Is there a war on supplements? I frequently read Mercola.com which is the largest alternative health site on the internet. He had a post from December 30, 2017 about this war on supplements, essential oils, and homeopathy. I am not a conspiracy theorist but after reading this post I have realized that some recent research I have read does make it seem like there is an effort to, at the very least, create doubt in the effectiveness of supplements.
I frequently read the health news site Medscape it is a site for people who work in the healthcare field. An article written in December 2017 looked at a study on vitamin D published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in December 2017. In this study the authors investigated the use of calcium, vitamin D, or combined calcium and vitamin D to determine if this is associated with a lower fracture incidence in community-dwelling older adults? The authors concluded that the use of calcium, vitamin D or a combination did not lower fracture incidence. The authors caution it is possible that patients living in residential care facilities may still benefit from calcium or vitamin D supplementation, as residents are more at risk for osteoporosis because of multiple lifestyle factors. Thus, “the benefits of calcium and vitamin D supplementation may differ between people living in the community and people living in residential institutions.” While this seems to leave the door open for use of vitamin D and calcium the final words from the authors of this paper attempt to slam the door closed.
“These findings do not support the routine use of these supplements in community-dwelling older people.”
The issue of bone density is very complex and supplementation alone is not sufficient to improve bone density. A paper looking into supplementation should be able to discuss this complexity but this paper appears to only push the narrative that supplements don’t work. This then keeps clinicians in the view that the drugs are the only real option. When it comes to bone density we need to both feed our body what it needs and stimulate it to use it. This means we need vitamin D and calcium but without significant strength training your body will not store it up to create stronger bones. A “real” study on bone density would be able to make this distinction but this JAMA paper appears to not. The Medscape article, which will likely be read by more clinicians than the actual study definitely does not. Medscape has a strong pro-pharmaceutical viewpoint. Supplements don’t work as drugs do so we cannot expect to take a supplement and expect an immediate effect on our health. In many cases it might take weeks or months for an effect to be noticeable. I read a study on the pain relieving affects of taking Omega-3 fatty acids years ago which said it took on average three months for the full affect to be felt by patients but Omega-3 was just as effective for pain relief as prescription drugs in that study.
The narrative that is being generated is to create doubt in the safety and effectiveness of supplements and the companies which make them. What I don’t get is how can people, including most media outlets, really promote the products of pharmaceutical companies as safe and effective when these companies are the biggest liars out there. Did you know that between 1991 and 2015 GlaxoSmithKlein paid 7.9 billion dollars in fines and penalties to state and federal agencies for violations including off label marketing of their drugs. In 2012 GSK paid 3 billion dollars for promoting Paxil to treat depression in children under 18 when it was not approved for use in children under 18 years old. They also were marketing the use of Wellbutrin for conditions like weight loss and sexual dysfunction when it was approved only to treat major depressive disorder. Also they failed to report safety data on it’s diabetes drug Avandia. In 2013 Johnson and Johnson paid 2.2 billion dollars in fines for off label marketing of Risperdal and Pfizer paid 2.3 billion in 2009 for mis-branding it’s painkiller Bextra. Could you imagine what would happen to your business or the business you work for if it was caught breaking federal law. Could it stay in business after paying it’s fine? Would you or someone in your company go to jail for violating federal law? For some reason these companies pay their fines but face no other penalties and no one goes to jail. What is really sickening is these companies build into their cost of doing business paying these fines and they still come out ahead afterwards. Avandia, for example, racked up $10.4 billion in sales, Paxil brought in $11.6 billion, and Wellbutrin sales were $5.9 billion during the years covered by the settlement.
Well this turned into a rant against big-pharma didn’t it. It’s hard for me to not to there because I do see some evidence of a “conspiracy” to push the people of this country onto more medications and away from anything natural that might help them. When an article uses a bad study to say supplements are ineffective it is really trying to push us towards prescription meds as the answer, even when they don’t mention prescription meds. Take my vitamin D and calcium study for example, if vitamin D and calcium doesn’t work then what does? Fosamax? or how about Boniva? The study doesn’t mention medications but it is implied.
Is there an outright war on supplements? I am not sure but there seems to be an agenda to create doubt in their use. The big take away here is to question what you read, do some further digging to find where the truth lies. Don’t take anyone’s word as truth, even mine. My goal is to inform people so they can own the decisions they make regarding their health.