Editorial: Watch out for Dietary Supplements

 The consumer must use common sense and beware of dangerous substances.
Editorial: Watch out for Dietary Supplements

Not all that glitters is gold, and far from improving health, dietary supplements may cause serious illness. Consumers must make sure that what they are ingesting is safe, as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate these products.

The Department of Justice’s recent arrests of USPlabs LLC and SK Laboratories executives expose the existing dangers within the industry. The authorities say that popular weight loss supplements such as Jack3d, OxyElite Proy and OxyElite New Formula contain ingredients that may cause liver problems, in some cases forcing patients to get organ transplants to save their lives.

This type of fraud has its own characteristics. Still, the industry moves nearly $40 billion a year by selling products promising to help people lose weight, stop aging, enhance their sexual activity or develop muscle. In most cases, the products are advertised as “natural remedies” against aging, cancer or Alzheimer’s, taking advantage on the customer’s anxieties.

The law says that the FDA has no authority to approve dietary supplements. Manufacturers and distributors are responsible for making sure that the product is safe, that it does not make false or misleading claims and that it meets the federal requirements imposed on food, medicines and cosmetics.

The FDA only intervenes later, when complaints of irregularities arise. Hundreds of products have been singled out for containing unknown active ingredients or, in some cases, pure powdered caffeine.

For all these reasons, customers must be alert. The authorities recommend distrusting unrealistic promises and products advertised as “alternatives” to prescribed medicine, and to suspect seemingly miraculous “testimonies” and phrases such as “quick and effective,” “cure-all” or “totally safe.”

The best protection is to consult your physician before buying any questionable product. There are many risk-free dietary supplements, but it takes only one harmful product to compromise your health.