Supplements Versus Drugs: An Unfortunate and Unnecessary Feud

Doc Gumshoe weighs in on another controversial health topic

By Michael Jorrin, "Doc Gumshoe", January 13, 2014

[ed. note: Michael Jorrin, a longtime medical writer who has earned the nickname “Doc Gumshoe” despite his lack of a stethoscope and medical diploma, is our favorite scribe on all topics health related — we feature his columns every couple weeks here at Stock Gumshoe to help us bring some skepticism and plain speaking to non-investment topics. Michael’s subjects are of his choosing, and his words and opinions are his own]

Even the words “supplements” and “drugs” evoke mental associations that take us in contrary directions. A supplement is something added to supply a deficiency. A diet supplement implies that there’s a deficiency in the diet that is being met by adding another, non-dietary substance. If we don’t get enough calcium from our regular diet, drinking more milk is not a diet supplement, but taking a calcium pill is a diet supplement.

The word “drugs” is considerably more complicated. My indispensable Oxford English Dictionary says the ultimate origin is uncertain, and gives this definition (in part):

“An original, single, medicinal substance, organic or inorganic, whether used by itself in its natural condition or prepared by art, or as an ingredient in a medicine or medicament.” And also, “Now often applied, without qualification, to narcotics, opiates, hallucinogens, etc.”

My Webster’s International (Second Edition) says: “Any substance to be used in medicine for internal or external use.” But also, “Any commodity that lies on hand or is not salable; an article of slow sale or in no demand, as a drug on the market.”

So, from the start, there’s a semantic implication that a diet supplement is something we need that is missing from our regular food intake, whereas a drug might be helpful in dealing with a medical need, but might also be something bad. No wonder terms like “pharmaceuticals” or “medications” are preferred.

So, is it true that “drugs” are too often harmful, while “supplements” are natural substances that are only beneficial?

To the first part of that question, one can only say “yes,” because any incidence at all of harm due to drugs (medications, pharmaceuticals) is too often. But to the second part, that diet supplements are only beneficial the view from this corner is that while some may be beneficial, they are also, certainly, too often harmful.

There is a simple reason for this: there is no fundamental difference between the active ingredients in drugs and those in diet supplements. They are chemicals. They may be simple molecules, as simple as salt or sugar, or they may be large, complex molecules. But they are chemicals all the same, and any chemical that has the potential to affect our physiology in a beneficial way also has the potential to affect it in a harmful way.

The phrase in the OED definition cited above – “whether used by itself in its natural condition or prepared by art” – is specific and clear. Willow bark is a drug, and salicylates, which copy the active molecule in willow bark, are drugs. (Aspirin is a salicylate.) The extract of the Pacific yew, taxol, is a drug, as are all the valuable cancer drugs derived from it. We no longer make a tincture of willow bark to relieve pain and lower fever, and there are probably not enough Pacific yews on the planet to treat all the cancer patients that are benefiting from taxol-based drugs.

The list of drugs directly derived from nature would be exceedingly long, and it is being added to every day. I heard the biologist Edward O. Wilson say that in every shovelful of dirt in the Harvard Yard there is an organism of some kind from which a drug, valuable to humans, could be derived.

Why is this? We could point to survival as the driving force – not our survival as humans, but the survival of the plants and animals from which we derive drugs. Exenatide (Byetta, from Amylin Pharmaceuticals and AstraZeneca), a drug for type 2 diabetes, was based on the venom of the Gila monster, and a peptide found in the venom of the pit viper led to the development of the first ACE inhibitor. But we would not use Gila monster venom to treat diabetes, or pit viper venom to lower blood pressure (unless the objective was to lower it to zero!). Evolutionary forces resulted in the emergence of active agents in these animals that enabled them to compete in the world, and we can learn from nature to enhance our own survival. We do not use these drugs by themselves in their “natural condition.” We prepare them “by art.”

What about all those dangerous drug side effects?

Every advertisement for a drug includes a list of potential side effects. This is necessary and appropriate. It is an absolute FDA requirement that in any promotional material for a drug, the side effects have got to be stated. The way it works is that adverse events in patients treated with the drug that occurred with greater frequency than in patients treated with placebo are assumed to have been in some way caused by the drug. If we’re talking about the most frequent side effects, this is most likely true.

That assumption is based on statistics more than on a specific understanding of how the drug produces the side effects. And a similar statistical assumption is the basis for confidence in a drug’s efficacy. We don’t have to know the drug’s precise mechanism of action – all we really need to know is that people taking the drug attain a certain degree of benefit, and that people with the same disease condition and similar characteristics, but who are taking a placebo instead of the drug, do not attain that degree of benefit, so it must be that the drug is making the difference.

