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Are supplements safe and are the claims made about them true?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not closely regulate supplement manufacturers.  In fact, because of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), supplement manufacturers have the sole responsibility to ensure the safety and validity of their own products.  Also most “research” done a supplement is paid for, completed by, and published by the manufacturer!  So lets review: A supplement company can produce its own research on its own product to determine if it is safe and if it does what it claims…  This has set us, the consumers, up by allowing companies to deceive us while no one is the wiser.  The FDA does not test supplements before they are put on the market.  Also, unless a substantial number of claims are made about the product being unsafe the FDA will never test the product for safety or validity.  That is why it is required by law to have the following statement printed on all supplements unless tested by the FDA: “this statement has not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease”.

While there are rules regarding ingredient lists and supplement facts being printed on the product container no one tests them to make sure these labels are correct! Many products claim to have twice to 10 times as much nutrient than is actually in the product. Supplement companies lie to make money. The supplement industry makes hundreds of billions every year! They want you to believe that their supplements are the best, that their claims are true, and that their product is going to make you happy. Money runs the industry, your health and safety are NOT top priority like they should be. Supplements sold in the United States can have up to 50% filler – this filler can consist of any inactive ingredient such as flour, wheat, cellulose, and others.  These fillers do not help with the product claims and help keep manufacturing costs down because no one tests the products to ensure the ingredients are as listed.

So what happens when a product is put on the market and ends up having harsh side effects and becomes unsafe?  Right now there is no law requiring a report of adverse side effects on nutritional supplements.  So if you report to the company that manufactures a supplement you take that you have had an adverse reaction that company does not have to report it to the FDA or any other governing body. Back when ephedrine was allowed in supplements people had heart attacks, cardiac arrhythmias, and even deaths were reported before the FDA banned ephedrine from being included in nutritional supplements. Some supplements our dangerous while others are just useless.  How can you tell which supplements are safe and do what they say?

Look for companies who have independent research done on their products.  Such as Juice Plus+; multiple universities have conducted research on these products and the results have been published in scientific journals including the Journal of Nutrition and the journal Integrative Medicine. Look for companies that sell their products overseas where supplement regulations are much higher.  Do your research though – not all other countries have high regulations. Japan is one of the best but New Zealand and Europe are not as good.  Also, some companies go above and beyond to either get their products or labs and manufacturing plants certified by the FDA. Usually companies that do this have less to hide and their products are more reliable.

Stay away from products that have multiple ingredients that you cannot pronounce and have never heard of before.  Do research on certain ingredients before purchasing a product. Saint John’s Wort among other herbal remedies have serious side effects and should be heavily considered before consuming.  Do not ask a store associate for information on a product – they want you to buy it so they will not tell you the truth!  Be aware of products that make outrageous claims such as: “lose 20 lbs in 10 days” or “add 15 lbs of muscle in 1 week” or even “energy boosts that last for 8 hours”. Remember the only so called proof you have that this will work is the company’s guarantee.

Remember the healthiest way to get the nutrients you need, to lose weight, and to get healthy is to eat right, exercise, and treat your body well.  Vitamin supplements may be necessary and at Arkansas Physical Medicine we can do blood workups to determine if your vitamin levels are low and if you need supplements.  We also only sell products here that are held to higher standards than at other supplement suppliers.  Our products are made at manufacturing plants that are FDA certified, are sold in countries where the regulations are higher, and are backed by independent research!

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