By Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D., Nutrition Editor, EatingWell Magazine
A recent government study said more than half of all Americans take dietary supplements, which in my opinion is surprisingly high, considering these pills and powders aren’t regulated like drugs but like foods.
The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994 defined “dietary supplement” to include vitamins, minerals, botanicals and other ingredients, and ruled that supplements would be regulated like foods. This exempted companies from having to prove the safety or efficacy of their products -- entirely reasonable, given that the nutrients come from natural foods, say advocates. The law also permitted supplement makers to use several kinds of marketing claims (some that don’t require FDA approval), including structure/function statements, which describe how a nutrient is intended to affect the body.
Related: 4 Nutrients You Might Not Be Getting Enough Of
Allowing such claims -- without requiring proof of strong science to back them -- is why there’s so little conclusive science on supplements, say the law’s critics. “The marketing has been quite effective without studies,” says Irwin Rosenberg, M.D., senior scientist and interim director of the Neuroscience and Aging Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University. Even some in the supplement industry warn that lax marketing can be misleading. “There are a few real egregious folks who go over the line with loose structure/function claims,” says Andrew Shao, Ph.D., Vice President, Global Product Science & Safety at Herbalife. “Unfortunately consumers get the message, ‘all supplement makers are out to dupe me.’” What do the claims really mean? The answers may surprise you. Here are 5 myths about vitamins busted, originally reported on in EatingWell Magazine by Nicci Micco.