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Bad Year for Favorites ... Americans' Most Trusted Supplements Failed

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lindisfarne Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-20-06 06:21 AM
Original message
Bad Year for Favorites ... Americans' Most Trusted Supplements Failed
Bad Year for Favorites
When Put to the Test, Americans' Most Trusted Supplements Failed
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/20...
By January W. Payne
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 20, 2006; HE01

Millions of Americans who regularly take vitamins and other popular dietary supplements have had their faith in those products challenged in the past year as the substances fared poorly in several large clinical trials and a federal panel's scientific review.

The supplements tested are widely used but few had previously been put to large-scale, well-designed clinical trials. The findings showed that some of Americans' most trusted supplements -- including some, such as multivitamins and calcium, that doctors have recommended for decades -- failed to show the benefits they were believed to offer.
<snip>
Loose regulation of dietary supplements by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), noted in the federal panel's May report on multivitamins, complicates the testing of products. Even if researchers know what constitutes an effective dose, formulas can vary from brand to brand, and even batch to batch, and what's on the label isn't always what's in the bottle, tests have shown.

The multivitamin panel supported the recommendation of a 2005 Institute of Medicine committee, urging the FDA to more closely monitor the safety of dietary supplements. The panel said the FDA should educate consumers and health professionals about the upper limits that can safely be consumed for various supplements and institute a "formal, mandatory, adverse-event reporting system for dietary supplements."

Recent findings about supplements underscore the importance of healthy eating, experts said.
"There is a very big difference between eating a healthy diet and eating components of that diet that we think are the healthy players," said Thomas G. Sherman, an associate professor in physiology and biophysics at the Georgetown University Medical Center. "By taking specific supplements we aren't mimicking what's going on with a good, healthy diet," because interactions occur with vitamins and minerals in food that aren't replicated by taking supplements.
<snip>

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no_hypocrisy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-20-06 06:38 AM
Response to Original message
1. The study does not prove they failed. They're SUPPLEMENTS, not
REPLACEMENT of a healthy, well-balanced diet. You don't take calcium supplements and forego other sources of calcium such as soy products, dairy products, sardines, broccoli, green-leafy vegetables, etc. The supplements bolster and strengthen your immune system for the day in the future when it is compromised and challenged by infection or anti-immune syndromes. "Pills" alone, so to speak, won't do the trick. But that logically does not prove their inefficacy (unlike the vague promises made by pharmaceutical companies that their pills will be a panacea of restoration of health).
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lindisfarne Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-20-06 06:49 AM
Response to Reply #1
2. ... failed to show the benefits they were believed to offer ...
Edited on Tue Jun-20-06 06:53 AM by lindisfarne
As it says in the article, one study alone isn't definitive. The article is quite well written, in my opinion, if you read it carefully.

But many of the claims for many supplements are either not backed up by well designed studies, or based on questionable "research" - and are often illegal.

Additionally, there is a huge issue regarding the fact that one cannot even be certain that what the label says is what is in each tablet/capsule and there are differences across and within manufacturers of the quality/potency of supplements.

Supplements need to be much better regulated than they are, and supplement manufacturers need to pay fees (through some kind of a fee assessed on total retail sales or per item or something) to cover the costs of regulation; existing laws aren't even enforced - how many ridiculous claims can you hear on Air America radio about diet pills or in health magazines about the same?)

==============
THE BOTTOM LINE: A combination of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate doesn't relieve knee pain for most people with osteoarthritis; it may yet be shown to help those with moderate to severe osteoarthritis of the knee.
====
THE BELIEF: B vitamins cut risk of heart attacks and strokes by reducing the level of homocysteine (an amino acid) in the blood.
THE FINDINGS: Two large studies showed that while B vitamins did reduce homocysteine, they didn't reduce risk of heart attacks and strokes in people with heart disease or diabetes.
======================
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FloridaPat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-20-06 07:25 AM
Response to Original message
3. There have been all sorts of stories about people getting their
Edited on Tue Jun-20-06 07:25 AM by FloridaPat
septic tanks cleaned out and the vitamins they took are in there still intact. Other reports are that the amount of stuff in them aren't accurate, as they pointed out.

