition of something intended to result in completion.  Thus a dietary supplement is a substance included in our diet to make up for nutrition that is missing with the objective of actually getting all the nutrients needed for optimal health.  Supplementation is the act of adding something to something in order to improve it, correct a deficiency, add new features or make it more attractive. 

For example all those advertising inserts in the Sunday newspaper are referred to as supplements; an insurance policy taken out to cover items that the main policy doesn't cover is called supplemental insurance.  

For our purposes, dietary supplements are pills, powders, capsules or liquids containing specific nutrients that are missing in today's modern diet.

Supplementation is needed today because nutritional deficiencies abound.  Commercially grown food is depleted of many trace minerals due to worn out soil.  Green harvesting of fruit and vegetables is common practice to ensure that the produce survives the trip from farm to supermarket shelf.

When produce is harvested before it is ripe, the full complement of nutrients can't form.  Food processing, especially heat treating, destroys many nutrients that would normally be consumed if the food were eaten in its natural state.

In the absence of dietary supplementation, even while eating what is considered a balanced diet, deficiencies abound.  The following are just six of the common nutritional deficiencies in our modern commercial foods:

  • calcium - normal diet 50-60% deficient
  • copper - 75% of diets are 50% deficient
  • folic acid - average diet is 40% deficient; all the elderly are deficient
  • magnesium - 40-50% deficient in average diet
  • pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) - 40% deficient in diets of the elderly
  • selenium - 50% deficient in most diets
  • Besides having a nutritionally depleted food supply, there are several eating habits that contribute to nutritional deficiencies.

    Skipping breakfast is a no-no that can set us up for over indulging in junk food later in the day, just out of pure hunger.  It is true that breakfast is the most important meal of the day since we are literally "breaking fast".  Our bodies need an influx of good nutrition in the morning to get us going and to avoid a hunger spike about mid-day.

    Whole Food Nutrition: The Missing Link in Vitamin Therapy: The Difference Between Nutrients WITHIN Foods vs. Isolated Vitamins & how they affect your health

    The Whole Food Nutrition book shown above is a good read to get us started on the right track.  Give it a review by clicking on the books cover or the link.

    Eating "healthy" snacks and over doing fruit juice can lull us into a false sense of security.  The problem with both is that what we perceive as healthy may not be.  If we drink fruit juice, make it 100% orange juice, 100% grape juice or even 100% tomato juice without any artificial sweeteners or flavors added.

    Lower quality and cheaper brands of fruit juice are loaded with added sugar and snacks like bagels, cookies, chips and the like are just too convenient when we are hungry.  Same with energy bars and sports drinks; most are just over-sugared flavored water and too many energy bars are nothing more than over-priced candy bars.  What they all have in common is a lack of essential nutrients.

    Artificial sweeteners (the pink, blue and yellow packets) are all hazardous to our health and ditto for diet sodas, since they are all loaded with artificial sweeteners and flavors.

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    Before moving on, out of possibly hundreds of dietary supplement manufacturers, want to know which is the "best of class"? In our humble opinion, it is the company whose products are based on glutathione support. Readers will just have to decide for themselves.

    Why Do We Supplement?

    People generally take them as preventative measures, to maximize health, to eliminate nutritional deficiencies, to provide energy, stimulate mental acuity, lose weight, build muscle or any number of other reasons.  

    There are probably as many reasons to take dietary supplements as there are supplements on the market.  Countless books have been written on dietary supplements; some objective, some highly biased against supplementation and others rabidly pro-supplementation and "don't bother me with facts". 

    The book shown below, Dietary Supplements and Functional Foods, is as good a place as any to start one's research.  Click on the books image or link to examine or buy it.

    Dietary Supplements and Functional Foods

    People are realizing that ultimately no one is responsible for their health except themselves.  The upshot is that more and more people are opting for nutritional supplements instead of prescription drugs because of the side effects and interactions of pharmaceuticals.

    The Father of Pharmacology Has Spoken

    Supplements are food, nutrition if you will, while drugs are manufactured chemicals.  Actually they are poisons.  Where did that come from? 

    The recognized father of pharmacology, Aureolus Paracelsus (1493-1541), wrote that "All things are poison, and nothing is without poison; only the dose permits something not to be poisonous."  As we say it today, all drugs are poison, the benefit lies in the dosage.

    The Guiding Principle

    The guiding principle behind the dietary supplement section of the website  is based on  another quote by Paracelsus and that is, "All that man needs for health and healing has been provided by God in nature, the challenge of science is to find it." 

    That is another way of saying that the body has the ability to heal itself and keep itself healthy if it is given the right tools. 

    For our purposes, the right tools are nutrients and, as will be discussed later, the right tools are no longer available in the quantities needed in our modern food supply.  Thus dietary supplementation becomes not only necessary but vital.