When it comes to the serious adverse events, including serious infections and malignancies (which is what most of us are concerned about) that statistical comparison may not apply. The problem here is that these serious adverse events tend to be quite infrequent, so the statistical standard doesn’t work. The numbers are just too small. All serious adverse events (SAEs) must be stated, whether or not they can be attributed to the drug. And this also is necessary and appropriate. Health professionals are assumed to be competent to understand the data and make an appropriate decision based on the balance between the risk and the benefit to the patient.

However, the data can certainly frighten patients. Here’s an example, from a project I recently worked on, involving juvenile idiopathic arthritis, which is a troubling disease affecting children as young as two years of age.

In a clinical trial involving 69 patients, lasting 6 years, there were 29 adverse events classified as serious. Of these, 10 were disease flares, meaning that at a certain point the disease was getting worse instead of better. There were 8 serious infections, a major concern since the drug being evaluated is an inhibitor of an immune response. Several of the SAEs may have been unrelated to the drug, e.g., appendicitis, a wound infection due to a knife cut to the patient’s hand, a wound infection following surgery for a chin implant, diabetes, dental abscess, a personality disorder. Two SAEs were likely to be related to the drug, e.g., herpes zoster and aseptic meningitis secondary to herpes zoster. However, whether drug-related or not, all the SAEs had to be reported, listed in the prescribing information, and the advertising has to reflect the prescribing information.

Naturally, this frightens a lot of people. And, in many cases, may dissuade people from agreeing to treatment courses that could be of benefit.

The crucial issue: balancing risk with benefit

At the extremes, this is not terribly complicated. At one extreme is when the drug is meant to address something relatively minor, but the risk associated with the drug is not minor at all. A perfect example is the discovery that some antihistamines (terfenadine, marketed as Seldane, and astemizole, as Hismanal) could lead to a dangerous cardiac arrhythmia known as torsades de pointes, if taken at too high doses or with other drugs that slowed the excretion of these antihistamines so that they built up in the system. Who would risk a heart problem that sometimes causes death in order to prevent sneezing or itching? In that case, it’s open and shut. (By the way, both of those drugs were taken off the market about 15 years ago.)

At the other extreme is the treatment of the factors that contribute to strokes or heart attacks in persons with demonstrated risk factors for those events. I am not talking here about the new proposed algorithm that was discussed at great length in a previous blog. I am talking about people who, for example, have already sustained a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or a heart attack, or who experience heart pain while at rest, or have established coronary artery disease. In patients such as those, the risk/benefit balance is unquestionably on the side of benefit. The evidence is strong that treating the conditions – hypertension, hyperlipidemia – that contribute to cardiac risk leads to very large benefits in terms of survival for such patients, while the risks are manageable.

For many people, the decision is not so easy. I have heard many rheumatologists say that in some cases direct-to-consumer advertising is a significant impediment to treatment, because the recital of all the possible side effects spooks their patients. The risk/benefit balance in such cases might need to be restated as a balance between two categories of risks: the risk associated with the drug, and the risk of untreated disease progression. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, for example, the drug might present a relatively small risk of lymphoma or non-melanoma skin cancer, but disease progression can lead to disability and a significantly shortened life-span. Some patients might view the disease progression risks as distant, however, while the drug side effect risks are immediate and scary.

But don’t the drugs that are marketed as “supplements” also have side effects?

You bet they do. That’s because, as I said earlier, the active elements in supplements are chemicals, just as the active elements in drugs are chemicals. And if these chemicals, whether in supplements or drugs, have some kind of effect in our bodies, that effect can be for good, but also for ill – and not infrequently, both for good and ill.

Mostly, the adverse effects associated with supplements go under the radar, because they do not have to be stated in advertising, and there is no mandated prescribing information, as there is for FDA-regulated pharmaceuticals. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t occur and that in some cases they have serious consequences. Poison control centers in the US received more than one million reports of adverse reactions to vitamins, minerals, and dietary supplements between 1983 and 2004, resulting in more than 175,000 hospitalizations. And the FDA estimates that about 50,000 adverse reactions to supplements occur every year.

An example that has recently received considerable notice is the unacceptably high incidence of liver injury, in some cases leading to liver transplantation, associated with diet aids consisting – supposedly – of a concentrated green tea extract. These adverse effects were tracked by a group established by the National Institutes of Health, which identified more than 800 patients with severe liver damage who required hospital treatment.

