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half of all drug recalls involve dietary supplements


If you have been around the field of nutrition for very long (I have been studying or working in this field since 1986), you are aware that the medical community — via the long arm of the government — has tried numerous times (unsuccessfully I might add) to have dietary supplements classified as “prescription only”.   This is because many of them are said to be “dangerous” or even “deadly”.   But is this true?  Certainly not!  INEFFECTIVE maybe, but not dangerous.  But be warned; many of the so-called “nutrition” companies are fly-by-night affairs who are marketing and selling junk nutrition (several examples among THESE POSTS).

A recent issue of the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine reported that just over half of all the Class I FDA Recalls are for dietary supplements.  Most of this has to do with the fact that these supplements either contain things that are not on the label, they do not contain things that the label says that they do contain, or the ingredients are substandard.  Are you surprised?  You shouldn’t be.  Particularly when you find out that most of these “rogue” supplements fall into one of three categories.

I have always said that if my life’s purpose was making money, I would create a cheap weight loss formula using whatever garbage I could get my hands on, make all sorts of wild claims about its abilities, hire a couple of website / SEO gurus to promote it online, and sit back and rake in the cash from gullible consumers.  And if I were really ambitious, I could take to the satellites and do a TV infomercial.  Once people figure out it doesn’t work as claimed (eat anything you want and still lose weight), I repackage the same formula and start the process over under a different corporation and with a “different” product.   

As one might well suspect, the study’s lead author, Dr. Ziv Harel of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, stated that we need to, “regulate this industry through more stringent enforcement and a standard of regulation similar to that for pharmaceuticals.  Keeping the status quo may taint the dietary supplement industry as a whole.”  Is Dr. Ziv correct here?  What needs to be done?

Truthfully, I am not sure anything needs to be done.  Regulation always leads to more regulation, which in turn leads to even more regulation.  Although Dr. Mitch Katz (in an editor’s note) states that the number of crappy dietary supplements is, “grossly underestimated“, and that, “dietary supplements should be treated with the same rigor as pharmaceutical drugs and with the same goal: to protect consumer health,” I am not personally convinced that anything drastic needs to be done about this problem.

Simply stop buying these cheap crappy supplements!  Let the companies wither on the vine and die.  If the claims seem too good to be true, they probably are!   For instance, what is the best ‘male enhancement’ supplement for dealing with impotence?  I discussed that just the other day — and the answer is HERE.  In fact, read what I had to say about this entire issue on my WHOLE FOOD NUTRITION PAGE.  And the brutal truth is that I could say the exact same thing about the way that most people want to use dietary supplements.

But I hear it all the time.  Hey Doc;  you got anything good for high blood pressure?  I need to lose about 60 lbs; what have you got for weight loss?  What about my heart problems?  How about my stomach problems?   What can you do for my hormonal problems, acid reflux, fibromyalgia, blood sugar, chronic fatigue, (insert your disease of choice here) ……cancer?      This is how medicine is practiced in our modern, hi-tech medical culture.  The patient has symptom A, so give the patient drug B.  If you have Disease X, just take drug Y.  This is what most people want.  After all; it’s easy.  It doesn’t require any effort from the patient (except maybe digging a few bucks out of their wallet to cover a co-pay).   It’s a truth that is sometimes hard to face —- the fact that it’s far easier to pay someone else to do something for us than to actually take care of ourselves.  That pretty much describes the society we live in.  It’s not my fault.  It’s not my responsibility. Gimme, gimme, gimme!

The question that people really want answered is,  “Hey Doc, What have you got that will cure all my health problems, make me lose weight, and keep me functioning in the bedroom, but allow me to keep eating the same crap, continue my same habits, and living the same self-destructive lifestyle that I have my whole life?”   This isn’t health!   Well; maybe on TV drug commercial.  Remember those catchy commercials for Vytorin?  It’s these bad genes I got from Uncle Alfredo!  Disease, disability, and illness are never our fault.  It’s the promise of modern government-run healthcare.  Health is not our responsibility.  It’s something that our doctors (and now our government) are supposed to do for us. 

The truth is, when it comes to our health, we want things easy.   Doctor appointments, diagnostic testing, MRI’s, procedures, drugs, more drugs, and still more drugs.  And then we start down a bit rougher path — only now it’s not drugs; it’s surgeries.  A few more turns on the Medical Merry-go-Round and maybe they’ll figure out what is wrong with me?   We want someone else to do it all for us.  Like I said, it’s easier that way.  Give me something doc.  What can you do for me doc?

Oh no, I don’t like the taste of water.  Oh doc, I can’t stand vegetables.  Sorry doc, I could never give up my nightly carton of ice cream.   Participating in our own health is far too difficult —- except to let doctors do things to us and prescribe things for us.  But occasionally, someone sees the light and breaks free of this enslaving paradigm.  What does it take for the light bulb to come on?

Dietary supplements are usually cheap junk.  Quality Whole Food Nutritional Supplements are made from cold-processed, real, organically-raised plants and animals are different.  If you are one of those who are spending part of the estimated 20 billion dollars a year that Americans spend on supplements, make sure you are getting the greatest amount of bang for your buck.  Nutritional Supplements should be just that —- supplemental to a diet rich in nutrient-dense Whole Foods.  And do not be fooled by the fact that this piece from JAMA Internal Medicine ended with the “trust us” disclaimer —- The researchers reported no conflicts of interest.  Don’t kid yourself.

This article was not written with public safety in mind.  It was written to soften up the public for the medical / pharmaceutical industry’s next big grab —- yet another attempt to heavily regulate nutritional supplements (including making them a prescription-only item).  How do I know this?  Despite the fact that there are, as claimed by the FDA, lots of cheap, ineffective dietary supplements on the market, the article stated that, “No adverse events related to these recalled products were noted in the FDA database“.  So even though many of the supplements were undeniably junk, there were no adverse events associated with them.  Too bad we can’t say that for THE PHARMACEUTICAL AND MEDICAL INDUSTRIES.

Like Annie said in her comment below, “it all works”.  The way you can help us reach more people is to forward these posts on to people you care about.  Not to mention, it takes three seconds to like us on FACEBOOK.

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