The mainstream media love a sensational story...
It makes for good headlines and grabs public attention. And it's great for spoon-feeding propaganda.
Here, though, we look at the facts...
Our goal is to give you enough information to empower you to take control of your own health and wealth. That is our manifesto.
One of our most controversial topics is the supplement industry... Specifically, our advice to avoid most supplements. Despite our assertion that we're not pro-Big Pharma or pro-supplements, some subscribers still seem to think we have an agenda.
Today, we're setting the record straight.
We're also explaining why we're not worried about mercury in fish, why you shouldn't use alcohol-based mouthwash, and a tip on relieving pain with two items in your spice cabinet.
Think we're full of it? Tell us here... [email protected].
Q: Please stop spreading tired, old, ignorant propaganda. The FDA regulates dietary supplements under the DSHEA of 1994. If there are safety or adulteration concerns, the FDA has the full power to take the supplement and/or chemical in question off the market.
Not that they do a good job at that in the case of pharmaceuticals with "safety data" for drug approval being supplied by the industry allegedly being regulated, so don't hold your breath. Point being that adverse events is orders of a magnitude less for dietary supplements than pharmaceuticals. – M.
A: Your comment points out the biggest issue with the so-called "regulation" from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
In 1994, Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA). The act says, "The manufacturer of a dietary supplement or dietary ingredient is responsible for assuring that the product is safe before it is marketed." This means the FDA doesn't verify claims made on labels or check the safety of products. So you're unlikely to see a supplement that's FDA-approved.
The FDA does monitor complaints concerning supplements. The FDA has an adverse-event-reporting program called MedWatch. If there are concerns about a supplement or an ingredient in a supplement, the FDA will issue a warning... and maybe do some of its own research.
But researching a supplement after it has already damaged people's health is too late.
We've talked before about the dangers of allowing supplement companies to self-regulate.
There's a provision in the 1994 law that states that any new dietary ingredient must go through safety evaluations that are then reviewed by the FDA.
"New" is a vague term, as any ingredient that had been included in a supplement prior to that bill passing is "grandfathered in" – meaning they don't have to do any testing.
We've already mentioned that we can't trust supplement companies when they're the ones doing the safety tests in the first place. Why would we trust them not to use a loophole in this law?
Again, third-party testing is best...
You do make a good point, though... This problem isn't strictly limited to supplements. We've discussed the dangers of pharmaceutical drugs before (like acetaminophen).
That's why we advocate doing what you can – like eating a diet of whole foods and exercising – to limit your need to take drugs of any kind.
Q: Please give your insights on the risk of ingesting mercury by eating ocean fish. – K.M.
A: I'd worry more about the mercury in fish-oil supplements...
Fish-oil supplements can be full of toxins like polychlorinated biphenyls (a once-common component of plastics, banned by Congress in 1979), mercury, and dioxin. Several watchdog groups have found supplements that contain dangerously high amounts of these toxins.
I prefer eating real fish... Numerous studies have shown fish-oil supplements are useless. However, whole fish does have proven anti-inflammatory properties.
If you're worried about mercury in your fish, it's important to know that these poisons concentrate in fish higher in the food chain. Thus, small fish have less poisons in their flesh. Each larger fish up the chain eats the smaller fish and concentrates the poisons. Mercury is known to cause neurological problems in babies and the elderly.
The key is to eat fish with lower mercury levels... like salmon, herring, mackerel, and anchovies. Plus, most of the good research showing clear benefits of fish involves whole fish, not fish oil.
Q: What is your opinion of alcohol-based mouthwash? – G.K.
A: Avoid it.
Several studies have shown that the alcohol in mouthwash increases the risk of oral cancers. The proof isn't absolute, but the link is strong. The alcohol used in the mouthwash breaks down into a known carcinogen, acetaldehyde.
Try a nonalcoholic mouthwash. Just check the label for alcohol. Many brands advertise that the mouthwash is alcohol-free on the front label. And do what I do... Alternate between nonalcoholic and regular mouthwash, 50% diluted with water and hydrogen peroxide (1.5%)... in conjunction with a good toothbrushing and flossing.
More recently, I started using a mixture of baking soda and salt in place of mouthwash and toothpaste.
Q: As an anti-inflammatory, I get arthritis relief from curcumin (turmeric extract) to the extent I no longer have to take methotrexate and naproxen sodium (Aleve). I also use a little extra for the rare headache... slow but it works, and it is far, far safer than the alternatives. And curcumin/turmeric offers many other benefits as well. – L.B.
A: Research on turmeric and curcumin keeps piling up...
Turmeric is a spice used in curry. It also gives mustard its yellow color. Turmeric acts as an anti-inflammatory, which can relieve joint pain, improve digestion, protect against memory loss, and prevent Type 2 diabetes in pre-diabetics. The benefits come from curcumin – a primary chemical in turmeric.
If you don't like curry, do what I do... use turmeric as a spice on salads, in soups, and on rice. And if you use it with black pepper, you'll get even more of the benefits, as pepper helps your body absorb more of the nutrients from the spice.
What We're Reading...
- You'll never really know what's in that supplement you're taking.
- The Natural Resources Defense Council's list of fish that are highest and lowest in mercury.
- Here's a simple recipe to make your own baking-soda-and-salt mouthwash.