In the height of my middle-age years, a good friend implored me to start taking 400mg Vitamin E supplement daily. He argued that Vitamin E cuts the toxins lurking in my body, prevents free radical damage, cataracts, and diabetes related to aging. Its greatest benefit is as a preventive “medicine” against forgetfulness and Alzheimer’s disease.
Years later, I researched the topic, after my wife became captivated by the plethora of articles in women’s magazines and health newsletters touting how taking supplements can make a woman’s skin less wrinkled, her hair more rich and manageable, and lead to other attractive conditions. Her physician recommended a few, like Vitamin C for battling colds and flu, and Vitamin D to improve her absorption of calcium for keeping bones strong and to prevent bone loss. Then I heard a physician’s dismissive response to a question about Americans taking supplements, saying that our diet is so rich in vitamins and nutrients that supplements are unnecessary.
Supplements Are Unproven
Supplements, unlike prescription drugs, are not subject to scientific rigor. There are no peer-review procedures. Yet, more than half of Americans consume more than 50,000 dietary supplements on the market that include:
* Herbal medicines, botanicals
* Fatty acids
* Amino acids
The U.S. National Institutes of Health warns that supplements are not proven to prevent or treat diseases and can be dangerous. Unlike food and medicine, the government does not regulate, approve, or certify supplements and has limited authority to address marketing violations. Studies suggest bodybuilding, meal, and weight-loss supplements can cause liver damage, toxicity, and developmental interruptions.
Consumer Reports, in its July 27, 2016, newsletter, warns that the fifteen most dangerous supplements, determined by their testing and review, are at risk for causing organ damage, cancer, and cardiac arrest. Supplements can negatively interact with medications, especially cholesterol and blood-thinning drugs. The risks to health are not worth the health benefits supplement manufacturers and marketers claim, like the one whose bottle label screams, “New! Miracle Cures! Truly amazing! Works in minutes! Guaranteed!”