Several potential factors may be involved. One is that the active ingredients in the green tea extract are catechins. These are chemically related to some active neurotransmitters – dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine – and have been studied extensively. It has been suggested that catechins might have some efficacy in preventing cancers, such as prostate and breast cancer, and also in preventing metabolic syndrome; however, no positive evidence for these benefits has been found. On the “harms” side, catechins in high doses have been found to be toxic to the liver, and the green-tea based diet supplements are highly concentrated, containing a multiple of the amount of catechins contained in green tea.

Another potential factor is that these supplements contain other ingredients than green tea, sometimes including steroids, and in some cases, up to 30 different substances, none of which are listed on the label.

So, let’s see what the regulation of supplements might have to do with their safety…

What does supplement regulation amount to?

The FDA has seldom intervened in the marketing of drugs that were presented as “natural,” other than to place restrictions on medical claims unsupported by evidence. There were efforts by the FDA to regulate megavitamins; these were defeated in Congress in the mid-1970s. Then, in the early 1990s, there was another attempt by the FDA to regulate supplements, which was again defeated in Congress.

The FDA does, to a minor degree, regulate supplements, especially with regard to specific medical claims. A supplement cannot go beyond stating that taking that supplement “supports” a particular area of health, such as heart, bone, digestive, etc, unless – as happens very seldom indeed – there are acceptable clinical studies substantiating specific claims.

This restriction is easily circumvented. All the supplement marketer needs to do is find a compliant physician and a few patients who have used the supplement and experienced benefits, and the personal testimonials regarding the supplement’s effectiveness as a cure for any and all ailments can be propagated far and wide with no restrictions.

As for safety, the NIH language makes it clear that it’s the responsibility of the manufacturer to have evidence that the product is safe, but that they do not have to provide that evidence to the FDA before the product is marketed.

This does not amount to a whole lot.

But isn’t the FDA disposed against the supplements industry?

Now, there are those who will say that the FDA are stooges of Big Pharma and conspire to keep the supplements marketers in a subservient position so that Big Pharma can continue to rake in the profits.

To this, I say, “Not so!” The FDA and Big Pharma, as well as Not So Big Pharma, are frequently at odds, not to say at swords’ points. The FDA’s requirements for painstaking, slow, expensive evidence gathering is exceedingly costly and delays the ability of the drug’s developers to bring a drug to market for many years after the drug has first been identified as a potentially useful agent. Frequently, the FDA finds that the evidence submitted on behalf of a drug is insufficient and requires further clinical trials, or declines to approve the drug at all. My own view, as a skeptical observer, is that pharmaceutical outfits are enormously benefited by operating in a regulated environment, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not frequently locked in serious conflict with the FDA.

A black eye for supplements marketers

A recent Canadian study (Newmaster SG et al. BMC Med. 2013; 11: 222) reported that a majority of herbal supplements tested by DNA bar-coding were not as described on the labels. The investigators bought 44 samples of supplements from 12 different manufacturers / marketers, and compared their DNA bar codes with those of the herbs of which they purportedly consisted. The products of only two of the twelve marketers were exactly as described on the label. Two of the twelve contained no authentic ingredients at all – they were 100% fake. The other eight consisted of a mixture of fake ingredients, contaminants, and varying proportions of the labelled herb, sometimes as much as 50%, and sometimes considerably less.

The totally fake ingredients were mostly harmless, including rice, soy, and wheat. The contaminants were another story. One bottle was fraudulently labelled as St John’s wort, which is promoted as an antidepressant (it has been touted as a monoamine oxidase inhibitor; however, this mechanism is disputed). It was found to consist entirely of Alexandrian senna, which is a powerful laxative. Ginko biloba supplements were contaminated with black walnut, which might be fatal for people with nut allergies.

It is not necessarily the case that all ten marketers whose supplements were not as stated on the label are guilty of intentional fraud. Contamination may have occurred by error, during the harvesting of the herbal products. However, there doesn’t appear to be much excuse for the two marketers whose products contained no genuine ingredients at all, but only cheap fillers.

The Canadian study, by the way, did not identify the marketers of these supplements by name.

So, where does Doc Gumshoe stand on this issue?

My view is that the point of departure for a great many effective medical interventions is a naturally-occurring substance – an herb, a plant, a fungus – that is found to have healing powers. Necessarily, the first inkling of the effectiveness of these naturally-occurring drugs is anecdotal. Yes, anecdotal evidence is frequently dismissed – until it is verified through the strength of numbers, and until the mechanism through which these naturally-occurring drugs do their work becomes understood.

