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Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, August 12, 2016

Supplements Are Safe: Who Is Lying to You Now?

by Helen Saul Case

(OMNS, August 12, 2016) Once again, the media threatens the public with the false notion that supplements of essential nutrients and minerals are dangerous and should be treated "like a medication."[1] (And doesn't "treat it like a medication" just reinforce the point that prescription drugs are dangerous? But I digress.)

Bad Reporting of a Bad Report

For a morning news program that claims to deliver "all that matters," it would seem CBS has fallen quite short of that promise.

On July 27, CBS News led their segment "New Study Sounds the Alarm on Dietary Supplements" with the declaration that "a new investigation may have you rethinking some of your vitamins." Well that gets our attention, doesn't it? Except their "news" has nothing to do with vitamins.

"A new study by Consumer Reports outlined health risks associated with dietary supplements -- including vitamins, probiotics and weight-loss aids," says CBS. But not one of the 15 supposedly harmful supplement ingredients listed in the Consumer Reports article was a vitamin.[2] Or a probiotic. Why does CBS even mention them?

CBS quotes the deputy content editor at Consumer Reports: "Unlike drug products that must be proven safe and effective, dietary supplements do not have to go through FDA approval." But that's not a true statement either. If prescription drugs "must be proven safe and effective," why are so many people dying? CBS forgets to mention that more than 100,000 deaths occur every year due to prescription medications taken as directed.[3] They also forget to mention the most recent report from the American Association of Poison Control Centers: supplements caused zero deaths in 2014.[4] And no, it wasn't just a "good year." Decades of data confirm the remarkable safety of supplements.[5] Vitamins and probiotics, in particular, are extremely safe.

In order to drive home the alleged danger of dietary supplements, CBS takes the time to highlight the death of one young man who used caffeine powder.[6] Caffeine is a stimulant, not a nutrient. "Caffeine and nutrients have very little in common," say Gert Schuitemaker, PhD, and Bo Jonsson, MD. "Nutrients are part of the human metabolism and are necessary for maintaining proper health."[7] CBS doesn't mention that. They just cast a shadow over all supplements.

As for dietary supplements not being FDA approved, lack of FDA approval does not mean supplements are unregulated. They are regulated.

ALL Dietary Supplements Are Regulated

We should not confuse FDA approval with FDA regulation. Just because a dietary supplement is not FDA approved does not make it "bad." And pharmaceutical drugs that are FDA approved are not automatically "good." Supplement companies are responsible for ensuring the safety of their products and for providing accurate labeling. If they don't, the FDA has always had the power to take dangerous or falsely labeled products of any kind off the market.

To reiterate, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration can, at any time, pull any supplement off the shelves. Make no mistake, they use this power. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy G. Thompson stated, "[T]he FDA will not tolerate the marketing of dietary supplements that are more likely to harm health than help it."[8]

"FDA regulates both finished dietary supplement products and dietary ingredients." [U.S. Food and Drug Administration, ]

Bias in "Consumer Reporting"

Conflict of interest may have much to do with that negative Consumer Reports article on supplements. All one needs to do is look over the panel of "experts" Consumer Reports picked to help them "develop the criteria" for the list of 15 supplement ingredients to avoid.[9] To learn more you will want read:

Supplements Are Overwhelmingly Safe

The CBS news report did one thing right: it quotes the Council for Responsible Nutrition who gave a very responsible response: "More than 150 million Americans take dietary supplements each year... Overwhelmingly, dietary supplements are safe and play a valuable role in helping Americans live healthy lifestyles."[10]

Supplements are safe, CBS. Report that, please.

(OMNS Assistant Editor Helen Saul Case is the author of The Vitamin Cure for Women's Health Problems and coauthor of Vegetable Juicing for Everyone. Her latest book is Vitamins & Pregnancy: The Real Story.)




3. Starfield, B. "Is US Health Really the Best in the World?" JAMA 284(4) (Jul 26, 2000): 483-485.

See also: Lazarou, J., B. H Pomeranz, P. N. Corey. "Incidence of adverse drug reactions in hospitalized patients: a meta-analysis of prospective studies." JAMA 279(15) (Apr 15, 1998): 1200-1205.


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Editorial Review Board:

Ian Brighthope, M.D. (Australia)
Ralph K. Campbell, M.D. (USA)
Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D. (USA)
Damien Downing, M.D. (United Kingdom)
Michael Ellis, M.D. (Australia)
Martin P. Gallagher, M.D., D.C. (USA)
Michael J. Gonzalez, N.M.D., D.Sc., Ph.D. (Puerto Rico)
William B. Grant, Ph.D. (USA)
Ron Hunninghake, M.D. (USA)
Michael Janson, M.D. (USA)
Robert E. Jenkins, D.C. (USA)
Bo H. Jonsson, M.D., Ph.D. (Sweden)
Peter H. Lauda, M.D. (Austria)
Thomas Levy, M.D., J.D. (USA)
Stuart Lindsey, Pharm.D. (USA)
Joseph Mercola, D.O. (USA)
Jorge R. Miranda-Massari, Pharm.D. (Puerto Rico)
Karin Munsterhjelm-Ahumada, M.D. (Finland)
W. Todd Penberthy, Ph.D. (USA)
Jeffrey A. Ruterbusch, D.O. (USA)
Gert E. Schuitemaker, Ph.D. (Netherlands)
Jagan Nathan Vamanan, M.D. (India)
Ken Walker, M.D. (Canada)
Atsuo Yanagisawa, M.D., Ph.D. (Japan)

Robert G. Smith, Ph.D. (USA), Assistant Editor
Helen Saul Case, M.S. (USA), Assistant Editor
Michael S. Stewart, B.Sc.C.S. (USA), Technology Editor

Andrew W. Saul, Ph.D. (USA), Editor and contact person. Email: This is a comments-only address; OMNS is unable to respond to individual reader emails. However, readers are encouraged to write in with their viewpoints. Reader comments become the property of OMNS and may or may not be used for publication.

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