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Posted September 2, 2011: by Bill Sardi
The Federal government has launched a double assault against the dietary supplement industry recently, which includes onerous new labeling requirements (Durbin bill, proposed) and testing requirements (New Dietary Ingredient guidelines, proposed) which would literally demolish the supplement industry.
To pull off these draconian measures the news media appears to be working in concert with government in a brainwashing effort to gain public support for these draconian measures. And that means dietary supplements, which are safer than aspirin, tap water or table salt, must be made to appear risky and unsafe.
The smear campaign against dietary supplements began August 27 in The New York Times with an article that reveals potential problems with foreign-made supplements that creep past US Customs and FDA inspectors. But these products do not represent the vast majority of dietary supplements sold in the marketplace today.
Then the Wall Street Journal followed with its version of yellow journalism in an article published on August 30 about an unproven liquid dietary supplement that is being touted for Alzheimer’s patients. But commonly-prescribed drugs for this condition are no better and are far more expensive. If neither drug or supplement are effective, why not help families searching for a remedy that saves their money?
Then in the early-online September 12 issue of Time Magazine an article entitled “Nutrition In A Pill?” is featured where one of Time’s top reporters is dispatched to record his six-month-long personal experience taking supplements. But the report appears to be set up to mischaracterize dietary supplements as a waste of money.
Here is a more in-depth analysis of these scurrilous news reports:
August 27: The New York Times writer Natasha Singer writes a report entitled “Ingredients of Shady Origins, Posing As Supplements,” which describes foreign-made supplements that are hustled past US Customs and FDA agents and are improperly labeled and in some instances contain drug molecules.
Her investigation begins in a Chinatown where a supplement called Pai You Guo is sold for weight loss. But Chinese medicine shops have sold unlabelled bulk dried herbs stored in wooden drawers, of specious origin and composition, for a long time now. FDA agents have not yet taken their regulatory powers into ethnic areas where native herbs are sold in foreign language-labeled containers. Spanish language TV stations sell some of these products with impunity.
Singer’s article says “Federal authorities are struggling to identify and intercept these black-market goods,” but are they taking all steps necessary to intercept these products before they enter the marketplace, or are they allowing them to pass through to make the supplement industry look bad?
Reporter singer says: “The makers of legal dietary supplements…acknowledge they are reluctant to raise too many alarms. Even though there is little evidence that many dietary supplements provide real health benefits.”
But if a dietary supplement IS found to prevent, treat or cure a disease, the FDA declares it a drug and says all marketing must cease for that product, regardless of whether its label says it cures a disease or not.
The New York Times’ Singer goes on to say that “many companies promote genuine dietary supplements with enthusiastic claims that resemble those of adulterated products, making it hard for consumers to distinguish between the legal and the illegal, the harmless and the potentially dangerous.”
But dietary supplements have been shown to be safer than aspirin tablets, tap water and even table salt. There have been no deaths attributed to dietary supplements in the past 8 years as recorded by the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Should the entire law-abiding dietary supplement industry pay a price for outlaw products that the FDA and US Customs didn’t intercept at port of entry?
August 30, 2011: In an article entitled “Fueling the Brain With a Milkshake,” consumer reporter Laura Johannes of The Wall Street Journal says there is no good evidence to show that a new liquid medical food on the market, which claims to help Alzheimer’s patients, actually works. After 90 days the product didn’t work any better than an inactive placebo tablet.
But Johannes forgets to inform readers there are no proven drugs that work to slow down or reverse Alzheimer’s dementia even though they are commonly prescribed as FDA-approved drugs. The approved drugs, cholinesterase inhbitors, also work no better than placebo. Cholinesterase is an enzyme that breaks down acetycholine, a main brain chemical responsible for transmission of nerve impulses).
But get this — reporter Johannes quotes a doctor who says “the average Alzheimer’s patient is taking five prescription medications a day for the disease and for other medical conditions, adding another item of ‘questionable efficacy’ is an unnecessary burden for patients and caregivers.” What would be the harm of throwing another ineffective medicine on top of the worthless drugs other than its $70-90 cost? Most prescription drugs for Alzheimer’s are far costlier.
Anyone can cherry pick supplements that make exaggerated health claims which the FDA is remiss in regulating. Is the FDA not doing its job in order to make the supplement industry look bad? One has to wonder when the FDA’s main task is to protect America’s position as a leader in pharmaceuticals, which is a conflict of interest. Furthermore, many drugs could be replaced by dietary supplements at less cost and with fewer side effects.
September 12, 2011: John Cloud, who writes Time Magazine’s Lab Rat column (he actually conducts personal trials of various consumer products), fills out a survey on nutrient needs provided by a multi-level dietary supplement company, even visits their headquarters, and then in a stinging set-up job, claims the 22 vitamin pills he took every day at a total cost of $1200 for few months didn’t favorably alter his blood-test numbers.