Dr Jerome Groopman of the Harvard Medical School recounts an interesting discovery of this sort. Healers in the Harbin region in Northern China used certain powders derived from rocks, and supposedly achieved “miraculous” cures of a form of leukemia called acute promyelocytic leukemia. The powders were found to contain arsenic trioxide, which is undoubtedly poisonous. But researchers at the Shanghai Institute of Hematology followed up the stories of cures and determined that indeed arsenic trioxide was the agent that led to these cures. There were rigorous clinical trials, and arsenic trioxide was recently approved by the FDA for the treatment of that form of leukemia, which is frequently fatal in a very short time. Arsenic trioxide changes the course of the disease, so that, instead of being fatal, it is frequently curable. The Shanghai researchers have now elucidated the specific mechanism of action of arsenic trioxide. It blocks a protein that triggers the growth of that leukemia.

That little story illustrates the progression from the anecdotal evidence to scientific verification. That’s how the feud between the proponents of supplements and those who dismiss supplements as quackery can be settled: verify – or disprove – the anecdotal evidence through rigorous scientific examination including clinical trials. Bring to bear the resources of science and the strength of statistics. Let’s bring the two sides together in the common quest for improved health.

News Flash! The New York Times Catches Up with Doc Gumshoe!

The Sunday Review on January 5th had a front-page story with this title and subhead: “Why Everyone Seems to Have Cancer: As heart disease and stroke are beaten back, cancer vies to become the final killer.” The writer, George Johnson, citing those mortality rates, comes to the grim conclusion that “if the heart holds out, then waiting at the end will be cancer.”

Some of you may recall my piece about cancer last June. It was called “What’s Happening in Cancer Treatment? Are We Making Progress, or Are We Stuck?” Here’s what I said in that one:

    More Heart Disease Survivors Means More Cancer Fatalities

    Cancer mortality rates are down, but not that much. One reason is a sort of statistical artifact: death rates from the chief killer, cardiovascular disease (CVD), are down sharply. According to the NIH, yearly heart disease mortality declined from 307.4 per 100,000 population in 1950 to 134.6 per 100,000 in 1999, and it has continued to decline steeply since then. For example, in my home state of Connecticut, mortality from heart attacks was 66.6 per 100,000 in 1999 and 41.5 in 2006. The American Heart Association calculates that if the CVD mortality rate had remained at its 1963 peak, 621,000 additional CVD deaths would have taken place annually from about 1996 onward – that’s almost 10 million people. But those folks who escape dying of heart attacks don’t live forever – lots of them survive to succumb to something else, frequently the big C.

Of course, it might be something else, the secret of immortality not yet having been discovered. But if the statistics, in fifty years or so, show that more centenarians are perishing while attempting to scale Mount Everest, we shouldn’t conclude that Everest has become more dangerous.

* * * * * * *
Please keep the comments coming! Pat Doc Gumshoe on the back when you agree with him and rap him across the knuckles when you don’t! Right now, I’m gathering material for a piece about migraines, which seriously affect lots of people and have a major impact on their daily lives. Look for it in a couple of weeks. Best to all in the New Year, Michael Jorrin (aka Doc Gumshoe).


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44 Comments on " Supplements Versus Drugs: An Unfortunate and Unnecessary Feud"

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Jan Upton
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Jan Upton
January 13, 2014 1:18 pm
Yes, it is true that drugs are derived from plants in nature, however, they are synthetic duplicates with other additives and chemical processes involved in their creation. High quality food supplements are the plants or foods themselves that are usually dried and then made into powder. In other, words they are not made from inorganic substances in a laboratory. All drugs are toxic because of this. They body does not recognize them as food substances. High quality food supplements on the other hand, if they have been processed carefully, that is without altering their organic (live) qualities, are recognized by… Read more »
Rusty Brown in Canada
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Rusty Brown in Canada
January 13, 2014 2:05 pm

Or drop a mixture of them into the blender along with some juice for a smoothie and get all the nutritional benefits plus the fibre in the pulp as well.

Bill Wightman
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Bill Wightman
January 14, 2014 7:08 pm

“One can get a concentration of nutritional benefits by juicing fresh, organic vegetables and fruits that will probably be more powerful in prevention of disease than most supplements and also prevent the need for drugs”

You hit the nail on the head. Eat a whole food, mostly raw, mostly plant based, get sleep, get exercise, remain calm, be happy on principle. That way you can walk past the drug vendors and even the supplement vendors and keep more hard earned cash.