    A Quick Overview of the
    World of Dietary Supplements

    About the time that DSHEA (The Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act of 1994) was getting enacted, the market was estimated to consist of 600 supplement manufacturers producing about 4000 different products

    No shortage of choices in the supplement aisle

    Just fifteen years later, the FDA estimated that there were over 29,000 different dietary supplements available with 1,000 new products being developed each year.

    Photo:  No shortage of choices in the supplement aisle

    Users of dietary supplements span every age group, ethnicity and economic class but the numbers are skewed a bit to the older age groups than younger people.

    Most dietary supplements are in capsule, caplets, powder or liquid forms and are widely sold in grocery stores, drug stores, health food stores, mail order catalogs, on-line merchants and network marketing direct sales organizations.  It is not hard to find a place to buy supplements.

    The book, Prescripton for Nutritional Healing, shown on the right is a good guide for deciding which supplements to choose and how to take them.  Click on the books image or link  to review or buy it.

    Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Fifth Edition: A Practical A-to-Z Reference to Drug-Free Remedies Using Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs & Food Supplements

    Dietary supplements range from low cost synthetics created in a commercial lab and mass produced from hydrocarbon compounds to high priced, whole food extracts, hydroponically grown with the nutrient content carefully monitored.  The list includes:

  • multivitamin and mineral formulas
  • phytochemicals
  • phytosterols
  • antioxidants
  • essential fatty acids (the omegas)
  • prebiotics and probiotics
  • hundreds of herbs (botanicals)
  • complex carbohydrate formulas (polysaccharides)
  • protein formulas
  • weight management and fat-burning products
  • specialized system support (immune, endocrine, cardio, nervous system, etc.)
  • specialized children’s formulas
  • And that's just the "short list".  Why is there such an interest in dietary supplements today? 

    The best and most logical guess is that people are realizing they don't eat right, they see more and more people getting sicker and sicker with conditions like diabetes, allergies, asthma and cardiovascular problems hitting epidemic proportions and they are watching the cost of health care rise exponentially and insurance companies becoming more creative in denying claims.

    So it figures that people want to do whatever they can, within their budget, not to get sick.  Supplements are the ready answer.  The challenge now is to bring education about dietary supplements to the mass market so intelligent decisions as to which supplements should be consumed.  It is a very individualistic proposition.

    How should we select our
    dietary supplements?

    Starting with the ubiquitous multi-vitamin and mineral products on the market, Proevity Continuing Education Group is a firm that serves healthcare professionals and the lay public by providing accredited continuing education courses and certification programs emphasizing new technologies in wellness and nutrition.

    Proevity recommends buying only "third-generation technology" vitamin, mineral and phytochemical dietary supplements.  Vitamin technology has been evolving since the discovery of vitamins in the 1930's and the subsequent development of synthetic vitamins and minerals in the lab. 

    This was the "first-generation" and provided a cheap, standardized way to meet minimum daily requirements (RDAs).  First generation vitamins and minerals are designated as USP (United States Pharmacopeia).  First gen products had major disadvantages, namely USP vitamins aren't food and minerals from rocks aren't food either. 

    "Second-generation" dietary supplements grew from the realization that plants provide the body's most natural source of vitamins, minerals and the then-new group of nutrients, the phytochemicals. 

    Second-gen products are extracts of fruit and vegetables; single exotic plant or fruit products such as aloe vera, Gogi and Noni.

    Dietary supplements from whole-food, plant sources are bioavailable (they get absorbed) but also have disadvantages.

    The major disadvantage is that fruit, vegetables and exotic plants are often deficient in essential nutrients and therefore cannot be standardized and labeled for their nutritional values.  Also no single plant can meet all the RDAs.  Finally, while plants can have substantial levels of vitamins, they are usually very low in mineral content.</p>

    "Third-Generation" dietary supplements took the technology into the realm of hydroponics. 

    By selecting plants that have a high ability to concentrate minerals and growing them hydroponically in mineral-enriched water, the end product can be tightly standardized, accurately labeled for nutritional content and works for the entire spectrum of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. 

    The bottom line when shopping for vitamin, mineral and phytochemical dietary supplements is to read the labels and be alert for slick marketing phrases such as; provides the body with all it needs in 90 seconds, guaranteed burst of energy, 98% absorption, leading edge science since 1978 (but using first-gen technology) and similar statements conveying very little information while using a lot of marketing buzz words. 

    <p>The facts are that mineral salts are less than 10% absorbed; chelated minerals are fractionally better than mineral salts; but plant sourced dietary supplements are 80-100% absorbed.</p>

    Proevity evaluated 23 popular vitamin, mineral and phytochemical dietary supplements currently on the market, checking for whole-food, natural sources, standardized and labeled vitamins and phytochemicals and plant sourced, standardized and labeled minerals.

