Understanding Supplements: NPA Challenges Wall Street Journal

| 10/31/2011 3:16:46 PM

00 Gina Headshot“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.

10-31-2011-vitamin supplements
Photo by Teresa Stanton/Courtesy

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 The FDA’s solution is the controversial draft guidance on New Dietary Ingredients.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.