Myron Martin
Author
200
January 16, 2014 5:16 pm
Very well written and balanced commentary. I fully agree that “food concentrates” are much safer than chemically synthesized isolated substances concocted in a laboratory without their synergistic partners. No vitamin, mineral, enzyme, phytonutrient works independently, they are co-dependent and work in harmony. With all the billions of dollars expended in research to find marketable substances the pharmaceutical industry can make a profit on, the medical community has still not learned that nature seeks harmony not disruption. There are simply far too many interconnections in the bodies needs for scientists to ever discover them all and meet the hippocratic oath of… Read more »
Myron Martin
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200
January 24, 2014 9:45 am
Nice to see some balance in comments for a change, this is certainly right on the money, “All drugs are toxic because of this. They body does not recognize them as food substances” and that is the key, if it will not build healthy cells and tissues then it does not belong in the body. Where I fault the medical profession is that they do not recognize the fact that the vast majority of the patients they see are there because of a destructive lifestyle. In other words the focus should be on PREVENTION, not heroic chemical intervention to save… Read more »
leesbillbob
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January 13, 2014 1:22 pm

Brilliant.I have 2 nieces in Rutger’s Pharma school,one who is at Rutgers studying Nutrition and your concise article will be shared.

vivian lewis
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January 13, 2014 1:26 pm
pat on the back doc gumshoe. I am taking vitamin D + calcium until it turns out to have unwanted side-effects. So far so good. Lots of FDA approved drugs have unlisted side effects most notably hormone replacement therapy for the ladies (which probably didn’t impact you directly but did impact me.) I was on the stuff for 15 years before eek hit. In France where we lived then not only did I get HRT for no particular reason, but I was told it would make my hair shine and keep my skin clear and lower my weight (I am… Read more »
sparky
Irregular
4
January 13, 2014 1:53 pm
It’s interesting. About 20 years ago i was diagnosed with GERD and subsequently put on a daily dose of drugs which relieved the symptoms. There are warning labels on these drugs to not take longer than 3-weeks, but doctors have no problem with prescribing them for much longer (read the rest of your life). Then one day, i inadvertantly came a across an article about taking Apple CIder vinegar with garlic supplements after meals to assist with weight loss. Who can’t afford to lose weight, and i had the vinegar in my house, so I bought some garlic oil to… Read more »
Myron Martin
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January 16, 2014 5:23 pm

Great wisdom in your closing statement; “I look for the most natural approach first before more toxic methods” who can argue with that? The problem is that most people want the easiest possible solution without any effort on their part, and the easiest ( and most fervently advocated) is to go to a medical doctor and get a prescription.

JIm
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JIm
January 13, 2014 2:01 pm
Supplements when used in moderation will in all likelihood prevent many diseases. One in particular garlic capsules helps thin the blood so you don’t have to take expensive rat poison to do the same thing. Garlic oil is also good for your joints. There are nutrients for the eyes. The prostrate and so on. One just needs to research carefully what you are doing to or for your body. Many minerals in the body are depleted from flouride in the water and other carcinogens in cooking oil. Flouride is a poisonous by product of the aluminum making process. It is… Read more »
Myron Martin
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January 16, 2014 5:31 pm
Come’on Jim, what a spoil sport, surely a little rat poison will spice up your day, can’t be any worse than some anti-freeze (ethylene glycol) in your ice cream. ( Read your labels) Can’t you see how practical our food manufacturers are (I thought food should be grown) but surely a frozen product like ice cream should contain at least some ANTI-freeze, how ironic, but then its much cheaper than actual CREAM which most ice-creams no longer contain. Oh well, you save a few bucks which you can spend later on some drugs when your poor food choices catch up… Read more »
archives2001
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archives2001
January 19, 2014 4:18 am

Well stated Myron, well stated!
And don’t forget the doctor, hospital, adult care/ hospice bills!

Rusty Brown in Canada
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Rusty Brown in Canada
January 13, 2014 2:01 pm

I’m not sure what to make of all this discussion, but I do know that I stopped taking prescription meds when I’d heard “…if you took [insert pharmaceutical name here] you may be entitled to compensation…” one too many times on TV.
Vitamins and minerals are quite another matter, since we have been consuming them from our environment from the day the first human being was born, and before.

