Five Questions To Ask When Considering Health Supplements

Posted 02 February 2016

This article written by Katie Worth, Tow Journalism Fellow, is published in FRONTLINE/Columbia Journalism School Fellowships

Given this framework, there is little to guarantee that any vitamin, mineral, probiotic, sports supplement, herbal treatment, or other dietary supplement is safe, effective, or even contains what’s on its label. 
While there are no guarantees, there are steps consumers can take to improve the chances that their supplements contain what they claim to, in the labeled quantities, and that they may indeed have a health benefit. Here are five questions a consumer may want to ask when considering supplements:

1. Has the product triggered any health warnings or sanctions?

2. Has the product been tested by independent labs?

3. Is the product too good to be true?

4. Is there evidence that the supplement does what it promises?

5. Do I really need supplements? If so, am I taking the right amount?

Read more on these questions

2 Responses to Five Questions To Ask When Considering Health Supplements

  1. Bryne Forgey 16 February, 2016 at 4:55 pm #

    Dr Harris,

    I would appreciate an article/post on the claimed benefits and real effects (side or otherwise)of Diatomaceous Earth. I cant seem to find anything that could be called properly substantiated research. Perhaps you can.

    • Harris 18 February, 2016 at 10:47 pm #

      @Bryne
      I have checked Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database (NMCD) for any mention of therapeutic benefit and there is no mention at all of this substance. I have also searched PubMed for information. There is no studies or evidence suggesting any therapeutic benefit, but there is some evidence of its use in controlling some insects. There are also many studies suggesting that workers mining this substance are at risk of occupational disease, e.g., pneumoconiosis. There is a single study (1998) demonstrating a cholesterol lowering effect in a small study group but it had no control group and no researchers have repeated a similar study.

      Although Wikipedia is not an authoritative source, they make no mention of its therapeutic potential at all, even from a ‘traditional’ or ‘complementary medicine’ point of view.

      It is clear that sites that promote it’s use as an “internal cleanser”, “removing toxic metals” are those promoting other ludicrous treatments. Its claims of being a detoxifying agent are contrary to what science knows extremely well about the process of detoxification. I would suggest that the claims are unfounded, unsubstantiated and unbelievable for it will reinvent our knowledge of physiological principles.

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