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Don't Trust The Labels: Be An Informed Consumer Uses The Argument That Nutritional Supplements Should Undergo Testing By The Fda, Like Any Other Drug, Before They Are Put On The Market

5753 words - 24 pages

Don't Trust the Labels:Be an Informed ConsumerBack in the 1800s, snake oil salesmen stood on street corners and peddled their medications and ointments, made from a wide array of impractical, and sometimes toxic, substances. People bought them, believing them to be miracle cures for ailments such as arthritis and meningitis. People bought into the hype without realizing that there was no basis to the "amazing" claims made by these charlatans. Times have not changed. According to Amanda Spake, nearly half of all Americans take, or have taken, some type of "performance enhancing" dietary supplement. American consumers spent nearly 31 billion dollars in 1999 on dietary supplements. "The Food ...view middle of the document...

When the twenty-six year old was rushed to the hospital, it was found that the supplement he had been taking had depressed his nervous system to the point that he fell into a coma and died. (Spake 42)Keith Epstein notes the case of Sara Ingham. Sara was a twenty-four year old woman trying to lose ten pounds before her wedding. She had a stroke and nearly died after taking an ephedra based supplement for only one month (C1)Jamie Melernee reports of a seventeen year old who tried to lose weight by taking ephedra laced diet pills at four times the recommended dosage. She stopped after two years and only because the side effects had become unbearable. She could not stop shaking, had shortness of breath, had hot flashes, and "was rushed to the school clinic crying uncontrollably."(1A)Why should the public be concerned about taking nutritional supplements? Because we are not given all of the facts. The FDA requires prescription drugs to be scientifically tested for safety and effectiveness before they are put on the market. No such rules exist for dietary supplements. There is no quality control. Amanda Spakepoints to recent findings:The University of Arkansas College of Pharmacy studying the labels of twenty ephedra-based supplements found that half of the products varied by more than twenty percent from the amount of ephedrine alkaloids specified on the label....This made some bottles sub-potent and others super-potent.... In this same study, five brands also tested positive for one or more controlled narcotics.(42)If people take these supplements, they have no way of knowing exactly what is going into their bodies, regardless of what is printed on the label. They are, in effect, human guinea pigs. Unfortunately, most people are confident that the labels are accurate. People use their friends and family, magazines, product labels, and advertising as their main sources of information on dietary supplements. Very few people who take dietary supplements consult their doctor. What makes matters more difficult for doctors, when a patient comes to them seeking advice, is the fact that the pharmacology of these supplements is undocumented due to the lax FDA requirements. Amanda Spake feels that this indicates that there is a need for a better understanding about the effects of these supplements so that doctors can make informed decisions when dispensing advice. Doctors are also concerned about the unknown number of people with underlying or undiagnosed medical conditions who take ephedra and suffer catastrophic health problems as a result.(42)Ephedra, also called ma huang, is a 5,000 year old Chinese remedy for asthma and is now the most popular herbal weight-loss supplement in the United States. Ephedra opens the bronchial passages and stimulates the nervous and cardiovascular systems. It istouted as a diet aide, a fat burner, muscle toner, and as a super-energy pill. Ephedra decreases appetite and, some believe, enhances sexual performance. Combined with...

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