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This article originally posted and appeared in  Issue 476

False Promises and Marketing Scams -- Herbal Remedies and Vitamins

Please don't get me wrong. I am not against all vitamins and other non-prescription alternative therapies. I have an open mind to any product that has been proven to help people with diabetes live healthier lives. I do, however, have a serious problem with the fact that the herbal and vitamin industry is an unregulated multibillion-dollar industry that takes advantage of the health-conscious lay public looking for remedies to various conditions, including diabetes. 

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I'm not the only one concerned. The Wall Street Journal published an article on March 20th, "The Case Against Vitamins," citing numerous studies showing that common supplements consumed by Americans, such as vitamins E, C, B, A and beta carotene, served no purpose and even had harmful effects in some. I'm not suggesting we all stop taking our vitamins. What I want to do is remind people with diabetes about some of the blatant scams that over the counter supplement manufacturers have used to make a fast buck, and to encourage you to look critically at these products before ingesting them. 

Many manufacturers of over-the-counter products print and advertise outrageous, unsubstantiated and unproven claims reinforced by hired actors and actresses touting dramatic stories and almost unbelievable testimonials about what these products did for them and what they can do for you. Do you remember Pancreas Tonic, a product that was supposed to rejuvenate the insulin producing cells of the body and allow you to get off of insulin injections? How about Cortislim, a product for weight loss recently advertised on major television stations starring actors in super clean, over starched white lab coats and beautiful men and women who lost tons of weight without even watching what they ate? How about Viagro (not Viagra) a supplement for treating ED with an "unconditional money back guarantee"? 

There are thousands, yes thousands, of examples of quack remedies like these because, quite simply, it is all about money and greed. Research these products. Know what the ingredients are, understand how the products were studied to be able to promote the manufacturers' claims. The studies need to be conducted by unbiased researchers who are not supported by the company selling the product. Many of these companies put big bucks into advertising to make an initial large profit and then close down quickly when the public gets wise, only to later resurface in a different Halloween costume. 

For some, taking a prescription drug feels worse somehow than taking a "natural" supplement, even if you do not know what the heck is in it or can hardly pronounce the list of ingredients. Why should you take a prescription drug like Lipitor that efficiently and safely lowers your LDL, or bad cholesterol, when you can go to a local vitamin store and take a concoction of "macrobiotic," "pH balanced," "anti-oxidized," and "hydro-filtered" micronutrients? Why not since they not only lowered Aunt Mollie's cholesterol levels but also helped Uncle Jimmy with hair loss, muscle strength, improved sleep and reduced dental cavities (even though he did not have any of his own teeth)? 

Please be smart about what you spend your hard earned money on and what you put into your body. Most of the time, taking the handful of vitamins that were carefully selected for you by a so-called "expert" only makes your urine turn several shades of yellow and green, with a scent of rotten asparagus. However, sometimes they can be seriously dangerous to your health including, but not limited to, liver and kidney damage. All drugs have side effects, but we normally know what they are and how to screen for them after they go through the rigorous multi-year FDA testing requirements. 

If you are someone who takes herbal remedies, vitamins and other supplements, please do not be upset by my comments. I take a multivitamin with iron and minerals daily. I just want you and your patients to be aware of the potential pitfalls in this unregulated industry.

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This article originally posted 07 July, 2009 and appeared in  Issue 476

Past five issues: Diabetes Clinical Mastery Series Issue 208 | Issue 748 | GLP-1 Special Editions September 2014 | Diabetes Clinical Mastery Series Issue 207 | Issue 747 |


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