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Member since: 2002
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When Dietary Supplements Are Used As Medicines



The FDA regulates foods and has been instrumental in improving the safety of our food supply. It regulates prescription and over-the-counter medications, requiring evidence of effectiveness and safety before marketing. Surveys have shown that most people falsely assume these protections extend to everything on the shelves including diet supplements, but they don’t.


DSHEA is based on a fiction. It prohibits claims that diet supplements prevent or treat any disease and only allows structure/function claims alleging that they “support” health in various ways. DSHEA is a stealth weapon that allows the sale of unproven medicines just as long as you pretend they are not medicines. It allows the sale of products that are not intended to prevent or treat disease so people can buy them with the intent of preventing or treating diseases. People don’t buy St. John’s wort (SJW) to correct a deficiency of SJW in their diet or in their bloodstream; they don’t buy it to “support” brain function; they buy it to treat depression. People don’t buy glucosamine to “support joint health” but to treat their arthritis pain. People don’t buy saw palmetto to “support prostate health” or correct a saw palmetto deficiency, but to relieve symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia or to prevent prostate cancer. The FDA’s “Quack Miranda warnings” are routinely ignored even by those few who actually read the fine print.


What are the chances that a diet supplement picked at random will turn out to be safe and effective when proper studies are done? Not high. Promising drugs that pharmaceutical companies submit to clinical trials only have about a 5 percent chance of making it to the market. A few years ago, I went through all the entries in the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database and tabulated their effectiveness ratings. Only 5 percent were rated “effective” and almost all of those were vitamins, minerals, and medicines that are also available as prescription or over-the-counter products approved by the FDA.

There are many products on the diet supplement market that combine multiple ingredients in a kitchen-sink mixture that has no rationale and has not undergone any testing. Maybe the ingredients act synergistically; maybe they interfere with each other. How would we know? Taking such products is a crap-shoot and is like being a guinea pig in an uncontrolled experiment. Many supplement mixtures are sold by multilevel marketing programs and improve health only to the extent that they improve the health of the promoters’ wallets.



A concise piece in regard to the problems with a lack of regulation of the supplement industry.

The Chicago Tribune Digs In To The Wasted Money Spent Via NCCAM

Federal center pays good money for suspect medicine

Troubled study at heart of therapy debate

Study's doctors have had their share of troubles

Energy healing sparks debate


I'm mildly shocked to see this in such a MSM publication.

Note: Orac did a piece on this series, as well.

Federal Center (NCCAM) Pays Good Money For Suspect "Medicine"

Feds dole out millions of dollars for questionable studies on treatments ranging from energy healing to acupuncture

"Thanks to a $374,000 taxpayer-funded grant, we now know that inhaling lemon and lavender scents doesn't do a lot for our ability to heal a wound. With $666,000 in federal research money, scientists examined whether distant prayer could heal AIDS. It could not.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine also helped pay scientists to study whether squirting brewed coffee into someone's intestines can help treat pancreatic cancer (a $406,000 grant) and whether massage makes people with advanced cancer feel better ($1.25 million). The coffee enemas did not help. The massage did.

NCCAM also has invested in studies of various forms of energy healing, including one based on the ideas of a self-described "healer, clairvoyant and medicine woman" who says her children inspired her to learn to read auras. The cost for that was $104,000.

A small, little-known branch of the National Institutes of Health, NCCAM was launched a dozen years ago to study alternative treatments used by the public but not accepted by mainstream medicine. Since its birth, the center has spent $1.4 billion, most of it on research.



It's a long piece, so the excerpt is just the first four paragraphs. There was no good way to summarize it. Still, in an era where research dollars for health care science are scarce. This needs attention, IMO.

Vitamin D and Multiple Sclerosis


"This is an interesting science story – the fairly recent discovery that there is a potential link between low Vitamin D levels and the risk of multiple sclerosis (MS). It is a good example of how the process of science works to incorporate new ideas.