Dr. KSS MD PhD
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karmaswimswami
January 13, 2014 2:59 pm

The debate is little more than analogous to the spiritual struggle in Japan between Shintoism and Buddhism. For the happy and easy things, like weddings, Japanese are Shinto. For the tough and serious things, like funerals, Japanese are Buddhist. Serious medical problems need doctors, science, and where appropriate, prescriptions. Vitamins and supplements are fine, til you get sick.

John Harris
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John Harris
January 13, 2014 7:25 pm
Well Dr Swami would say that as he can’t see benefit from anything that is not proved by double blinded randomized clinical trials (something that blinds many doctors). Fact is as Dr gumshoe said anecdotal evidence is where it all starts. And clear as day there is lots of that showing that 1000 mg of Vit c and Vit D a day keeps you from getting sick in the first place and the vit D seems especially beneficial to those of us in the north in the winter when we don’t get enough exposure to sunshine (high in the sky… Read more »
Myron Martin
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200
January 16, 2014 5:44 pm
There has long been a battle between the pharmaceutically disposed industry to try and capture the supplements market, or at least regulate it. While any generalization is suspect because there are always exceptions to any rule, mine is simply not to buy any supplement products in a supermarket or drug store unless I know the company very well and have checked into their ingredients first. Even in a health food store you need to be careful to read labels and do enough study to know what you are reading. Yes there are some unscrupulous health food store owners who will… Read more »
Barry
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January 13, 2014 3:32 pm
Full Disclosure: I am the CEO of a supplements company. We only have 3 products, and won’t introduce any more unless they pass over a VERY high bar. We take great pride in the quality of the products and the research behind them. I take them all myself. But Doc Gumshoe is right. There is junk out there, but those really are the exceptions. The majority of people I know in the (natural products) industry take the same approach we do: extreme care, uncompromising quality, high ethics, and great customer service. The big exceptions are most weight loss products.
Myron Martin
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200
January 16, 2014 5:48 pm

I commend you for your integrity, unfortunately the few bad apples make it difficult for the rest who do want to provide a safe and healthy product and spend a little more for the best quality ingredients that the unsophisticated and uninformed consumer will not recognize on the label, price unfortunately is the bottom line for the gullible consumer.

kenodick
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kenodick
January 13, 2014 3:37 pm

The less drugs you take the less chance of adverse effects/death. There are only very rare proven cases of people suffering from supplements, the benefits do vary from person to person just as they do with drugs. I take high quality supplements for years and have been enjoying very good health for my 77 years. I am thankful first of all to God for this. One must also live a disciplined life style and not depend on a handful of pills to neutralize the negatives.

john
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john
January 13, 2014 4:59 pm

Sorry, Kenodick.. God has nothing to do with your supplements or whatever.. High quality supps are good and if you do your research it will pay off.. The biggest rip off in the past 20 years are cholesterol drugs.. BIg Pharma has shoved this down the throats of doctors and FDA.. For the most part Cholesterol doesn’t cause heart attacks!!!

Myron Martin
Author
200
January 16, 2014 6:06 pm
My comment below was aimed at you John, attacking Kenodick’s faith is not kosher in my books, but I do agree with you in respect to cholesterol and drugs to lower it. Funny they weren’t needed 100 years ago, so is anybody in the medical profession asking “what changed” that now requires such wide dissemination? That is really my biggest beef with the medical profession, they are “so close to the forest they apparently can’t see the trees” at least they can’t seem to come to grips with “CAUSE and EFFECT” as in looking for the cause as opposed to… Read more »
Terry
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Terry
January 19, 2014 1:50 pm
I agree with you about the problems understanding the difference between cause and effect (causation vs correlation), but the problem is pervasive among most humans, not just those in the medical profession, who like people, do not understand even simple statistics. Further, there’s this pesky little problem that most biomedical research is just plain wrong, reported in many places after the 2005 publication of this paper: http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pmed.0020124 Here’s one overview: http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/most_medical_research_is_wrong_are_you_kidding/ Much remains to be done, until then, eat and live as your body has evolutionarily adapted to do (move more, eat less, eat mostly plants) and stay skeptical of… Read more »
hipockets
Irregular
1001
January 19, 2014 7:58 pm

Thanks for links, Terry.

