Many of us are eager to do anything we can to maximize the chances of getting and staying well. We are surrounded by advertisements for dietary supplements, vitamins, herbs, special diets--and often bombarded with suggestions from friends and family who have read or heard about some "miracle cure." Bottom line: anything that sounds too good to be true--probably isn't true. Second bottom line: do not ever swallow any of these products without checking with your doctors. Research has not been done to explore the possible interactions between supplements and cancer medications. The last thing you want to do is take an herbal product that may reduce the efficacy of your chemotherapy.
Here is a general summary from the New York Times:
AUGUST 6, 2010, 11:57 AM
Weekend Reading: Dietary Supplements
By NATASHA SINGER
Dietary supplements like vitamins and protein powders are a booming business in the United States. Last year, Americans spent $26.7 billion on them.
But an article in the September issue of Consumer Reports warns people about a dozen supplement ingredients that have been linked to reports of serious health problems.
One such supplement is colloidal silver, an ingredient that can permanently discolor the skin, turning it bluish gray. The Food and Drug Administration warned consumers against using colloidal silver supplements last year.
The article also notes that the F.D.A. has been cracking down on certain sports drinks and weight-loss products that advertise themselves as dietary supplements — but were actually spiked with pharmaceutical ingredients that could pose serious health hazards. Unlike drug makers, supplement makers do not have to submit clinical studies to the F.D.A. to document the safety and effectiveness of their products before they go on sale.
Supplements are defined as products that contain dietary ingredients. The products can make general claims about health and well being. But, aside from nutritional deficiencies, such products cannot claim to prevent, mitigate or cure specific diseases. An editorial in the same issue of Consumer Reports calls on Congress to give the F.D.A. more powers and resources to ensure the safety of dietary supplements.
But a response in Nutrition Business Journal, a market research firm that tracks product sales, said Consumer Reports was simply stirring up fears about fringe products that were not mainstays of the dietary supplement industry.
Multivitamins had sales last year of $4.8 billion, the journal noted. Meanwhile supplements containing bitter orange, an ephedra-like ingredient cited by Consumer Reports as risky, had sales of $20 million, the journal said.