“The case for dietary supplements is collapsing.” According to the Wall Street Journal, anyway, whose article “Is this the end of popping vitamins” is receiving well-deserved criticism.
It’s unsettling to read an article like this from such a reputable and influential source. The Wall Street article only cites two studies, both of which seem flawed. This isn’t surprising as food and nutrition are difficult to research—the cited studies were small trials and both failed to link a cause and effect.
The article goes on to say that taking vitamins is worthless for those without a specific nutrient deficiency or chronic illness. It even suggests that funding more studies about the affects of supplements is a waste of money. Yet this same article acknowledges certain advantages to supplements, specifically that calcium benefits bone health and folic acid reduces the likelihood of a common birth defect if taken by pregnant women.
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Dietary supplements are a hot topic right now, with many important conversations taking place about them. Because of some of the bad players in the industry selling tainted, misleadingly labeled or just plain bogus products, consumers are still trying to figure out how to best weed out the bad products from the good. The FDA’s solution is the controversial draft guidance on New Dietary Ingredients. This was proposed in response to the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, which was signed into law back in January. However, many are cautious of how this new guidance would affect the dietary supplement industry and believe it would take us back to the pre-DSHEA days (Dietary Supplement Health & Education Act of 1994), when the FDA could determine whether substances in supplements were food additives or not.
Until everyone can come up with a better solution, stay mindful of what you put in your body and continue to educate yourself. Look for brands that are members of an established dietary supplement trade association, such as the American Herbal Products Association.
Here’s what the Natural Products Association had to say about the Wall Street Journal’s article.
NPA Challenges Wall Street Journal to Get It Right about Supplements
The Natural Products Association (NPA) is the leading representative of the dietary supplement industry with over 1,900 members, including suppliers and retailers of vitamins and other dietary supplements. NPA Executive Director and CEO John Gay responds to a story about the benefits of vitamins in the Wall Street Journal:
"It is disappointing that the Wall Street Journal would devote space to such a sensationalist and inaccurate item. Trying to scare Americans away from taking dietary supplements to improve their health is just plain irresponsible. Consumers deserve to hear more about the many benefits of vitamins and other dietary supplements, and I call on the Wall Street Journal to bring fairness to its reporting.
The story makes use of two recent studies that NPA believes did a disservice to the tens of millions of American who take dietary supplements. Detailing the flaws in the studies and the conclusions reached would take too much space, but to pick one major issue: as the Wall Street Journal acknowledges, “Observational trials can only show an association, not a cause and effect.” We agree, and find it troubling that a story in the Journal would use such a study to assert that “the case for dietary supplements is collapsing.”
In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. More and more studies show that vitamins have real and widely accepted health benefits. These include providing nutrients, boosting immune systems, and improving overall health. Even the authors of the vitamin E study mentioned in the article noted the benefit of vitamin E with Alzheimer’s disease and age-related macular degeneration.
The article itself notes that calcium is “important to bone health” and folic acid “reduces the likelihood of a common birth defect if taken by pregnant women.” It also states that “Researchers and nutritionists are still recommending dietary supplements for the malnourished or people with certain nutrient deficiencies or medical conditions.”
Far from collapsing, the case for vitamins is supported by experts who know best the value of good nutrition. That is why NPA has long advocated that consumers use dietary supplements as part of a healthy lifestyle. Half of all Americans take dietary supplements because they know they work.”
Jeff Wright, NPA president and owner of Wright’s Nutrients in New Port Richey, Fla., adds:
“Like so many of my fellow health food store owners, I’m dedicated to helping consumers supplement their diets with the nutrients they need. Research is the cornerstone of our industry, and it seems that every week there is a new report about the importance of vitamins to the health of millions of Americans. Stories like the one in the Wall Street Journal might scare some Americans away from taking dietary supplements to improve their health, and that is just plain irresponsible.”