Myron Martin
Author
200
January 16, 2014 5:58 pm
I can see where this could descend into a fight between evolutionists and creationists! It is my impression, until proved otherwise, that believers in Creation would fall on the side of nature and plant based supplements as opposed to “mans wisdom” relied on my those on the evolutionary side favouring drugs based on scientific learning. Maybe that is simplistic, but before somebody pins a label on me, I am not attempting to grind any religious axe, I long ago lost faith in any organized religion, even though I am well aware and familiar with the great wisdom to be gleaned… Read more »
Ventureshadow
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Ventureshadow
January 13, 2014 3:43 pm

“More Heart Disease Survivors Means” not just more fatalities from cancer, but also from accidents, overdoses, murder, and infections. More cancer survivors + more heart disease survivors mean still more of these. Both mean more dementia and mild cognitive impairment. But do they also mean more subscribers to Stock Gumshoe?

hipockets
Irregular
1001
January 13, 2014 6:13 pm

Another pat on the back for you, “Doc”. ‘Preciate the time and effort you put into your articles.

Today I especially appreciate the information on green tea supplements. I started on them a few weeks ago in order to hopefully increase my energy level and lose weight. I’m stopping them today thanks to you.

John Harris
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John Harris
January 13, 2014 7:28 pm

Drinbk the green tea for god sake. Best drink to use all day. Make a pot of 5 cups with one teabag. Weak green tea is what they drink in Asia and that is what is has been shown to be wildly good for you. Beats coffee and surely beats pop.

Enginer
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Enginer
January 13, 2014 9:13 pm
While researching migraine headaches, take note of these comments: Years ago I discovered the wonders of the herb Fever Few, which has noting to do with reducing fever. Before finding Schiff’s Move Free for my bad knees, I used Feverfew, but had to dose every 4 to 6 hours during the day. Move free worked all day. Ah, Fever Few. Very effective at reducing migraine headaches. But then, the best solution to tension headaches I have found is hyper ventilation. When we tense up, our breathing becomes shallow, and our blood oxygen drops. That in itself can cause headaches, but… Read more »
Petals
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Petals
January 14, 2014 12:09 pm
I have been taking Shaklee supplements since 1986. I am 65 years old, I do not need any medications, I am healthy, I walk 4 miles 2 x’s a week, and I try to eat a fairly healthy diet. We raise and process a huge chemical free garden every year, we raise our own chemical free beef, poultry, pork and eggs, and drink pure well water with no added chemicals. I do not have arthritis, heart disease, high cholesterol, or any other problems that I know of. Best of all, I FEEL healthy and well. I wish everyone could feel… Read more »
Von Druid
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Von Druid
January 14, 2014 6:45 pm
The desire to block people from buying supplements come from the fact that supplements work to fix problems that drugs can only treat. The drugs cost a fortune and the natural supplements don’t. The drugs can be trade marked and patented where the natural supplements can’t. They won’t clean up our food supply, they put out drugs that kill people every day, medical accidents are now the number 1 cause of death in this country and now they want to block our ability to take care of our selves outside of this very dangerous system. Gee, it almost seems they… Read more »
Myron Martin
Author
200
January 16, 2014 6:11 pm

Surely you must be paranoid thinking such radical thoughts, don’t you know that the higher educated a person is the more you should kow tow to their pronouncements without question, how dare you think for yourself. surely you didn’t learn “critical thinking in school?

ProfEd
Guest
0
ProfEd
January 14, 2014 8:08 pm

As people live longer, the risks of dying of old age increase. REALLY?

Enginer
Guest
0
Enginer
January 15, 2014 5:33 am

While we are on an anti-drug rant, take note that I had a SERIOUS thyroid problem that went un-diagnosed for a year and a half, even with frequent Dr visits and blood tests. Without boring those of you without this issue, I point the rest of you thyroid (and Dr. ) sufferers to the website, STOPTHETHYROIDMADNESS.Com, http://www.stopthethyroidmadness.com/ It will be a real eye-opener.