And why are they concerned about the safety of these products? Is there a "formal, mandatory, adverse-event reporting system for dietary supplements" for all the perscription pills? I'd like to see that myself.

As for eating healthy, several years ago someone did a study of veggies and found they was 75% less vitamins than in the 1920's. And last year they were down again to around 50%.

This is not big rocket science. This stuff could be sent to a lab and the results published far and wide. Those that don't have what's in the bottle won't be bought. The main question is - why is there so little ethics, morality, and truth in advertising? Why are the American public so gullible without any proof? And why is the American public so stupid as to keep taking pills that have no effect on them?
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siligut Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-20-06 09:24 AM
Response to Reply #3
7. Some vitamins, like some drugs, are placed in a wax matrix.
The "tablets" people are seeing in septic tanks are just the undissolved matrix. The wax matrix allows for a time released action. Slower absorption can be better as it allows for greater absorption.

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FloridaPat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-20-06 10:57 PM
Response to Reply #7
10. Thanks for the updates on that.
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Warpy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-20-06 08:46 AM
Response to Original message
4. "what's on the label isn't always what's in the bottle"
That's been a real problem plaguing the industry for decades. Oh, I think they all try, but quality control isn't what it's cracked up to be, things like batches of yeast (the source of most B vitamins) may vary in poetncy, and some vitamins, like E, are produced by only a couple of corporations and price fluctuations may also affect quantities. Some things, like DHEA and other hormonal substances, have been open to outright fraud.

Of course, this is why the FDA keeps trying to regulate this stuff, something that will undoubtedly drive the cost of supplements into the pharmaceutical range, a big mistake for people who rely on the placebo effect that popping a handful of harmless pills a day provides.

The FDA needs to monitor safety, to remove supplements like the bad L-tryptophan of the 1980s when they start to cause harm. However, vitamin heads need to know that what they see on the label isn't what they get, either, and that there is no substitute for a decent diet.

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Celebration Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-20-06 08:57 AM
Response to Reply #4
5. Agreed
Supplements don't alway have exactly what they say they have in them. I would rather see a couple of successful class action suits in the egregious cases than any kind of FDA regulation. We know who really owns the FDA, and their purpose, for sure, would be to drive prices up into the pharmaceutical range. I would much rather take my chances on potency.

The studies are sometimes designed to fail. In the case of glucosamine chondroitan study, for instance, it was not glucasamine sulfate that was studied, but another type. There are very powerful and monied forces that are behind some of these shenanigans.

It is pretty easy to design studies that make effective supplements fail--eg, use a little bit less than needed, a slightly different type, etc.

This Washington Post article was bought and paid for by you know who (the biggest advertising dollars).
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varkam Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-21-06 01:45 AM
Response to Reply #5
12. .
:tinfoilhat:
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smirkymonkey Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-20-06 09:08 AM
Response to Original message
6. Here's what I know....
I occasionally run out of my supplements (Multi, Cal/Mag, Flax/Primrose Oil, and a few others) and sometimes don't replace them for a while. I notice a huge difference when I DON'T take them - tired, irritable, sluggish, etc.

This has happened a number of times now, so I try not to let them all run out without replacing them. It's expensive to buy them all at once, so I will buy one extra each paycheck so that I have a backup.
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siligut Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-20-06 09:28 AM
Response to Reply #6
8. I agree.
I try for a good diet, but feel I need additional nutrients to fill in some areas.
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SheilaT Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jun-20-06 10:31 AM
Response to Original message
9. I never take supplements
and I'm probably the healthiest person I know. I eat a reasonable diet, don't exercise enough, try to avoid people who annoy me, which means I don't read or watch much of the mainstream media.
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Sgent Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-21-06 12:27 AM
Response to Original message
11. If you take vitamins / supplements
make sure the letters USP Verified are on the label.

The US Pharmacopia has been verifying bioavailability and dosage information for decades for prescription drugs, and their Dietary Supplement program does the same. It doesn't mean they are effective or safe, but at least it gaurentees you are getting what you are paying for.

USP-Verified Dietary Supplements
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