We live in the age of easy. Whether it’s work, school, travel, medicine, or our health, we want it fast, and we want it simple. So, of course the idea of a pill or drink that can fix all of our dietary issues sounds good. Why wouldn’t it? And certainly we couldn’t be sold something if it didn’t work, right?
Unfortunately, the current federal regulations regarding dietary supplements are EXTREMELY lax. In fact, they are almost non-existent when compared to the regulations for say, medications. Why, you ask? Once again, we are back to the almighty dollar ($20 billion pays for a lot of lobbyists), so it is up to US to make sure that we are informed about the things we put into our bodies. But before we get to WHAT we need to know, let’s talk regulations.
In October 1994, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) was signed into law by President Clinton. This act was the result of lobbying efforts by the manufacturers of dietary supplements and essentially restricted the ability of the FDA to exert authority over the supplement industry. With the passage of the law, manufacturers were no longer required to register their products with the FDA, unless the product contained a “new dietary ingredient” (one not marketed before the bill was signed). Even then, the manufacturer was only required to submit information that proves the product is safe, with no individual testing by the FDA or a third-party. Once the supplements hit the market, it is then up to the FDA to determine the safety of individual products, with inquiries only being made once a substantial number of complaints about safety have been made. To date, only one supplement has been found to be unsafe (ephedra).
According the Consumer Reports, “The law (DSHEA) has left consumers without the protections surrounding the manufacture and marketing of over-the-counter or prescription medications”. Further, Time referred to the DSHEA as, “ill-conceived and reprehensible”, that “gives the industry virtually free reign to market products defined as dietary supplements, while severely limiting the FDA's ability to regulate them".
So you can see now that it is essentially TOTALLY up to the consumer with regards to supplement safety. So what to do? Most importantly, read, read, read and research, research, research. Lucky for us, we also live in the digital age, where information is no more than a “Google” away. So do your research! If someone recommends a product, even if they are a trusted source, it is your responsibility to educate yourself BEFORE going out and trying it. And, above all else, don’t go looking for a quick fix! As I’ve said before, the road to health may be a rocky one, but the journey is well worth it!
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