19 May Supplements: Buyer Beware
I don’t know about you, but at least weekly I hear some news, good or bad, about a supplement. The negative stories frequently are about some obscure supplement that has recently come to the market and generated a lot of “buzz”.
It might help to understand a little about the “business” of supplements. Since the only standard placed on nutritional supplements is that it is safe, without the companies having some degree of self-control, the supplement marketplace can become a little like The Wild West. What I mean by that is that some manufacturers of supplements will latch on to an obscure article published somewhere in the world pertaining to an ingredient, and use that to advertise and promote the product even though they are not allowed by law to make a claim that it treats any condition. The product might not have the same amount or same extract percentage as the study, but that doesn’t matter to the companies if they are only interested in making money.
What drives me crazy about this situation is that when I read something like this it is frequently accompanied by some statement or headline telling us we are wasting our money taking supplements. And if this statement referred only to the product in question, I would agree, but with the broad brush of these articles, all supplements are put in the same negative light.
For Pharmacy Solutions, from the beginning of our interest in nutritional supplements we focused on carrying only supplements with good science behind them. Some of you will remember St. John’s Wort which was introduced in the 1990’s as an herbal alternative for mild to moderate depression. This came about because of a study which used a specific percentage extract, but most of the products which came on the market were not even a standardized extract, just the raw herb with no idea what was actually in it. What most disturbs me about this is that some people would actually benefit from the right extract but tried the other with no effect and just assumed that the St. John’s Wort wouldn’t work for them.
Another supplement I see discussed in Mass media is Fish Oil. I have seen articles condemning this based on a study using 1 capsule per day of an “entry level” product. The reason we take fish oil in the first place is for the Omega-3 fatty acid content. We need Omega-3 in the diet from some source, whether it is the food we eat or from a supplement. An entry level product of fish oil is only about 30% Omega-3 and the other 70% is some other fat. Better products refine (molecularly distill) the oil to remove the fat we don’t need and increase the percentage of Omega-3. Even with these better products, we usually have to take more than 1 per day, so the above-mentioned study would of course find little to no benefit. But these very important details are glossed over in Mass Media reports.
The bottom line as I see it is that supplements can be very helpful in the correct situation, but the tough part for the average consumer is finding out what really works and what is marketing hype. We at Pharmacy Solutions are happy to advise you on any supplement you are considering.