August 2, 2004
A supplement is: "Something added to complete a thing, make
up for a deficiency, or extend or strengthen the whole."
Many people realize that
their diets are somewhat deficient, so they take a supplement.
are BIG business. An estimated 40% of Americans take a supplement,
most commonly a multivitamin. The advertisements selling supplements
are very compelling. They depend on the fact that many people
are unsure about whether or not they are eating a healthy diet,
or would be willing to do so. It makes sense for everyone to take
a multivitamin as they can provide some assurance that you are
meeting all of your daily requirements. However, let's face it-no
supplements make up for a lousy diet."
So, we all should eat
better, but a multivitamin makes sense. What about all of those
other supplements that specifically target one deficiency or another? While the multivitamin
has someone else mixing and matching for you, there is a huge
dietary supplement industry that makes it possible for consumers
to mix and match for themselves, as well.
the term 'dietary supplement' in the Dietary Supplement Health
and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994. A dietary supplement is a product
taken by mouth that contains a 'dietary ingredient' intended to
supplement the diet. The 'dietary ingredients' in these
products may include: vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanicals,
amino acids, and substances such as enzymes, organ tissues, glandulars,
and metabolites. Dietary supplements can also be extracts or concentrates,
and may be found in many forms such as tablets, capsules, softgels,
gelcaps, liquids, or powders. They can also be in other forms,
such as a bar, but if they are, information on their label must
not represent the product as a conventional food or a sole item
of a meal or diet. Whatever their form may be, DSHEA places dietary
supplements in a special category under the general umbrella of
'foods' not drugs, and requires that every supplement be
labeled a dietary supplement."
What does that mean?
Neither foods nor supplements need to gain FDA approval before
going on the market. Prescription and over the counter medicines
do need to gain such approval.
"Under DSHEA, a
firm is responsible for determining that the dietary supplements
it manufactures or distributes are safe and that any representations
or claims made about them are substantiated by adequate evidence
to show that they are not false or misleading. This means that
dietary supplements do not need approval from FDA before they
are marketed. Except in the case of a new dietary ingredient,
where pre-market review for safety data and other information
is required by law, a firm does not have to provide FDA with the
evidence it relies on to substantiate safety or effectiveness
before or after it markets its products. Also, manufacturers do
not need to register themselves nor their dietary supplement products
with FDA before producing or selling them. Currently, there are
no FDA regulations that are specific to dietary supplements that
establish a minimum standard of practice for manufacturing dietary
supplements. However, FDA intends to issue regulations on good
manufacturing practices that will focus on practices that ensure
the identity, purity, quality, strength and composition of dietary
supplements. At present, the manufacturer is responsible for establishing
its own manufacturing practice guidelines to ensure that the dietary
supplements it produces are safe and contain the ingredients listed
on the label."
How are manufacturers
doing when it comes to regulating themselves?
"Ten multis and
one pet supplement failed ConsumerLab.com tests. A number of the
products were significantly short in the amount of important vitamins
or minerals. Some contained too much lead and another failed to
break apart properly for absorption.... Multivitamins/multiminerals
are among those supplements most likely to have quality problems.
They contain multiple ingredients and, therefore, more possibility
for error.... Additionally, neither the FDA nor any government
agency is responsible for testing multis or other dietary supplements
for their contents or quality.
While multivitamins and
other supplements do have their place, they have their flaws,
practices are not unique to dietary supplements, but the growing
market for supplements in a less restrictive regulatory environment
creates the potential for supplements to be prone to quality-control
problems. For example, FDA has identified several problems where
some manufacturers were buying herbs, plants and other ingredients
without first adequately testing them to determine whether the
product they ordered was actually what they received or whether
the ingredients were free from contaminants. To help protect themselves,
* Look for ingredients in products
with the U.S.P. notation, which indicates the manufacturer followed
standards established by the U.S. Pharmacopoeia. * Realize that
the label term "natural" doesn't guarantee that a product
is safe. "Think of poisonous mushrooms," says Elizabeth
Yetley, Ph.D., director of FDA's Office of Special Nutritionals.
* Consider the name of the manufacturer
or distributor. Supplements made by a nationally known food and
drug manufacturer, for example, have likely been made under tight
controls because these companies already have in place manufacturingstandards
for their other products...."
(This site: "An FDA Guide to Dietary Supplements" offers
more information ranging from understanding claims to monitoring
Before you take the time
to read the label, take the time to research the product. Is it
something that will improve your health? Is it something that
your body is missing, and is the supplement the best way to fill
that void in your diet?
- People hoping vitamins can protect their hearts need to eat
healthy foods instead of popping pills, the American Heart Association
said on Monday. A review of various studies on whether supplements
can reduce heart disease risk shows they have virtually no effect,
the group said.... Antioxidants are molecules that work to reduce
the damage done to cells and to DNA by free radicals -- charged
chemical particles found in the environment and caused by everyday
biological processes. It is clear that foods rich in antioxidants
can reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease, and scientists
have been working to isolate the particular compounds responsible....
But several research studies have shown that people who took antioxidant
supplements did not have a lower risk of cancer or heart disease,
and one important Finnish study showed that male smokers who took
supplements actually had a higher risk of lung cancer. Nutritionists
and doctors now argue it is probably a combination of compounds
in foods that give the healthy antioxidant benefits."
Eating right is best,
but dietary supplements do have their place.
"It makes sense
for everyone to take a multivitamin as they can provide some assurance
that you are meeting all of your daily requirements. However,
let's face it-no supplements make up for a lousy diet. The ideal
combination would be a healthy diet along with a multivitamin.
But what do you look for in a multivitamin?"
Questions of the Week:
What roles can dietary supplements play in a healthy diet? What
roles should they play? What roles should they not be expected
to play? How can you find a supplement that compliments your diet
and lifestyle in a safe and healthful way? How might that supplement
be different from one that is right for your friends, parents
or grandparents? How can you find out if the supplement you are
taking (or interested in taking) is safe and does what the label
claims it will do?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum