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Supplements: good, bad, ugly?


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As there are often discussions taking place on various forums regarding supplements and vitamins, I found the following article timely. Yes, I realize the article is from a less-than-sterling source. However, the issue is worth investigating, I think. I have requested the book the article discusses from our state library.

 

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/06/18/book-raises-alarms-about-alternative-medicine/2429385/

 

Many consumers view alternative medicine industry as more altruistic and home-spun than Big Pharma. But in his book, Offit paints a picture of an aggressive, $34 billion a year industry whose key players are adept at using lawsuits, lobbyists and legislation to protect their market.

 

"It's a big business,"

 

...

 


About one-third of conventional drugs are derived from plants, Fugh-Berman says. Pharmaceutical companies still make Digoxin, a heart drug, from the foxglove flower, she says. And while some research suggests that kava, a plant in the pepper family, can relieve anxiety, it can also damage the liver.

In the best cases, Offit says, alternative remedies are ineffective but relatively harmless, functioning as expensive placebos that may appear to relieve symptoms such as pain, largely because people expect them to. An example of this is homeopathy, in which key ingredients are diluted to the point of oblivion, making these remedies basically sugar pills, Offit says.

Yet supplements aren't risk-free.

A 2010 report from the Government Accountability Office found supplements were being sold with deceptive marketing practices.

 

Of course, enthusiasts and skeptics alike should do their homework before embracing or rejecting the use of supplements. Caveat emptor.

 

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