Thursday, May 27, 2010

ACHS President Dorene Petersen Responds to Supplement "False Claims" in the Media

Supplements are back in the news in a big way! Perhaps you caught the Today Show report on "false claims" or saw the article "Herbal supplements often sold with false claims" on the MSNBC website.

ACHS President Dorene Petersen responds to the reports on dietary supplements. Originally from MSNBC on

Let's not underestimate the importance of personal education! Everything we consume--whole foods, beverages, processed foods, and supplements alike--all affect the quality of our overall health and wellness. That is why it is very important to educate ourselves about how our foods influence our health and interact (both positively and negatively) with our lifestyle choices.

Ideally, we would all have a thorough education in nutrition, food, and meal planning, and eat mostly whole unprocessed foods, with plenty of organic fruits and vegetables (particularly choosing organic for those on the EWG's "Dirty Dozen" list), quality protein and whole grains. However, since many of the foods we are currently eating on a daily basis fall short of the daily recommended intakes, supplements are a viable addition to a healthy lifestyle: "supplement" being the key word. Supplements do not take the place of wholesome, nutritious foods and a healthy lifestyle; rather, they are intended as a support for optimal health and wellness.

It is unfortunate that some companies have chosen to prioritize marketing (i.e., curative claims) instead of educating their customers, but that is not true of all companies. Unfortunately, the current regulatory system is not designed to reward companies for putting supplements through the costly and lengthy process to approve claims. Ill-informed manufacturers and those looking to make a quick buck sometimes do make unapproved health claims: This is why the FDA already has powers under DSHEA to enforce the regulations.

The best way to address this is with education: For manufacturers, consumers, retailers, and healthcare providers. As consumers, though, it is also our responsibility to be educated consumers, to recognize a curative claim for what it is, marketing, and to understand that there is no panacea, no cure-all, for sickness and disease. As educated consumers, it is our responsibility to make good choices about what we put into your bodies for sustainable health and wellness. Dietary supplements, including herbs, have a role to play in achieving wellness and a healthy balance. Who wouldn't prefer to pick peppermint from their own herb garden and make a cup of tea to soothe an upset stomach?

It also seems important to mention that the FDA's Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) ensure that the purity and quality of nutritional supplements meet the standards similar to over-the-counter and prescription medications. But, this is an ongoing process that began with the largest companies and is "working its way down," so to speak. There is a detailed explanation of GMPs on the FDA website:

It's also important to note that dietary supplements are not the only category of products with issues related to health claims, purity, and quality. There are even graver concerns with prescription pharmaceutical quality and appropriate use. Prescribed drugs have been in the spotlight recently with several celebrities losing their lives due to a potent combination of pharmaceutical drugs. These are just the tip of the iceberg--regular people die every day from using prescription pharmaceuticals as prescribed without a blip in media coverage. Off label use is rampant--that is use of a prescription pharmaceutical for a purpose not approved by the FDA.

Another article of interest: "The How and Why of the Dietary Supplement Safety Act of 2010 Proposed by Senator McCain":

Dorene Petersen, President
American College of Healthcare Sciences

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