    Only one of the products out of 23 met all the criteria specified by Proevity.  Enough time has elapsed that it is probable that several of the brands evaluated have upgraded their formulation and production methods to meet the higher standards required by a more and more aware consumer.

    How Long do Dietary Supplements
    Take to Work?

    The thing about supplements is that they work from the inside out, beginning with the most basic unit of body structure, the cell. 

    The idea is that by creating healthy, functioning cells, we will have healthy, functioning tissue and then healthy organs, then healthy systems and finally a healthy, properly functioning body.

    flow of nutritional health from inside out; from cell to body

    Unlike pharmaceutical drugs, dietary supplements work on structure and don't attack a specific bacteria or virus.  It is not a situation of "take two and call me in the morning".  Most dietary supplements take weeks or months to show positive, measurable results. 

    The key to understanding why it takes so long for dietary changes to translate into structural or functional changes is in understanding the life span of the various types of cells.  Each of our 200 or so types of cells have a definite programmed lifespan and with very few exceptions, they live out their life, die and are replaced. 

    Luckily, immune system cells (eosinophils, basophils, neutrophils and granulocytes) are replaced in a matter of hours to 3 days maximum. 

    Cells lining the stomach are replaced every two days, colon cells in 3-4 days, cells lining the small intestine (epithelial) about a week or less, skin cells in 2-4 weeks, red blood cells in 4 months, macrophages (the big eaters) in the immune system live several months to years, pancreas cells in a year or more and bone cells last the longest of all at 25 to 30 years.

    A few cells such as the auditory hair cells, heart muscle cells and nerve cells (neurons) do not die and get replaced as the others do, however they can synthesize new RNA and protein and alter their size and structure. 

    Heart muscle cells and neurons replace the bulk of their protein in about two weeks.  Neurons can regenerate axons and dendrites and heart muscle cells can grow larger if the load on the heart is increased.  So diet and supplementation can be vitally important to these "immortal" cells as well.

    The frustrating thing about dietary supplements is that there are few studies that have examined the cellular response to dietary changes.  The view is that supplements, being plant extracts, are food and clinical testing is not required by the FDA and few companies will spend the money to conduct such clinical studies.

    It seems to be common knowledge that broccoli, blueberries and walnuts are superfoods and bestow incredible health benefits to the body but where are the clinical studies?  some things are just accepted based on a chemical analysis of the food and observable results over weeks and months of consuming the food.

    Way back in 1986, a study was done on 16 long distance runners who consumed dietary supplements designed to improve red blood cell (the oxygen carriers) counts.  Three measures were monitored and after one month there was no change.  But after 6 months, significant improvements were seen in all measures.

    Vitamin C has been extensively studied in connection with deficiencies and the onset of scurvy.  When ascorbic acid was withheld, the onset of scurvy was quite variable but on average, scurvy symptoms started appearing when the body's pool of vitamin C dropped to 1/5th of the average body pool of ascorbic acid but the time to reach that level ranged from 84 to 200 days. 

    Upon resumption of vitamin C supplementation and natural food intake of the vitamin, it generally took a month or more for the body pool of ascorbic acid to return to normal and about 100 days for plasma levels to return to baseline.  Symptomatic relief of scurvy can require several weeks of supplementation.

    In a similar study focused on niacin deficiencies, it took 35 days for niacin deficient symptoms to appear and a minimum of two weeks before any measurable increase was noted after resumption of niacin intake.

    A study on vitamin B12 deficiency was tested by measuring decreases in nerve conduction velocity.  Over a month of supplementation was required for deficient individuals to return to normal conduction velocities. 

    The bottom line is that supplementation with "third-generation" dietary supplements should be a lifetime concept but if one is just starting a program of dietary supplements, patience is required. 

    There is a wide range in response to nutritional change and the lifespan of our various cells.  Some people have exhibited a very rapid response to dietary changes but the norm is a few months.  so again, start now, exercise discipline in taking the dietary supplements and have patience.

    Are dietary supplements safe?

    The question about the safety of dietary supplements depends on who you ask and their degree of commitment to the pharmaceutical industry and, if they are a physician, the amount of training they have received in nutritional therapies.  In most medical schools, the attention given to nutrition or supplementation as an approach to healing is precious little.

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    Also a legitimate question about safety of supplements, is compared to what?  Without a doubt, nutritional supplements are highly safe compared to drugs.  The reason is that dietary supplements support normal, healthy structure and function and are not intended to override normal physiology.

    Navigate to Medical Mayhem to read up on how many people are killed each year in the U.S. by properly prescribed pharmaceutical drugs.

