Q&A: How Safe are Supplements?

ID-10036720Question: Dr. Furman, there are a multitude of supplements advertised as being good for your health. Will these help me stay healthy or lose weight more easily?

Answer: I will answer that as directly as possible: beware of supplements. Taking supplements offers one of the greatest false securities that I have ever encountered in my medical career. You expect that you are taking something to protect your health, help you lose weight, cure your arthritis, or a hundred other statements of hope in making you healthier.

The one bit of wisdom you must understand is that such un-presubscribed supplements have not been studied for side effects as the Food and Drug Administration requires for prescribed medicines. When a drug is submitted to the FDA for safety approval, the initial rule is to determine that it will do no harm. Then it will be studied to see if it really does work. It uses a double blind type study where different groups of individuals are tested with the particular medication being given to one of the groups and a placebo given to the other. Then, they measure the effects of the two groups to see if the medication actually does what is claimed. This is what is called a double blind study and is one of the many filters required for FDA approval.

Non-prescribed supplements do not go through either of these studies. Claims are made but not scientifically proven. You don’t know if what you are taking will lengthen your life or not or even shorten your lifespan. You don’t know if the supplement you are on will give you a side effect that will be permanently harmfully to you or not. I will give you one example that said it all to me, in deciding to never take a supplement –ever— no matter what it claims or how many people advertise for it.

I have personally encountered patients with debilitating results from diet supplements that are commonly advertised on television or radio. I recall several other patients whose blood pressure dropped insidiously during surgery requiring quick, life-saving efforts because of herbal medicines that they had not reported to their attending doctor or anesthesiologist. I would recommend to anyone taking herbal medication, to discontinue its use. It may not cause any problem in 99 percent of your friends who are taking it. But, you may be the one-in-a-hundred who reacts to the medicine in a permanently damaging way.

The “Prescription for Life Plan” will teach you how to reach your goal weight safely, without having to take a single alternative pill to lose an ounce of excess weight. Go with scientific truth rather than unproven alternatives.



“Capsule” photo courtesy of kittikunatsawintarangkul at www.freedigitalphotos.net