So far we have only observational studies of the role of vitamin D in MS. It has been observed for many decades that higher latitude correlates with higher risk of developing MS. Recent, however, it has been suggested that the biological factor at work may be vitamin D levels, and reduced sun exposure leads to lower vitamin D level. Observational studies have now supported this hypothesis.


A new study, however, looked for mutations in the CYP27B1 gene, which is involved in vitamin D metabolism. If a person inherits two copies of the abnormal gene variant they will develop rickets – a disease of severely low vitamin D. If they have just one copy of the abnormal variant, and one healthy variant, then they will have low vitamin D levels but not severe enough to develop rickets.


The story of vitamin D and MS is a good illustration of how science is supposed to work. A new hypothesis was introduced, which made some sense, and so investigators did preliminary research (observational studies) showing that there was a potential correlation. As the evidence grew, scientific interest grew, and researchers started to look at the question from multiple angles.



It's very difficult to summarize this piece in four paragraphs, and my cuts may only serve to confuse the issue. I highly recommend a full read of the article. It is a wonderful explanation of how science works, and how it moves forward.

‘Blowfish’ for Hangovers: Cure or Red Herring? (No, The FDA Did Not "Approve" It)

This product seems to be giving us a little insight into science/health reporting, as I suspect that most articles on this product are simply regurgitating company press releases. But I admit that I haven't spent the time to find the company press releases.



The FDA did not immediately return ABC News’ requests for a comment. Contrary to recent headlines, the agency did not approve the drug. Because the over-the-counter formula combines drugs that are already approved, it didn’t have to. It does, however, regulate the manufacturing process and the drug’s packaging.

“Like all drug packaging, it has a lot of warnings for people with certain conditions,” said Haysom, describing the health risks of aspirin – a blood-thinner – for people with bleeding conditions. “And pregnant women should not take it, but hopefully they don’t need to be taking it!”

A hangover is a collection of symptoms that emerge when alcohol’s intoxicating effects start to wear off. Research on hangover treatments is scarce, but alcohol is thought to trigger an inflammatory response – a process blocked by non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin. The inflammatory response is similar to the body’s defense against flu, and is linked to lethargy – an energy lull boosted by caffeine. Finally, the chemicals produced by the body to break alcohol down are hard on the stomach – collateral damage tempered by an antacid.

But it’s unclear whether Blowfish, which contains acetylsalicylic acid and citric acid — both of which could mitigate some of its stomach-soothing effects — is better than the age-old hangover remedy: Aspirin and a cup of coffee.



IMO, it all seems like a lot of hype over another unnecessary, and rather expensive, product.

Depression, Heart Disease May Be Linked By Stress Recovery Time


"Studies of late have found associations between depression and heart disease.

Those who suffer from a mood disorder, for instance, may be twice as likely to have a heart attack compared to individuals who are not depressed, according to recent data.

But the relationship between depression and heart disease has been poorly understood.

A new study may help to clarify the link, suggesting that depressed people also suffer from a dysfunctional biological stress system. In it, researchers found depressed individuals have a slower recovery time after exercise compared to those who are non-depressed.



Just FYI. I found it to be very interesting.

Researchers Compile Surprising List Of Most Risky Drugs For Older Americans


"Some medications are well known for being risky, especially for older people. Certain antihistamines, barbiturates, muscle relaxants—take too much of them, or take them with certain other medications, and you can wind up in serious trouble (and possibly in the back of ambulance).

But researchers from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Emory University reported in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine that those high-risk medications are not the ones that most commonly put older Americans (ages 65 and older) in the hospital.

Warfarin is #1
Instead, they found that warfarin is the most common culprit. Warfarin (the brand-name version is called Coumadin) reduces the blood’s tendency to clot. Many older people take it to lower their risk of getting a stroke.

After warfarin, different types of insulin taken by people with diabetes were the second most common cause of medication-related emergency hospitalization in this study, followed by oral antiplatelet drugs (aspirin and clopidogrel, sold as Plavix, are the main ones) and then the oral hypoglycemic drugs (glyburide and glipizide, for example) that people with type 2 diabetes take to manage their blood sugar levels.



Interesting research.
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