    The numbers overwhelmingly support the safety of dietary supplements.  The FDA reported that there were 482,154 adverse event reports from prescription drugs in 2007, excluding over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) which is the most common cause of liver failure in the U.S.  Factor in that those adverse drug effects cause over 100,000 deaths each year. 

    Compare that with less than a dozen deaths per year from dietary supplements which would fall to zero if deaths from the misuse and recreational use of certain weight loss, fat burning products and sports enhancement products were discounted. 

    These items are always referred to as food supplements by the press in their zeal for the big headline but they are not and should not be lumped in with nutritional supplements.     

    Nevertheless, individuals who are dealing with a health issue and desire to use supplements to complement the standard therapy should discuss it with their doctor.  In using dietary supplements, we must know what we are doing.  Supplements do interact; sometimes with each other, sometimes with certain foods and very often they can degrade or multiply the effect of certain medications. 

    Don't just ask your doctor what he "thinks" about your use of the supplement; ask if there are any "contraindications" in the use of the supplement with whatever drug has been prescribed or if he has any information regarding the interaction of a supplement with other substances.

    If the doctor is a disciple of the drug industry, the knee-jerk reply will be in the negative...supplements aren't approved by the FDA for healing; there are no randomized, clinical trials; you don't know what you are getting; you can get the same benefit from food (sometimes yes, sometimes no) and on and on.

    Dietary supplements and herbal remedies should not be lumped together when it comes to questions of safety, and care should be taken when deviating from label directions. 

    An example would be self-medicating with mega-doses of a particular supplement without doing proper research on potential adverse reactions or interactions. 

    Herbals in particular should be researched in depth before self-medicating in that they have been shown to interact with numerous prescription drugs and even other foods.  A classic example of an adverse reaction from herbal use is combining ginkgo biloba with blood thinners since ginkgo biloba itself has anticoagulant properties. 

    Even the most cursory search on the internet would quickly bring up this cautionary note.  It is interesting to note that researchers have not been able to reproduce the same reported bleeding and hemorrhaging side effects in animals or humans even at blood concentrations 100 times the recommended dosage for ginkgo biloba. 

    So is the bleeding actually the fault of ginkgo or the prescribed blood thinner?  Is ginkgo being blamed by association?

    With an estimated 85% of Americans taking one or more dietary supplements, accounting for 53 billion individual doses of supplements per year, covering over 29,000 different supplement products on the market, resulting in less a dozen deaths per year, and those from misuse or overuse, and around 500 adverse reports per year on average the conclusion can only be that...


    Why Don't Doctors Embrace Dietary Supplements?

    The good news is that more and more physician's are starting to incorporate nutritional supplements into their traditional therapies, a discipline known as integrative medicine. 

    For the most part, doctors have to learn about the healing power of nutrition on their own since their training doesn't normally include a dietary approach; that is unless the root cause of the illness is a glaring, obvious nutritional deficiency.

    The idea behind integrative medicine is that the body heals itself while the doctor is treating the illness.

    Omega 3, essential fatty acid...medicine of the future

    Unless the pharmaceutical industry is successful in getting the use of dietary supplements prohibited through their lobbyists and influence with the FDA, "the doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition".  That statement is in quotation marks because Thomas Edison said it.

    Photo:  Omega 3, Essential Fatty Acid; medicine of the future?

    Of necessity, the business of treating illness will have to make a whole paradigm shift to one of prevention instead of merely reacting to disease when it strikes. 

    Why?  Because the cost of treating disease continues to rise exponentially and insurance companies are finding more ways to deny claims, raise deductibles and co-payments and exempt certain conditions from coverage.

    Furthermore, insurance companies are becoming ever more intrusive into the business of doctoring; dictating how long a doctor can spend with a patient and overriding the doctor's decisions on mode of treatment.

    The result is that doctors must arrive at a diagnosis quickly, prescribe the accepted pill for the problem and get the patient out of his office. 

    Prescribed medications tend to work faster than nutrition in alleviating symptoms but rarely cure but if the patient feels better, he is happy, the doctor is happy and the drug company is elated because now they have a customer for life.  After all, we can't have any of that food stuff competing with drugs. 

    Our government is leaning toward universal health care as a solution, much like the Canadian or European models where health care is rationed and people die waiting weeks or months for treatment.  Is that what we really want?

    The answer is so and prevention.  what if insurance companies started covering preventative measures such as weight management programs, funding education in proper diets for each metabolic type, funding exercise programs, rewarding non-smokers, paying for preventive screening tests for early detection, covering nutritional supplements and pressing employers to offer wellness programs? 

    Is it possible that they might save millions of dollars by not having to pay for an insured’s lifetime of diabetes care, or disabling cardiovascular conditions or treatments for self-inflicted cancers?

