Monday, February 14, 2011

FDA Bans Most Natural Supplements

Is Margaret Hamburg's recent column in funny or beyond sad?  You be the judge.

"The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced today that they are banning 88% of all natural supplements from the market “for the good of the consumer”.

“There are man made pharmaceuticals that work as well or better than many of these herbal remedies”, said FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg.  “We simply want what’s right for the consumer, the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry!”

Hamburg pointed out that Lipitor and Crestor are just as good as garlic and bee pollen at lowering bad cholesterol levels.

“We can’t take garlic off the market as a flavor enhancer”, Hamburg continued.  “But we don’t want them making outrageous claims, even if they’re true, about its health benefits“.

Hamburg also said that the anti-arthritis mixture of Glucosamine and Chondritin will be banned from shelves as there are other arthritis treatments and pain relievers currently in development that are nearly as effective.

“We have vital industries to maintain!” Hamburg insisted.  “These supplements are destroying the stock market!”

Hamburg said she practices what she preaches by eating fatty foods and taking cholesterol lowering medications each day."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Fish Oil Rises Over Multivitamins in Popularity, or Does it? reports that their survey suggests that fish oil has surpassed multivitamins in popularity.

Guess again.

Mainstream news sources, including the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times, have begun to rehash the survey’s results, heralding fish oil as supplanting multivitamins.

What the newsfeeds fail to account for, however, is that the statistics are somewhat skewed by the poll group. The participants of the survey were only those who subscribe to ConsumerLab’s e-newsletter, and thus more likely to be frequent and multiple supplement users. The survey may not adequately represent the overall U.S. supplement consumer market.

According to Nutrition Business Journal figures, fish oil sales for 2009 reached $976 million, whereas multivitamin sales commanded a colossal $4.8 billion. It’s certainly apparent that fish oil supplements are rising in popularity. Nevertheless, they are still a long way off from matching the sales of the bellwether breadwinner, multivitamins.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Council for Responsible Nutrition Responds to Newsweek Antioxidant Article

Here is the link to the unfortunate article in this week's Newsweek.

Dr. Duffy MacKay's response:

“It's unfortunate that this article provided an isolated look at the body of science surrounding antioxidants.  For example, this article didn't take into account  the entire body of scientific research, which included a number of studies that have shown that taking antioxidant supplements, including vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, zinc and selenium, consistently over the long-term, can play a role in reducing the risk of chronic disease.  

The article also provided an incomplete picture of the existing scientific evidence supporting the benefits of antioxidants, instead relying exclusively on findings from only negative or null studies, and meta-analyses that many scientists have already criticized.   For example, the article did not mention that a recent published re-analysis of the same data reviewed in the 2008 Cochrane Collaboration (which the author references in her story), found that antioxidants in fact don't boost mortality risks.  Nor did this article reference another recent meta-analysis citing the benefits of vitamin E.   These are just two examples of scientific articles which, if included, would have provided readers with a more balanced perspective on the importance of antioxidants.

Nutrition experts agree that a diet high in fruits and vegetables promotes health and reduces the risk of chronic disease. Yet the reality is that people simply aren’t incorporating enough fruits and vegetables in their diets—and therefore may be missing many of the crucial benefits antioxidants provide—and may benefit from taking antioxidant supplements.  While they shouldn’t be considered magic bullets, consumers can feel confident that, when used properly in combination with eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise, antioxidant supplements can play an important role in maintaining and promoting overall health.  Studies have shown that the number one reason consumers take supplements—including antioxidant supplements—is for the overall health and wellness benefits they provide.  Instead of disparaging consumers for the healthy choices they are making, we should be commending them for being proactive in their efforts towards good health.”

1     Biesalski, HK, et al. Re-examination of a Meta-Analysis of the Effect of Antioxidant Supplementation on Mortality and Health in Randomized Trials. Nutrients 2010;2:929-949.
         Abner EL, et al.  Vitamin E and All-cause Mortality: A Meta-Analysis. Curr Aging Sci. 2011 Jan 14. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Stark Warning: Smoking Causes Genetic Damage

In research described as "a stark warning" to those tempted to start smoking, scientists are reporting that cigarette smoke begins to cause genetic damage within minutes — not years — after inhalation into the lungs.

Their report, the first human study to detail the way certain substances in tobacco cause DNA damage linked to cancer, appears in Chemical Research in Toxicology, one of 38 peer-reviewed scientific journals published by the American Chemical Society.

Stephen S. Hecht, Ph.D., and colleagues point out in the report that lung cancer claims a global toll of 3,000 lives each day, largely as a result of cigarette smoking. Smoking also is linked to at least 18 other types of cancer. Evidence indicates that harmful substances in tobacco smoke termed polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, are one of the culprits in causing lung cancer. Until now, however, scientists had not detailed the specific way in which the PAHs in cigarette smoke cause DNA damage in humans.

The scientists added a labeled PAH, phenanthrene, to cigarettes and tracked its fate in 12 volunteers who smoked the cigarettes. They found that phenanthrene quickly forms a toxic substance in the blood known to trash DNA, causing mutations that can cause cancer. The smokers developed maximum levels of the substance in a time frame that surprised even the researchers: Just 15-30 minutes after the volunteers finished smoking. Researchers said the effect is so fast that it's equivalent to injecting the substance directly into the bloodstream.

"This study is unique," writes Hecht, an internationally recognized expert on cancer-causing substances found in cigarette smoke and smokeless tobacco. "It is the first to investigate human metabolism of a PAH specifically delivered by inhalation in cigarette smoke, without interference by other sources of exposure such as air pollution or the diet. The results reported here should serve as a stark warning to those who are considering starting to smoke cigarettes," the article notes.

The authors acknowledged funding from the National Cancer Institute.

Smoking dramatically increases the risk of degenerative eye disease, including macular degeneration.  One wonders why any thinking person would start smoking given today's knowledge.