In the end Mr. Cloud abandoned the dietary supplements and said he would proceed to maintain his health by diet alone. But he reveals that while taking supplements he felt “more robust,” “woke up in the morning feeling vigorous in a way I hadn’t in years,” but said this was all due to a placebo effect.
We hate to inform Mr. Cloud that the government’s 5-A-Day Program to encourage consumption of fruits and vegetables did not reduce mortality rates for cancer or heart disease. So much for thinking that the diet will maintain health in an aging adult. And it goes without saying, modern medicine considers most chronic health problems a drug deficiency when they often have a nutrient origin.
Oh, a recently published study said otherwise, that five servings of fruits and vegetables a day actually reduces all-cause mortality rates. But researchers in this study presumed that a blood concentration of vitamin C of 50-millimole/liter was indicative of fruit and vegetable intake. Vitamin C pills were said to have no effect upon mortality, but the dosage of most vitamin C pills consumed by the British population under study would not be sufficient to raise blood levels to the 50-millimole point. Vitamin C pills didn’t work because the pills were low dose and vitamin C is rapidly excreted from the body and requires repeated dosing throughout the day to maintain blood levels.
Mr. Cloud admits to a diet that includes late-night Rice Krispies and “enthusiastic” alcohol intake. Mr. Cloud, at age 40, is still relatively healthy, but he is a sugar-craver and may have yeast overgrowth in his digestive tract and his avid alcohol intake would deplete zinc, magnesium and vitamin B1 while inducing an overload of copper and iron. That would spell for health problems down the line.
So Mr. Cloud declares dietary supplements to be worthless. Cloud is apparently in good health, so how could dietary supplement improve on his blood test numbers which were already in the healthy range? Someone once said “disease is felt, but health not at all.” Mr. Cloud’s methodology set up dietary supplements for a certain fall.
Mr. Cloud also conceded that his vitamin D blood level did rise, and his HDL “good” cholesterol inexplicably shot up, but attributed the improved vitamin D level to spending more time outdoors getting some vitamin D-producing sunshine.
Mr. Cloud says he began his journey into taking dietary supplements at least five to six months ago, which would be sometime in March or April, before recent legislation in Congress and newly proposed FDA testing guidelines were published.
That would mean Mr. Cloud received his assignment from Time Magazine in advance of the FDA’s campaign against dietary supplements which began on the July 4th weekend with the announcement the FDA proposes new testing guidelines that would raise the retail price of supplements three to four times and likely wipe out more than half of existing supplements off store shelves, as well as force an estimated 100,000 workers in the supplement industry out of a job.
Reporter Cloud quotes Dr. Glenn Braunstein, chairman of the department of medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, an expert on nutraceuticals, to say that the state of research on nutriceuticals is, in general, “lousy.” But who is responsible for that? The National Institutes of Health issues funds for animal and human clinical studies and approves their protocols. There is a dearth of human studies on dietary supplements.
For example in a recent report published in Current Atherosclerosis Reports, Dr. Frank W. Selke at Brown University expounds on the promise of resveratrol, a red wine molecule sold as a dietary supplement, to prevent avoidable deaths due to coronary heart disease. But says “to date, there have been no clinical trials investigating the effect of resveratrol on cardiovascular risk or co-morbidities.”
Mr. Cloud goes on to say: “Whether nutraceuticals improve health — and how — is a matter of enormous scientific inquiry.” Really now — vitamin D remedies rickets and the amount of recommended amount of vitamin D isn’t enough to eradicate bone-softening rickets in young African-American children. So how could vitamin D supplements possibly work when the Recommended Daily Allowance is outdated, even after being updated just recently? Vitamin D is about to revolutionize modern medicine. It could quell mortality rates for heart disease and cancer, and this fact misses Mr. Cloud’s radar screen.
Folic acid, a lowly B vitamin, not only prevents birth defects but is required for DNA repair and Dr. Bruce Ames of the University of California just recently showed that marginal shortages of this vitamin over a long period of time can induce gene mutations and pre-cancerous changes in living tissues. But to Mr. Cloud, there is no need to supplement the diet with a vitamin like this. Dr. Ames recommends a multivitamin for every human on the planet.
A campaign to fight back against the FDA is mounting. Numerous groups are forming opposition. One newly posted website, Operation Pushback, invites volunteers to print out protest letters and deliver, mail or e-mail them to their elected representatives in Congress.
The public pushed back in 1994 with the passage of the Dietary Supplement Health & Education Act. It was the most letters received by Congress on any other issue.
Now the American public is faced with another challenge. More than half of Americans take dietary supplements on a regular basis. In Germany, France and Italy, common herbal supplements like Ginkbo biloba, bilberry and lutein are designated as drugs.
It has been said there are three things Americans won’t tolerate: taking away their right to bear arms, invasion of their privacy and cutting off the availability of affordable dietary supplements. If Americans want to maintain their freedom to purchase dietary supplements directly, without the need for a doctor’s prescription and at an affordable price, they had better start lodging their protests to Congress today!
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