    For this to happen, doctors would have to be made a lot smarter on the body's ability to heal itself if it gets all the essential nutrients, antioxidants, fats, carbs and proteins needed for optimal health. 

    Nutritional education would have to be made a required part of all medical school curricula, not just a happenstance encounter with nutrition in a continuing education course. 

    For all of this to happen, the pharmaceutical industry would have to be reined in so as not to undermine the effort.  Big media, the national networks, would have to stop denigrating dietary supplements, start promoting natural health and wean themselves off advertising revenues from the drug companies.  A good first step would be to outlaw direct-to consumer-drug commercials on radio and TV.  

    Not too long ago in 2009, the big news was all about young Daniel Hauser who fled Minnesota with his mother to avoid court ordered chemo for his Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  A nationwide police dragnet was launched, Interpol got into the act, the media was salivating all over themselves with the story and Daniel's mother could face jail time. 

    Osama Bin Laden (RIP) would have to have been spotted in the U.S. to get a larger manhunt underway.  Doctor's were interviewed, all giving the same opinion that without chemo, there is little chance of survival and no way that any alternative treatment can work. 

    In fact there are hundreds, possibly thousands, of cancer remissions following alternative treatments, including Hodgkin’s lymphoma. What business is it of the government to force anyone to have a medical procedure? 

    Ultimately he had to go through the chemo and the good news is that in mid-2010, he is cancer free.  Along with the chemo, he went on a "cancer diet"; no sugar and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.  Who knows; lots of Hodgkins patients have been cured with chemo but how much did the special diet contribute?  At any rate, medical treatment should be the patients and their guardian/parents decision, not "Big Brothers".

    Your Source for News and Education in Glycomics - the science of sugars

    What did DSHEA do for Dietary Supplements?

    DSHEA is the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, signed into law by President Clinton on October 25, 1994.  It did a number of things for dietary supplements which will be summarized shortly. 

    The really big thing is that for the first time Congress went on record stating that "there may be a positive relationship between sound dietary practice and good health, and that, although further scientific research is needed, there may be a connection between dietary supplement use, reduced health-care expenses, and disease prevention".

    Specifically DSHEA defines a dietary supplement as:

  • a product intended to supplement the diet
  • contains one or more of the following dietary ingredients:
      a vitamin, a mineral, an herb, amino acid
      a dietary substance for use by man to supplement the diet by increasing the total daily intake, or a concentrate, metabolite, constituent, extract, or combinations of these ingredients
  • ingestion in pill, capsule, tablet, or liquid form
  • not represented as conventional food
  • not the sole item of a meal or diet
  • labeled as a "dietary supplement"
  • The Act sets out requirements for safety (especially regarding adulteration provisions), display of literature and third-party material, prohibition of "cure claims", strict labeling of ingredients and nutrition, control of new dietary ingredients, sets out Good Manufacturing Practices, and established an Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) within the NIH.

    The ODS is tasked to explore the potential role of supplements to improve health care in the U.S.; promote scientific study of supplements and their value in preventing chronic diseases; collect and compile scientific research, including data from foreign sources and the NIH Office of Alternative Medicine; serve as a scientific adviser to HHS and FDA; and compile a database of scientific research on supplements and individual nutrients.

    Unfortunately, the outcome of most ODS sponsored studies have not been very conclusive as to the benefit of dietary supplements but by the ODS' own admission, the studies done to date have not been very well designed.
    What all this means is that dietary supplements are regulated, although not in the way prescription or over-the-counter drugs are, because dietary supplements are foods - not drugs. The FDA has the power to ensure the safety of all dietary supplements on the market while assuring consumers' accessibility to the supplements that they have come to use and trust.

    As usual, the mainstream media has chosen to distort and misrepresent the supplement industry as being unregulated, which is absolutely false. All supplements, including vitamins, minerals, herbs and specialty products, must conform to federal regulations that control manufacturing, labeling and advertising practices. 

    The future of nutritional supplements is becoming less and less clear.  Anyone concerned about having unfettered access to dietary supplements and unbiased information on their health benefits should start paying attention.  DSHEA and the supplement industry are coming under severe attack by well-funded groups who seek to protect the pharmaceutical industry from competition.

    The Outlook for Dietary Supplements

    The outlook is worrisome and bears close watching by anyone who would rather approach wellness the natural way instead of through prescribed poisons.
    Our freedom to take nutritional supplements and have unimpeded access to them is coming under serious attack from well-funded special interest groups.  Interpret "well-funded special interest group" to mean the pharmaceutical industry and their armies of lobbyists, media, and complicit congressmen and regulatory agencies who don't seem to answer to anyone.

