May 5, 2011

Supplements - who do you trust?

I don’t want to get all political on you right now, but I have recently learned more about a truly fascinating and vastly misunderstood topic. The topic: DSHEA (Dietary Health and Supplementation Education Act).

DSHEA was a 1994 act passed which put dietary supplements in the category of “food” instead of “medicine” like other drugs (antibiotics, aspirin, etc.). By making supplements “food” it consequently removed the FDA from being able to regulate them and instead left the responsibility in the hands of the manufacturer to make sure their consumers are safe. This is not the way it is in all countries by any means and there are many pro’s and con’s to the current situation.

Right now, manufacturers do not register their products with the FDA and are also responsible for their own labels being accurate and not misleading. There are some consumer reports and third party certification organizations who check supplements out and make sure they contain what they say they do and are not contaminated, but this is not mandatory or even the norm.

We had a debate in class last quarter: for or against DSHEA.
Here are the two sides in a nutshell and in my opinion:

• Because of the freedom surrounding supplementation, more people have affordable access to the health benefits of these products. You can buy any product you like off the shelf in a drug store and gain the benefit without prescription.
• The coalition to preserve DSHEA claim some want to “impose unnecessary and burdensome regulations” that may pose risk to consumers and limit access to supplements.
Advocates of DSHEA also argue that this act empowers the consumer and gives them the right to make their own choices regarding their health. This is a nice power to have when access to health care is not available to all and/or very expensive.

• Post-DSHEA, dietary supplements are considered safe until proven otherwise. The FDA is under no authority to require safety evaluations before supplements are released to the market, though they can intervene when a supplement is proven dangerous (eg. Ephedra). This process can take years.
• The FDA now has no control over the additives found in supplements. Additives include potential allergens, bulking agents/fillers, or preservatives (among others).
• Bioactive compounds and even hormones that have powerful effects on the body, many of which are regulated in other countries, are protected under DSHEA and are free for any person to purchase and consume as much as they like. Are consumers educated and aware enough to prescribe themselves these types of powerful compounds?

This is a huge topic! There have even been books written about it.

Let me leave you with a question: do you think the average consumer is educated and informed enough to make a decision about consuming supplements? Do you trust the people selling you their products to be truthful and trustworthy? Further, do you know WHY you are taking the supplements you are taking? Did you do your homework?

I don’t have the answers to these questions myself, but it does start to make me wonder…can we trust our supplements?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this! I always wondered why there was never any supplements that said FDA approved...although I don't really have any faith or trust in the FDA either...