Food Supplement Safety
Matthew 7:3 "Why do you see the speck in your brother's eye, but fail to see the beam of timber in your own eye? Or why do you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye', while there is a beam in your own eye?"
The food supplements sold by CFS Nutrition are well known micronutrients that have been scientifically studied and used for many years, establishing them as extremely safe when used by adults in the recommended daily quantities.
The quality we deliver is the highest available. Our products have all been produced and packaged at FDA (Food and Drug Administration) inspected and approved US manufacturing facilities. All of our supplements meet USP (United States Pharmacopoeia) standards for quality, purity, and potency.
Skeptics and critics in the medical community continue to publicly raise questions regarding the safety, efficacy, and "dubious" origins of food supplements. These views are widely publicized in the media. The conclusion drawn by those expressing these opinions is usually a call for stricter controls by the FDA, and for requiring the involvement of MDs in the prescription and supervision of people taking food supplements, "for the publics safety".
We quote Jesus Christ in the introduction of this topic because he best describes the antics of those whose "bread is buttered" by prescribing pharmaceutical drugs, provoking controversy over food supplement safety. Lets explore briefly the issues of dubious origins, the safety record, proven efficacy, and FDA regulation.
Micronutrients naturally occur in the foods, herbs, and spices we eat. These substances are utilized by the body to perform the many inherent chemical processes of life, almost always without the potential for unwanted side effects when ingested in moderate quantities.
Pharmaceutical drugs on the other hand do not show up naturally in foods, and are intended to intervene, or interfere with life's inherent chemical processes to produce a specific outcome. These substances almost always have the potential for unwanted, severe, and even fatal side effects when taken in the prescribed doses.
Many over-the-counter pharmaceuticals and food supplements are produced by the same manufacturing companies, putting these suppliers under constant FDA scrutiny. Raw materials for food supplements come from companies ranging from "Archer Daniels Midlands" a Fortune 500 company with billions in revenue, to "Mom and Pops Echinacea Farm", run by Mom and Pop with thousands in revenue.
What all reputable food supplement manufacturers demand, and all reputable raw material producers provide, is a "certificate of analysis" detailing a laboratory analysis of the raw material and its contaminants. Manufacturers audit their suppliers by conducting independent analysis to verify the trustworthiness of the "certificates of analysis" they receive. Raw materials and suppliers who don't stack up are rejected. This is how quality is controlled in the industry, using free market principles. Everyone wants to be successful in business, and concern for public safety is paramount. While not perfect, this system is self correcting and self cleansing.
When it comes to public safety, there is compelling positive data from the public experience taking food supplements. Donald Loomis sums up one aspect of the public safety record in his review of data from poison control centers reported to the National Capitol Poison Center, in the April 1992 Townsend Letter for Doctors: "...fatalities from major pharmaceutical categories for the eight year reporting period from 1983 to 1990 equals 2556...Total number of fatalities resulting from vitamin supplements over the same eight year period: one, excluding one reporting error.".
In our own review of the medical literature we have found only isolated cases of unintentional adult toxicity with micronutrients, most notable for fatalities, megadoses of vitamins A and D.
The most widespread episode was vitamin D toxicity with fatalities resulting from a dairy that had routinely over-fortified their milk. The most bizarre case was when explorers in the northern reaches of Canada died from vitamin A poisoning after eating polar bear liver. It seems polar bears store an extraordinarily high concentration of the vitamin. If it ever comes about you are served polar bear for lunch, pass on the liver !
Pharmaceutical drugs have much more prospective clinical data establishing their toxicity than do food supplements. That does not mean drugs are safer, it just means that their toxicity has been clinically studied and documented. In their paper Adverse Drug Events in Hospitalized Patients, (JAMA Jan 22/29, 1997 - Vol 277, No 4) Classen et.al. illuminate staggering data on drug safety in the most closely supervised medical setting, the hospital. They project that in the USA 770,000 hospital patients suffer adverse drug reactions from taking properly prescribed drugs in the prescribed doses, with 140,000 deaths attributable to this cause every year. When overdoses, the wrong prescriptions, and adverse drug interactions are added to the picture, these numbers are believed to double, making prescription drugs one of the most significant causes of death in the United States.
In their article Safety of Antioxidant Vitamins, (Archives of Internal Medicine, 1996 May, 156:9, 925-35) Meyers et.al. begrudgingly conclude after an extensive review of the medical and scientific literature of the past 50 years that "Despite a lack of clinical trial data, it seems that antioxidant vitamins are safe...". They also note that "...10 to 15 cases of vitamin A toxic reactions are reported per year in the United States, usually at doses greater than 100,000 IU/d. No adverse effects have been reported for beta-carotene (a vitamin A precursor). The frequency of vitamin E toxic reactions is not well delineated, but case reports are few at dosages less than 3200 mg/d. Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) toxic reactions are rare at dosages less than 4000 mg/d."
When it comes to proof of the efficacy of food supplements against specific diseases and health conditions, the arguments from the medical critics hold weight when measured against their gold standard of "double blind prospective clinical studies". When speaking candidly, the learned doctors we know admit there is much promising evidence that the use of nutrition and food supplements can avoid problems, and can lead to highly desirable outcomes in many common health conditions. To review a subset of this science visit our Scientific References page.
Because drug patents cannot be granted for nutrients, a monopoly status ensuring high prices and high profits, there is not an economic opportunity large enough to fund the enormously expensive clinical trials the FDA requires for specific medical claims. It's not that food supplements are ineffective at producing good health, it's just that no one can afford to place food supplements through FDA clinical drug trials.
The efficacy of the amino acid NAC (N-acetyl L-cysteine) at boosting glutathione, resulting in a strong immune system defense against the flu has been convincingly demonstrated using the medical gold standard method in Italy. Visit Strong Immunities Against the Flu to view this compelling data.
Most food supplements are rightfully classified as nutrients and not pharmaceutical drugs. The legal standard in the United States doesn't require clinical drug trials for nutrients, whether they be animal or vegetable produce, fortified grains and milk, or tableted and encapsulated food supplements.
This doesn't mean that anything goes, and that there is no public safety protection by the FDA. The particular dairy that we mentioned was over fortifying its milk with vitamin D was shut down by the FDA. Vitamin D fortification of milk by dairies continues, and is in fact the US national standard for pasteurized cow's milk. Vitamin D food supplements are also still widely available.
In 1990 the FDA pulled the amino acid L-tryptophan from the USA market, permanently banning its legal use as a food supplement. This dramatic step occurred after it was determined that L-tryptophan from a single raw material supplier contained a certain "peak x" believed to cause at least 1500 cases of chronic illness, and more than 30 fatalities. The published evidence strongly points to there being something terribly wrong with just the L-tryptophan produced by this one supplier. The identity of the contaminant, and how it caused the illness were never disclosed publicly. There hasn't been a food supplement safety incident of this scale or magnitude since.
The impotency drug Viagra was recently approved by the FDA with much fanfare. It holds huge profit potential for its corporate patent owners. Viagra has already caused more then 80 deaths in its first year of use. This drug remains on the market for physicians to prescribe to lusty men who have otherwise lost their means for gratification.
Food supplements are safe, much safer than pharmaceutical drugs, and are based on a compelling premise, supplying the body with micronutrients it naturally uses to be healthy. We sum up our view of how food supplements fit into the world of health and medicine by our slogan, "Feed Your Health" tm.