    The book, "Food and Nutrition at Risk in America", while not specifically about dietary supplements, gets into some good reasons why we might want to protect our freedom to use supplements. 

    It addresses the major food and nutrition issues of our time, covering the latest threats to our nation’s food systems from the likelihood that our food supply may become tainted to food insecurity within our borders to crop manipulation’s effects on health.

    This thought-provoking new text offers readers the opportunity to consider the current status of food insecurity, biotechnology, food safety, and bioterrorism in America as well as the types of assistance and policies needed in the future to ensure the health and welfare of our people.  Click on text link above for order information.

    An upswing in “anti-supplement” articles and sensational news items discrediting supplements has been noted.   DSHEA, discussed above, is coming under more and more criticism in the press.  One doesn't have to look very far to see who the beneficiaries might be...lawyers and drug companies.

    More law firms have been noted trolling the internet for people who think they might have been injured by taking a dietary supplement.  If they are looking for the big class action payout; they will likely be disappointed.

    Most supplement manufacturers don't have deep pockets like the drug companies so instead of the big payday, the lawyers will more likely drive the dietary supplement companies into bankruptcy...not good for us consumers, not good for the lawyers, not good for the plaintiffs; but great for the pharmaceutical industry. 

    But then, that is probably the objective.

    The Media Attacks

    Performance Enhancing Products...
    Illegal Products Used Illegally

    On May 18th, 2009, Sports Illustrated weighed in with an article titled, "What You Don't Know Might Kill You".  The focus of the article was on how sports figures and muscle-man wannabes are deluded into using performance enhancing supplements that contain steroid and pro-hormone products banned by most professional and olympic sports organizations.

    No doubt, there are problems with a few individuals who prey on the athletic market by concocting performance elixirs and rushing them out to store shelves while concealing the ingredients and their source. 

    The problem with the Sports Illustrated article is that it wrongly condemns the whole dietary supplement industry, totally misrepresents DSHEA and the FDA, grossly exaggerates the problem and uses language designed to cast dispersion on the industry. 

    While the article is concerned with a few bad apples and a few performance enhancing products, it uses phrases such as, "the industry has become...a Pandora's Box of false claims, untested products and bogus science".

    Unequivocally, it has not.  Shame on Sports Illustrated for such a biased, slanted article.  How about sticking with bathing beauties in skimpy swim suits and leave the dietary supplement articles to writers who know something about the subject and have the ethics to write objectively. 

    The performance enhancing products to which the article refers are not the dietary supplements that most of us consume and most of the suspect products flagrantly violate a host of FDA and DSHEA requirement including their labeling laws.

    As is typical of the media attacks, one article is repeated by another and another and soon, it appears that there is some huge outcry. 

    In reality, it's just a lot of "me-toos" engaging in cut-and-paste journalism.  A good example is the LA Times May 14, 2009 article "The Dirt on Dietary Supplements" which is mostly a rehash of the points in the Sports Illustrated piece.

    At least Shari Roan, the author, does admit that "some nutritional supplements have real value" and names folic acid, lutien, calcium, vitamin D, omega-3 and says "others, too, appear to have at least some modest benefit". 

    But in the closing paragraph, she must have woken up and realized who pays her salary.  She saw fit to close out her column with, "...It's time to re-examine the farcically named Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (just how is this educational?) and implement laws that prevent consumers from becoming guinea pigs for unscrupulous kitchen chemists".

    Fat-Burning Products...
    Much Ado about Nothing!

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    Two articles from the Star Tribune (Minneapolis-St. Paul) and the Herald Tribune (Sarasota) respectively titled, "Unsafe and Unregulated" - May 7, 2009; and "Tighten Up Laws on Diet Supplements" - May 5, 2009; both deal with problems stemming from the weight loss aid Hydroxycut.

    Both were sensationalized pieces that slammed DSHEA for tying the FDA's hands when it comes to the safety of dietary supplements.  The Star Tribune editorial copied Shari Roan's words above by using the same guinea pig analogy.  At least they should try to have some semblance of originality. 

    Let's see what's behind all the uproar.  Hydroycut is reported to be a top-selling weight loss product with about 9 Million units sold in 2008.  The FDA received 23 adverse reports on Hydroxycut and moved to have the manufacturer recall the product.  Does 23 adverse reports out of 9 million units sold sound like an epidemic and cause for alarm to anyone?

    It does sound like the FDA and DSHEA is doing just what they are supposed to do and doing a great job of removing possibly harmful products from the market.  The big criticism is that the FDA can only react after a problem is reported. 

    Contrast that with prescription drugs.  They do go through years of testing and pre-market approval with tons of safety information generated yet none are pulled from the market until after a problem arises with the drug. 