John Harris
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John Harris
January 17, 2014 9:12 am
Well by all means eat your veggies and fruits, ground up or whole, but some supplements can help as well. I can hardly juice a saw palmetto plant so I take the supplement and yes anecdotal – but it works great for prostate issues. Aside from food and supplements just remember this very true thought – the slower you walk the sooner you will die. It is so simple yet so true. Exercise it the elephant in the health room, and healthy food is second. By the time you are shuffling along with “walker” you are not likely to live… Read more »
Tactical111
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0
Tactical111
January 18, 2014 10:09 pm
To say that the FDA is not in the pocket of Big Pharma is laughable if it were not so tragic. Take Viox, for example, that had killed over 20,000 users and the FDA was still saying it was “safe”. The Mgr. finally took it off the market after being sued into a coma. Just imagine if vitamins KILLED as many people every year as “medicine” does? Big Pharma would be calling for heads to roll. Yet they’ve committed a virtual holocaust over the last 40 yrs. and not a peep is heard about it. “What if I told you… Read more »
Myron Martin
Author
200
January 24, 2014 10:17 am
The medical lobby is very powerful and doctors who dare to stand up against the “establishment” with any negative pronouncements are severely censored to scare them back into line, to protect their ability to “practice” (operative word) but more and more do anyway because they have a conscience. Now THIMK, why do drug addicts, (heroin, cocaine etc.) break into drug stores to get oxycotin et all? Don’t you know that there is “magic” in a doctors prescription, his signature nullifies the known effects of these powerful drugs. Surely if people would only use them responsibly, (according to directions) no harm… Read more »
archives2001
Irregular
33
archives2001
January 19, 2014 4:30 am
Pretty good article Doc but I have to give you a ‘Nun’s Knuckle Rap’ over your statement: “Now, there are those who will say that the FDA are stooges of Big Pharma and conspire to keep the supplements marketers in a subservient position so that Big Pharma can continue to rake in the profits. To this, I say, “Not so!” The FDA and Big Pharma, as well as Not So Big Pharma, are frequently at odds, not to say at swords’ points.” Granted, they may periodically vehemently disagree but I’m sure you’re aware of the ‘good ol boy’ club that… Read more »
Myron Martin
Author
200
January 24, 2014 11:05 am
The simple truth here is that the government should not be in bed with ANY individually organized modality of healing, they should represent ALL the people instead of “socializing” the costs for one group who choose to follow one particular school of thought. I surmise that with the explosive growth of the organic foods / natural health advocates movement in the past 40 years there may soon be more people who rely on responsible eating habits and supplement use than medical intervention. If any person CHOOSES, whether through mere ignorance, or stubbornness, to smoke like a chimney, drink like a… Read more »
theblindsquirrel
Irregular
105
January 20, 2014 10:30 am
Doc, I found this piece quite informative and useful. You see, I’ve had several medical issues arise over the past 5 years or so, one leading to the amputation of my left leg (P.A.D. cause). Throw in a heart attack, onset of type II diabetes, and general grumpiness (for which there is no cure) and you can understand why, today, I’m taking seven different prescriptions to treat these things. That said, I also have long wondered about the effacy of the non-prescription supplements and vitamin offerings. I was raised in the deep South where stories of cures for whatever ails… Read more »
matt oconnell
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matt oconnell
January 24, 2014 12:53 am

If I am not mistaken, about one half of the FDA profession ale are paid by funds gleaned from big pharma.
Most of the independent testing is financed by big pharma whose doctors publish the results.
Also, the next step after vesting in a government pension is a lucrative job with big pharma.
If this is correct, how impartial can they be.

John Harris
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0
John Harris
January 24, 2014 9:16 am
It is not just the FDA in a revolving door biasing relationship with big pharma, it is the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as well. “In January 2010, Julie Gerberding, former director of the CDC, became the President of Merck’s vaccine unit. Gerberding has admitted her “bullish” stance on vaccines, and has a long history of disregard for vaccine safety” . http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/08/02/merck-flu-vaccine-conflicts.aspx. During her tenure at the CDC she more or less cooked the lone US study on vaccines and autism which initially found an obvious association but she did not want those results and sent the scientists back to… Read more »
Myron Martin
Author
200
January 24, 2014 11:07 am

TOUCHE, follow the money is still the best advice to arrive at indisputable truths.

stavtseng
Member
0
stavtseng
January 28, 2014 5:11 pm
A couple of thoughts: 1. Size and shape are critical for any kind of medication. Natural molecules readily bind to cell receptors and enter the cell. Synthetic medications must be different than natural medications in order to obtain a patent – you cannot obtain a patent that is natural. This modification in size and shape is the route cause of side effects. 2. Natural medications normally have “build in protection” against over dosing. For example “foxglove” will induce vomiting while digitalis (the extract from foxglove) will induce a heart attack if not carefully administered. Natural approach to maintaning health and… Read more »
Merry
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Merry
January 28, 2014 8:09 pm
For anyone who has been able to read this far: I am an acupuncturist, nutritionist who bot both sells and takes supplements. We have found these, when sold by a reputable company, to be very helpful for a variety of people with a variety of ailmen However, my personal experience with taking calcium supplements and vitamin D3 ended with painful kidney stones that had to be surgically removed which caused me to take live saving western medicine. Therefore, I believe, actually know well, that in my life i need both sides of this equation. Yes, supplements are wonderful, until a… Read more »
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