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Posted April 18, 2011: by Bill Sardi
According to a recent government report, which pharmaceutical companies will surely use to develop counter strategies, the use of dietary supplements is at an all-time high and rising. About 50% of the American public now uses dietary supplements.
One doesn’t know whether to declare this achievement a failure in the midst of widespread nutrient deficiencies, or a meaningful sign that the doctors and patients are adopting nutrient-based therapies.
That people are taking vitamin pills is one thing, that they are taking the right doses and forms of nutrients is another. Most supplement users have been herded into taking no more than 100% of the Recommended Daily Allowance, which is the level to avoid a frank nutrient deficiency for perfectly healthy adults, not the level for optimal health. The RDA does not apply to growing children, pregnant females, smokers, diabetics, the hospitalized, or people taking many drugs, which comprises a strong percentage of supplement users.
The very fact that the biological action of most prescription drugs can be duplicated with commonly available food supplements is hidden from view as modern medicine continues to maintain it holds high scientific ground compared to dietary supplements which are allegedly not backed by science and not approved by the FDA. (Recall that Vioxx, an FDA-approved anti-inflammatory drug, needlessly killed over 20,000 Americans and FDA-approved statin drugs were found to be ineffective in lowering mortality rates for coronary artery disease.)
Often drugs are inappropriately prescribed to make up for symptoms caused by a nutrient deficiency. For example, how many Americans are placed on antidepressants when they have a folic acid or vitamin D deficiency? How many Americans are placed on diuretics or digitalis for heart failure when their problem emanates from a vitamin B1 shortage? (Sadly, both of these drugs further deplete the humnan body of vitamin B1.) How many vitamin C-deficient heart disease patients are inappropriately placed on liver-toxic statin drugs?
As long as Medicare and private insurance plans pay for medications with low deductibles ($2 to $5 per prescription) retirees on limited incomes opt for drugs over supplements because they have been cheaper.
Furthermore, with drug patent expirations, many drugs will be cast into generic drug status and become even cheaper. Recently 11 patents have expired on drugs from big pharmaceuticals companies, representing an estimated $50 billion of sales. So prices on those drugs should decline by about 95%, a good thing for consumers.
But supplement use continues to grow. This may be due, in part, to drug side effects which cause patients to stop taking prescription medications.
Growth in supplement sales doesn’t necessarily mean supplement use has become widespread enough to reduce the level of disease in the population at large. While a record amount of vitamin D is being sold in retail stores, around $430 million of vitamin D annually, this only represents ~$1.40 per year per capita, a paltry amount compared to the large number of vitamin D-deficient people in the population. An estimate by this journalist shows ~$4 trillion of health expenses could be avoided over a decade by vitamin D food fortification or supplementation programs. But so far, there is no impetus from public health officials to make vitamin D sufficiency an objective in healthcare reform.
While modern medicine continues to look down its nose at vitamin pills, or recommend ineffective supplements (Centrum, calcium pills and an aspirin), every study shows Americans do not consume nutrient-dense foods and optimal intake levels for vitamins C, D, E, B12 and minerals like zinc and magnesium are only achieved by supplement users.
Underlying nutritional deficiencies ensure a certain level of nutritionally-linked disease in the population which modern medicine is all too delighted to treat with inappropriate medicines.
In recent times a number of scientific studies have been published which unfairly portray dietary supplements as being problematic, such as the infamous beta carotene study, which allegedly showed that beta carotene increased the risk for mortality among male smokers. That study was issued in 1994, just prior to Congress approving the Dietary Supplement Health & Education Act. There was no significant increased risk of mortality from beta carotene pills (it was like saying the consumption of two carrots a day would kill smokers). But nonetheless, modern medicine didn’t carefully scrutinize the study.
Similar studies were published which used slanted data to demonize vitamin C and vitamin E.
Multivitamins are the most commonly consumed dietary supplements, and pharmaceutical companies offer the most popularly sold brands (Centrum, Theragram), at economical prices. But these brands offer ineffective doses often in poorly absorbed forms.
Add to this the onerous regulatory climate where supplement manufacturers cannot even say the obvious – that vitamin C prevents scurvy, vitamin B1 (thiamin) prevents beriberi, vitamin B3 (niacin) prevents pellagra, vitamin B12 prevents pernicious anemia and vitamin D prevents rickets. These facts cannot be published on a vitamin pill label. Those vitamin companies who venture to say that any nutrient prevent, treats or cures a disease – even a nutritional deficiency disease – will be sanctioned for making drug claims. However, if these vitamins are molecularly re-arranged into what are called patentable analogs (look-alikes), and they undergo studies that are published, they will be approved as high-priced drugs. This is happening right now as more than ten companies are making vitamin D-like drugs that may soon gain FDA approval. And we wonder why modern medicine costs so much. – © 2011 Bill Sardi, Knowledge of Health, Inc. Not for posting on other websites.
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