    Over 100,000 people die each year from fully tested, FDA approved, properly prescribed drugs.  How many people die from properly used dietary supplements each year?  Oh, how about none! 

    The few deaths that have occurred have been shown to be the result of overuse or improper use of the supplement.  Also, as with the performance enhancing supplements discussed in the Sports Illustrated article, Hydroxycut and similar so-called fat-burning products are not the dietary supplements that most people consume to maintain health. 

    What do the writers who churn out these idiotic articles want; zero adverse effects?  If so, then put the focus where it belongs...on the prescription drug industry.  But then the media gets most of its funding from the drug industry and, God forbid, they can't bite the hand that feeds them.

    And Then We Have the
    Supplement Hating Doctors

    The Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental biology (FASEB) is reportedly a reputable journal.  Maybe, but don't believe everything you read between its covers.  "Opinions expressed in editorials, essays, letters to the editors and other articles in the "Up Front" section are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of FASEB or its constituent societies".

    Having set the stage with that lead-in, we focus on an article in the FASEB Journal, 2009, 23:1279-1282, by Dr. Gerald Weissmann, Editor in Chief, titled, "The Atlanta Falcon and Tono-Bungay: Dietary Supplements as Subprime Drugs". 

    This is another example of an M.D.'s effort to undermine DSHEA and cast suspicion on the supplement industry.  Dietary Supplements are not subprime drugs; they are not drugs of any type. 

    The article either purposely or through ignorance, shows a lack of understanding of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and specifically the powers and authority of DSHEA and the FDA.  Does a comparison of the dietary supplement industry to the "snake-oil millionaire" in H. G. Well's Tono-Bungay and references to the products as "pills and potions containing questionable ingredients" sound like unbiased, objective writing? 

    Who is Gerald Weissman?  Besides being Editor-in-Chief of the FASEB Journal (and thus the voice of the FASEB Journal), he is a research Professor of Medicine in the Division of Rheumatology and Director of the Biotechnology Study Center at NYU School of Medicine. 

    Of particular note is that he is responsible for the co-discovery and naming of liposomes and the drugs Abelcet (Enzon Pharmaceuticals) and Myocet (Cephalon) were based on his liposomal work. 

    The discovery of liposomes was a remarkable feat of research and the subsequent adaptation of liposomes as a delivery vehicle for anti-cancer drugs.  Bravo!  Why not just bask in the glory and stop attacking an industry that actually does some good for people. 

    By the way, what's a liposome?  Remember the song, "Tiny Bubbles"?  A liposome is a very specialized bubble in the cell membrane with a very interesting construction and we will leave it at that; this isn't a treatise on liposomes.  Another by the way; when checking our old friend Wikipedia for the discovery of liposomes, there was no mention of a Dr. Weissman, but Wikipedia could be wrong.

    The point is that Dr. Weissman is an M.D. and has very strong ties to the pharmaceutical industry.  Remember, the pharmaceutical industry...the sworn enemy of the dietary supplement industry.

    Are we beginning to see some potential for bias and conflict of interest here?   In his article, he says, "almost anything that really affects the structure or function of the human body might have an unwanted side-effect (a.k.a. toxicity)."  He just gave a perfect description of the cause of side-effects from prescription drugs; not dietary supplements. 

    The difference is that drugs "affect" structure and function; supplements "support" structure and function (that's support as in "helps").

    Enough said, just because someone has an M.D. after their name, doesn't mean they know what they are talking about or are on the level.

    You Will Eat What I Tell You to Eat...
    Or Else

    What's more irritating than a woman with a Ph.D. in molecular biology and a Masters in Public Health from UC Berkeley, hangs out with the foodies at NYU and writes for the San Francisco Chronicle?  None other than Dr. Marion Nestle.

    Don't even think of taking my supplements!

    This is the epitome of those folks that know what’s best for everyone else and will move mountains (or Congressmen) to make sure everyone knows it.  Make no mistake, the woman knows her stuff.
    Photo:  Make my day!  Just try to take my supplements!

    Dr. Nestle does a world of good, especially in exposing the dangers of factory farming but the problem is that she is not averse to imposing her will on the rest of us through litigation, legislation, targeted taxation or whatever it takes to make sure Twinkies and Big Macs never pass our lips.  That junk shouldn't be eaten anyway but it still should be a personal choice.  Hers is a vision of health through government mandates on what we can and cannot eat.

    A simple question from a reader of her column about cyanide in apricot kernels prompted a really vitriolic attack on dietary supplements, DSHEA, FDA, and the supplement industry in general (, Dietary supplements' regulations hard to digest, May 10, 2009).

    The article was full of half-truths designed to lead the reader to the worst possible conclusion about the supplement industry.  Of course, her solution is more regulation, more government and more oversight.

