The Truth About Supplement Safety - Don't Believe The Misinformation.
Adverse Events - Supplements: 604, Drugs: 450,000+
This article is not meant to point out the hypocrisy of the media, but rather to point out how sensationalism can overlook facts and propagate hype. It is your right to see both sides of the story, and Bodybuilding.com and Team Scivation are here to present it. As bodybuilders, fitness enthusiasts, weekend warriors, etc. we take pride in living a healthy lifestyle. So diet smart, train hard, choose your supplements wisely, and get results!
Annual Causes Of Death In The United States
I found it odd to see an article expressing how "dangerous" dietary supplements are when there are some real, serious, life-threatening issues out there that need to be discussed.
Tobacco caused 435,000 DEATHS per year, but cigarettes are available to anyone over the age of 18 who wishes to use them. Alcohol causes 85,000 DEATHS per year but still it is available to anyone over the age of 21 to drink. To put out a scare tactic article about dietary supplements when big time killers like Tobacco and Alcohol are readily available to anyone who wants them is just a way to stir up media hype.
Instead of focusing on dietary supplements, which often help the consumers, they should focus on tobacco and alcohol, which are proven to kill people.
Notice also that "Poor Diet and Physical Inactivity" leads to 365,000 deaths per year. This is not 365,000 adverse effects; no this is 365,000 DEATHS! Instead of trying to scare consumers away from dietary supplements, why not try to encourage them to eat smart and exercise?
Dietary supplements are taken by people trying to improve their diet and exercise. Often, taking dietary supplements can be a form of motivation for people to clean up their diets and get to the gym more. Again, the focus is taken off the true killers, poor diet and physical inactivity, and placed on dietary supplements.
Dietary supplements are meant to be taken by healthy individuals with no pre-existing health conditions. Obviously if pre-existing medical conditions exist, certain supplements could aggravate the condition, but the supplements are not the CAUSE of the condition.
What is really puzzling is the mention of Ephedra being tied to Steve Bechler's death. Steve Bechler was overweight and not properly screened to play, had a family history of sudden death from activity, had a personal history of heat sickness in high school, had a history of hypertension and liver problems, and the best one, had not eaten any food for one to two days to lose weight.
But, he also had Xenadrine in his locker. Well, I am not a rocket scientist, but does Xenadrine even make it on the top 20% of this list? Heck no! This is called media scapegoating and sensationalism.
In fact, Bechler, may his soul rest in peace, had no business even taking ANY supplement with ANY stimulants! And they also say that Xenadrine increased his temperature (which the trainers allowed to reach 106 DEGREES!) before taking him off of the field. Ephedra only increased caloric burn by about 5-10 calories per hour. This is hardly enough to jack metabolism so high that you have a heat stroke. GIVE ME A BREAK!
Korey Stringer. Similar situation. He weighed 335lbs and happened to be allegedly on an ephedra-based supplement. Again, without diving deep into the recesses of this case, he was SEVERELY overweight and practicing in extremely hot temperatures. To blame ephedra or any supplement knowing that there are other factors at play is ludicrous.
Sensationalism In Reporting
The fact of the matter is that these so-called reporters really don't have much to go on other that the attention grabbing sound-bytes of anti-supplement politicians like Durbin and Biden and cases involving ephedrine, a supplement that isn't even available anymore!
What about Fen Phen? How many people did that kill? Exactly, you forgot. Why? Some in the media seem to have it out for supplements and for whatever reason, display the utmost ignorance when addressing the issue.
What Is Fen Phen?
Fen-phen was an anti-obesity medication (an anorectic) which consisted of two drugs: fenfluramine and phentermine. Fenfluramine, and later, a related drug, dexfenfluramine, was marketed by American Home Products, now known as Wyeth.
After reports of valvular heart disease and pulmonary hypertension, primarily in women who had been undergoing treatment with Fen-phen, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requested its withdrawal from the market in September 1997.
Adverse Event Reports
The supplement industry has actually now taken on AER's, or Adverse Event Reports, just like the drugmakers. It is amazing how within the same time period, the drug companies are whooping the supplement industries butts! Check out this stat:
- Supplements 604
- Drugs 450,000
Whoa, wait a second. I thought we were playing highest number wins! That is correct, in the same 6 month time period, Drugs had 450,000 AERs compare to Supplements' meager 604!
What is an AER? AERs can range from question marks over a supplement's efficaciousness to, in extreme cases, death or disability. Thus, it is safe to say that in relation to the drug industry, supplements aren't all evil!
Let USA Today know that they are incorrect! Email A.J. Perez and let them know your thoughts. Let your voice be heard now!
- Follow This Discussion by:
I agree that the media sensationalizes just about everything including supplements; however, I think that the author of this article may be guilty of sensationalizing the comparison of adverse events of supplements compared with drugs (604 vs. 450,000, respectively).
The author and all readers need to take into consideration that it is not appropriate to make comparisons of aggregate data in this manner for the following reasons (list is not all inclusive):
- Comparing all classes of drugs to all supplements may be misleading. Consider, for example, oncology drugs that have a higher rate of adverse events because of the need to aggressively treat cancer.
- We do not know how many drugs nor how many supplements were included in this report for which adverse events could have been reported. I would be interested to see comparisons of adverse event rates by class of drug and supplement.
- An adverse event reported by drug companies may not be treatment emergent nor treatment related. It is not clear by the numbers provided above if we are reading about all adverse events (which in some cases can be things completely unrelated to treatment - for example, pregnancy while taking a pain relief medication) or treatment related adverse events.
I understand that the point that the author is trying to make; however, I would caution the author and readers not to make the same mistake that we accuse the media of doing – overstating facts.