Editorial: Supplements in the News - On Any Given Day

On any given day, chances are there’s either a deficit or the results are neutral when you do a news search on a subject like ‘dietary supplements’. The personal news filter I use on a daily basis gave me some interesting results today and as it touches a few areas near and dear to my heart, I figured the results were worth talking about.

ARS Dietary Supplement Data Supports Nutrient Intake Assessments

According to this article, The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Nutrient Data Laboratory and the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements have developed the Dietary Supplement Ingredient Database (DSID), to help researchers improve estimates of the U.S. population's total nutrient intakes. The term total means that the resource is intended to capture not only food and beverage intake, but also nutrients consumed from dietary supplements. According to the article, “the first release provides estimated levels of 18 vitamin and mineral ingredients derived from analytical data for 115 representative unspecified adult multivitamin/multimineral supplements”.

Although the resource at this stage is primarily indicated for research applications, one can imagine the potential for use and misrepresentation of the database. In a perfect world, this would lead to a really accurate picture of the state of nutrition and nutritional deficiencies from all sources, including diet, and lead to a defeating, once and for all, of the theory that diet alone can and will lead to a perfect nutritional environment and proving that some forms of supplementation are absolutely required in order to achieve optimal nutritional health.

Food recalls don't register with many in U.S.

This Philly.com article is interesting, especially as the issue of food safety has heated up in recent months. With consumers having no concept of the frequency of food recalls with a proposed suggestion of more and better communication, one would expect one of the fallout issues ultimately to be even more hesitancy to change brands/suppliers etc., but also a more significant and dramatic response ‘per issue’. Could a recall destroy a category within days? I suspect we’ll find out. I listened to a call-in radio program over the weekend with listeners describing behavioral changes as a result of food safety concerns. In some cases, they’re already quite dramatic. It’s a good thing that the past 24 months of major food safety concerns has largely bypassed our category…..so far.

So this page, at first glance is only partially relevant to us…..until, that is, one reads “Supplements called into question” where this particular author describes research published in the journal Autoimmunity Reviews, suggesting that “since Vitamin D reduces inflammation, it may be a double-edged sword, preventing some diseases but also interfering with the immune system's attack on infection.”

The next article to appear on my filter, from the site Chron.com, People's Pharmacy: Magnesium supplements carry risks, was a Q and A talking about potential magnesium toxicity. We’ve all seen a lot of these types of columns.

The next piece jangles a few alarm bells. The title, “Supplements and cancer”, is deliberately provocative, the sub-title, “Do not use supplements to protect against cancer” obviously is topical in relation to recent media and the subject of controversy that extends into the realm of clinical study design, endpoint measurements, dose and numerous other factors. Specifically, the author refers to World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) published results and recommendations including several bullets from the WCRF report including:

·Maximize the proportion of the population achieving nutritional adequacy without dietary supplements.

The author goes on to state several times his fundamental theorem, “supplements are not necessary”, a view shared by many in the medical and dietitian community, a communication tied closely to the first issue, nutrient intake assessments.

Perhaps the most distressing article on the page is the next one. It’s from the New York Times and reads, “Hamilton Admits Taking Drug and Retires From Cycling”. According to the article, cyclist Tyler Hamilton, previously suspended for a blood doping positive, has acknowledged that he had tested positive for a banned substance, and was retiring. Upon further identification, it is disclosed that he had knowingly taken DHEA for depression, (DHEA is currently on the WADA prohibited substances list) and that it converts to a steroid in the blood “and its benefits….are widely debated.” This story has received huge pickup, most titles are using the term drug to describe DHEA, along with liberally associating it with performance enhancement despite the Times’ ambiguous statement of effect.

In another article, this one on MSNBC, the product is described as one that included “among other things, amounts of Vitamin D and Omega oils and ironically, and significantly, this comment appears before the article acknowledges that the product contained DHEA. Obviously, in the second article, there is an attempt to discredit the entire supplements category, and the entire issue once again illustrates some of the challenges our industry has in dealing with the elite sports community. If an athlete tests positive, and there is any way to connect the issue with supplements rest assured that the athlete, the sports organization or the media, or all three, will attempt to do so. The level of communication and trust between the groups (industry and ports) is inadequate, and so we continue to be a scapegoat in this area. I am sure no one in this industry believes that Vitamin D and Omega oils contributed to the test result, and if anyone reads the full story, neither will they. And of course, DHEA is controversial in many respects, but this story does provide additional ammunition for those that would like to see it restricted or removed from the marketplace. (Even the sports community frequently acknowledges off the record of course, that there is no way that DHEA is performance enhancing.)

So all in all not a very appealing news filter to start the week, but, all is not gloom. The last story I’ll talk about actually comes from Examiner.com, the website for the Atlanta Examiner, entitled Beauty Supplements for Hair, Skin and Nails, and describes the author’s recent experiences in the world of beauty ‘supplements’. The synopsis: “What I discovered even surprised me. Ranging from the moderate to the downright pricey, I would recommend these products to anyone who is disciplined enough to take these everyday (or according to the directions) AND combine them with proper diet and exercise.”

Nice endorsement from a self-proclaimed skeptic leading to a daily scorecard of 2 and 3 (for and against), pretty much a typical snapshot on any given day. Of course that’s only one search and one filter but I think it’s interesting, don’t you?

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