Dietary Supplement Snake Oil

Dietary Supplement Snake Oil
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Supplement industry representative attempts to rebut a mea culpa editorial in an alternative medicine journal decrying the predatory nature of dietary supplement marketing.

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An editorial was recently published decrying much of the multibillion dollar marketing of dietary supplements in North America as misleading, deceptive—even predatory. After examining hundreds of sales claims made when supplements are being marketed over the years, the author concluded: “Dishonesty or wild exaggerations are frequent occurrences in the marketing of supplements.”

My favorite quote was: “The marketers of supplements like to use scientific evidence the way a drunk uses a lamp-post: more for support than illumination.”

This is nothing new. Similar editorials have been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and the New England Journal of Medicine. What made this special was that it was, to their credit, published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. It’s like their own journal admitting it!

In response, the Head of Global Supplement Initiatives at Novus, which actually started out as the livestock feed additives division of Monsanto, before branching off into human feed additives—dietary supplements—starts his rebuttal with this counterpoint: “In his review entitled ‘’The Marketing of Dietary Supplements in North America: The Emperor is (Almost) Naked,’ [the author] may be mortified to know the emperor is still dancing in the street, dressed or not, to the tune of $68 billion. This figure is much higher and is a more relevant number than cited…indicating a very strong and respectable commerce.” That’s his first argument? That it’s highly lucrative?

He goes on to say that hey, they’re safer than some pharmaceuticals. But how much is that saying, given that prescription drugs kill an estimated 106,000 Americans every year? And that’s not errors; not abuse; not overdose. That’s just deaths from side effects, ADRs (adverse drug reactions), which would make doctors—me and my fellow colleagues—the fourth leading cause of death in the United States.

So, for the supplement industry to say, “Hey, at least we’re not the fourth leading cause of death,” isn’t saying much.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Serena.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Jeremy Weate / flickr

An editorial was recently published decrying much of the multibillion dollar marketing of dietary supplements in North America as misleading, deceptive—even predatory. After examining hundreds of sales claims made when supplements are being marketed over the years, the author concluded: “Dishonesty or wild exaggerations are frequent occurrences in the marketing of supplements.”

My favorite quote was: “The marketers of supplements like to use scientific evidence the way a drunk uses a lamp-post: more for support than illumination.”

This is nothing new. Similar editorials have been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and the New England Journal of Medicine. What made this special was that it was, to their credit, published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. It’s like their own journal admitting it!

In response, the Head of Global Supplement Initiatives at Novus, which actually started out as the livestock feed additives division of Monsanto, before branching off into human feed additives—dietary supplements—starts his rebuttal with this counterpoint: “In his review entitled ‘’The Marketing of Dietary Supplements in North America: The Emperor is (Almost) Naked,’ [the author] may be mortified to know the emperor is still dancing in the street, dressed or not, to the tune of $68 billion. This figure is much higher and is a more relevant number than cited…indicating a very strong and respectable commerce.” That’s his first argument? That it’s highly lucrative?

He goes on to say that hey, they’re safer than some pharmaceuticals. But how much is that saying, given that prescription drugs kill an estimated 106,000 Americans every year? And that’s not errors; not abuse; not overdose. That’s just deaths from side effects, ADRs (adverse drug reactions), which would make doctors—me and my fellow colleagues—the fourth leading cause of death in the United States.

So, for the supplement industry to say, “Hey, at least we’re not the fourth leading cause of death,” isn’t saying much.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Serena.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Jeremy Weate / flickr

Nota del Doctor

The best way to avoid adverse drug reactions is to stay healthy enough to avoid drugs altogether. See Ornish’s editorial Convergence of Evidence, and Say No to Drugs by Saying Yes to More Plants. There are also a number of natural remedies that may work as well, but have fewer side effects, such as Saffron for the Treatment of Alzheimer’sJust the Flax, Ma’am; and Amla Versus Diabetes. Plants are powerful; check out Power Plants!

For further context, check out my associated blog posts: Health Food Store Advice: Often Worthless or WorstPlant-Based Workplace InterventionThe Science on Açaí Berries; and Probiotics and Diarrhea.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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