Ethics in Medicine

Dangers of Supplements

Kristen Sparrow • December 21, 2013

In a recent study and opinion piece, experts urge consumers to skip their supplements in favor of spending that money on a gym membership and better, fresher, more healthy food.  I do prescribe herbs for certain conditions, but they come from Health Concerns, a local company that sources all of its herbs carefully and domestically.  Worth reading the whole article in full if you are a fan of vitamins.  We’ve discussed this topic on the blog here, here.

But the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate dietary supplements as drugs — they aren’t tested for safety and efficacy before they’re sold. Many aren’t made according to minimal standards of manufacturing (the F.D.A. has even found some of the facilities where supplements are made to be contaminated with rodent feces and urine). And many are mislabeled, accidentally or intentionally. They often aren’t what they say they are. For example:

In 2003, researchers tested “ayurvedic” remedies from health food stores throughout Boston. They found that 20 percent contained potentially harmful levels of lead, mercury or arsenic.