Concerning dietary supplements

As a Nutritionist Dietary Technician Registered and a certified healthcare professional I was distressed to read the column by Ms. Bunton concerning the use of various supplements. The Hawaiian spirulina if grown in contaminated waters has the potential to cause damage to the liver.

Dietary supplements are products sold with the potential to increase your health. They can be found in many forms. Vitamins, minerals, herbs or products made from plants are a few ways dietary supplements may be purchased. Many supplements are labeled “Natural” while others have been created from algae, seafood or enzymes. Also, dietary supplements come in liquid, powder or capsule form.

Most people believe since these products are being sold over the counter they are harmless and must be safe to use. However, unlike prescription medications dietary supplements do not undergo any rigorous testing by the FDA. The Food and Drug Administration does not test supplements for the safety of their content or the effectiveness of the product.

Dietary supplements are regulated by the FDA under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) passed in 1994. Manufacturers of dietary supplements must register their facilities and document any serious events relating to their product. The manufacturers do not have to prove the products are safe or effective before producing or selling those products. Dietary supplements is a very lucrative business with their sales being in the area of $36 billion in 2017.

When using multiple prescription drugs the pharmacist checks for possible adverse or undesirable interactions among the prescription medications. Since supplements are sold over the counter there is no safety net in place to check for potential supplement/drug interaction.

There are some well-known interactions between prescription drugs and supplements. St. John’s Wort, a dietary supplement commonly used for depression can adversely interact with medications for heart disease, depression and may make birth control pills less effective. The prescription medication Warfarin, also known as Coumadin, is used as a blood thinner; if taken with the herbal supplement gingko balboa, aspirin or Vitamin E this combination has the potential to cause internal bleeding or a stroke.

So, if your reason for using a dietary supplement is to bulk up, slim down or improve your everyday health remember to check with your health care professional before you begin using a dietary supplement. Keep in mind the old adage “If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is!”

Ann Partlow