The Facts About Natural Supplements

The safety and effectiveness of natural supplements have become quite a talking point among many in the media recently.  Articles in magazines like Maclean’s and TheEconomist, as well as news stories on NBC have questioned the safety of many supplements.  Critics argue that the sale of many vitamins, minerals and herbs is not regulated as closely as it should be, thereby leading to many adverse reactions.  Critics further argue, rightly in some cases, that manufacturers of supplements make unsubstantiated claims about their product, leading some people to misuse the supplement.  But what do the numbers say?  In March of last year, the GAO Dietary Supplements Report published data regarding adverse reactions to dietary supplements and compared these numbers with adverse reactions to drugs.  The numbers were staggering.  For the year 2008, 1080 adverse reactions to dietary supplements were reported to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States. By comparison, 526,527 adverse reactions to drugs were reported to the FDA in the same year. When you do the math, this means there were 488 times as many adverse reactions to drugs as compared to dietary supplements! When one considers that over half of all adults in the US take supplements, the numbers are even more shocking.  Yet despite this, few have dared question current drug safety policy, at least in the mainstream media.  It appears that critics of natural supplements do not appear willing to apply the same safety criteria to pharmaceuticals. Despite the data described above, it should be noted that natural supplements can have very powerful effects on our bodies and should always be taken with care. By the same token, the benefits of certain drugs do outweigh the risks and continue to be important for many patients. But the notion that vitamins, minerals and herbs are somehow dangerous as compared to drugs appears to be far from the truth. If you have any questions about dietary supplements, be sure to ask your chiropractor or naturopath.

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