    We have enough socialism creeping into our lives without injecting it into the food and dietary supplement industries.  As long as supplements have good labeling regulations (which they do) and FDA oversight of a company’s quality control and manufacturing practices (which it does) and the power to remove harmful supplements from the shelves (which it does); nothing more is needed. 

    If adverse effects started surfacing on the apricot kernels, the FDA would pull it from the shelves in a heartbeat.  After all, it only took 23 adverse effects out of sales of 9 million units to get Hydroxycut pulled.  I wish they would exercise the same oversight with prescription drugs that they do with dietary supplements.

    When it comes to broccoli or french fries, freedom of choice trumps government mandates anytime.  Education is the key to making "healthy choices for life".  Do yourself a favor and toss the fries and eat an apple; so far, it's still your choice. 

    Ever Heard of Codex Alimentarius?
    You will!

    From the Codex Alimentarius website, we learn that the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) was established by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), both of the UN, to protect the health of consumers and ensure fair practices in food trade.  They first met in 1963; have 180 member governments including the European Community.  The U.S. is not a member.

    "Harmonization" is a word frequently used to describe the purpose of CAC.  It assists in the "harmonisation of national food legislation and regulation of countries which want to use Codex texts as benchmark.  International harmonisation of standards facilitates food trade and sustainable economic development". 

    Harmonization sounds too much like everyone singing together to make beautiful music.  Baloney!  We'll just use "standardization" from now on in place of harmonization. 

    Since "food trade" is a desired outcome of international standardization, we would expect to see some world trade organization in the mix somewhere. 

    There is, the WTO.  The World Trade Organization deals with regulation of trade between participating countries; it provides a framework for negotiating and formalising trade agreements, and a dispute resolution process aimed at enforcing participants' adherence to WTO agreements which are signed by representatives of member governments and ratified by their governments.  The U.S. has been a member since 1995.

    The Codex Alimentarius is recognized by the World Trade Organization as an international reference standard for the resolution of disputes concerning food safety and consumer protection. 

    The WTO states that “to harmonize sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures on as wide a basis as possible, members shall base their sanitary or phytosanitary measures on international standards, guidelines or recommendations”. The Agreement names the joint FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius as the relevant standard-setting organization for food safety.

    Anyone interested can link to the text of the SPS Agreement here.

    With the cooperation and coordination of the UN, WHO, FAO and WTO, sounds like we have the makings of a world government.

    There is a lot of mistrust and misunderstanding surrounding the Codex Alimentarius, especially in the U.S., most likely because we don't have a lot of respect for the UN.  It's no wonder given the membership of its Security Council and sterling performance in peacekeeping efforts (remember Bosnia, Mogidishu, Sudan, et all). 

    Citizens of the U.S. don't have much tolerance for being told what they can and cannot do by international organizations and very little appetite (no pun intended) when it comes to taking UN direction on food and dietary supplements.   
    The Organic Consumers Association (OCA), an online non-profit 501(c)3 public interest organization campaigning for health, justice, and sustainability has quite a bit of information on its website about what could happen in the U.S. if it becomes a Codex member.

    For example, they get into the question of Will the WTO's Codex Alimentarius Take Away Your Right to Purchase Synthetic Vitamins & Supplements?

    Then there is a series of Facts & Fictions on the WTO's Codex Alimentarius, Health Freedom, and Nutritional Supplements from the Alliance for Natural Health (UK).

    One of those "fact and fiction" statements deals with One of the protections afforded U.S. citizens to freely use dietary supplements without government interference under DSHEA, the Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act.

    According to ANH it is <b>FICTION</b> that DSHEA Protects America from Codex Alimentarius.  They say the <b>FACT</b> is that DSHEA only protects America from Codex so long as it remains in place and unaltered, and so long as other legislation isn't passed to weaken its effectiveness.

    There are now a growing number of threats to DSHEA that could, in time, potentially conspire to dismantle it. The most serious of these threats are the Codex Guidelines for Vitamin and Mineral Food Supplements compliance which is effectively mandatory.  Based on the number of articles appearing in the press recently, there does seem to be a growing number of attacks on DSHEA.

    Nutrition Alone Won't Do the Job

    A parting word is that we must realize that nutrition is not the only tool needed for the body to care for itself.  Other considerations are adequate sleep, stress management, exercise and avoidance of harmful substances. 

    In other words, lifestyle is as important as nutrition in maintaining health but the focus here is confined to nutrition.  When it comes to nutrition, one size definitely does not fit all. 

    factors such as metabolism, genetics, environment, plus many more determine what and how much of a particular nutrient we need to thrive.  

    When food is not enough to meet the need, that is when having free, unfettered access to dietary supplements come into play.

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