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As a society, we tend to be a little pill happy. There’s a pill for everything, from aches and pains and mental disorders to diet, sleep and nutrition. But when it comes to diets and nutrition, there are no magic pills that will fix things – in fact, some pills may be dangerous. One area of particular concern are dietary supplements, herbal supplements and weight loss products. Many people think that herbal pills must be safe because they are natural and because Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has oversight, but neither of those things is necessarily true.
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that 23,000 Americans visit the emergency department every year for dietary supplements, with about 25% of those visits involving adults who were using herbal weight loss products, and another 10% related to “energy products.”
Family physician Stephen Kamelgarn talks about this study in his article Natural drugs aren’t necessary safe. Don’t make that mistake posted at the KevinMD blog. He talks about how the problem of dangerous supplements has gotten worse in recent years:
“Federal law was changed in 1994, so dietary supplements no longer need approval from the FDA before they can be marketed. This has turned the market for dietary supplements and herbal medications into a buyer beware free-for-all. This has been made worse by the fact that many of these supplements can be sold over the Internet, so consumers really have no idea what they are getting. In 1994, GNC settled a lawsuit by the Federal Trade Commission for deliberately mislabeling many of their supplements; many not containing any of the stated ingredient.”
Dr. Kamelgarn discusses other problems that have surfaced with supplements. He points out that some herbal medications can be useful, but nothing substitutes for a healthy, nutritious diet:
“There are many other useful herbs and supplements, although, as a general rule, Americans take way too many vitamins in a feeble attempt to make up for a nutritionally poor, carbohydrate-rich diet.”
There’s no shortage of diet and nutrition fads but think twice before jumping on the bandwagon for the latest craze. If you do take nutrition supplements, do your research with reputable sources first.
ESI TotalCare Wellness