Prescription medications aren’t given to patients without a list of potential side effects and ingredients, along with proof that it worked and was safe before it was approved. Even then, we run in to problems with medications being pulled from the market years later.
Why is it then that so many people take so many supplements and vitamins without any regulation as to their safety and certainly no proof they work?
With the news of another over-the-counter supplement causing serious harm, this time OxyElite causing 24 cases of acute liver failure/hepatitis in Hawaii, there are many things you should know about megavitamins and supplements. It is unpopular to criticize supplements, which many think are “more natural,” but for the 48-year-old mother who just died because she took this supplement for weight loss, here goes.1. Supplements and vitamins are a 34 billion dollar a year business.
2. Many megavitamin companies are owned by pharmaceutical companies (Pfizer owns a huge megavitamin company).
3. There is medicine that works and medicine that doesn’t work and the best way to figure out which is which is by looking at scientific studies. No supplements or vitamins have to be shown to work before they are sold to you.
4. A curious truth is that alternative remedies are embraced more in the U.S. than they are in the countries where they originated. In China, for example, only 18 percent of the population relies on alternative medicines. Surprising right? In Japan, even less.
5. Many take supplements and vitamins they deem more “natural” and reject medications made by big pharmaceutical companies when really most megavitamin companies are owned by big pharma.
6. Whether or not you need to take a multivitamin, vitamin E, vitamin C or vitamin A for example has been studied for years. Because of Linus Pauling hundreds of studies have been done on Vitamin C and as we all know it neither prevents cancer nor prevents you from getting sick from a cold. The Vitamin E studies done year after year show an increased risk of heart failure and cancer in the groups taking Vitamin E. Please know this.
7. Just as one example: in 2010 the Cleveland Clinic published results on a huge trial done on 36,000 men where they studied Vitamin E and Selenium (either alone or together) and found a 17% increased risk of prostate cancer in the group taking the vitamins. That same year, the vitamin industry made 28 billion dollars, a 5 percent increase from the year before.
8. The National Health Federation is the lobbying group that represents vitamin makers and is enormously powerful.
9. With exception of folks with vitamin deficiencies (gastric bypass patients, celiacs, low vitamin D) not a single public health organization recommends the routine use of vitamins or supplements. This is because studies have never shown them to be effective and in some cases they are harmful.
10. Polls show that 68% of Americans have it wrong about the safety of vitamins and supplements. The truth is herbal manufacturers are not required to report side effects, manufacturers of vitamins and minerals can make claims about safety and effectiveness without evidence and the FDA does not approve herbal products before sale.The only change occurred in 2007 so now the FDA can make sure a product contains what the label says it contains. When they started doing this, at least half of those inspected had problems.
The worst part of this story is here is the response of the owner of the company who makes OxyElite who says he "stands by the safety of all of its products" and that "the cluster of liver issues in Hawaii is a complete mystery."
Not a mystery to me.