Saturday, June 20, 2009

These Statements Have Not Been Evaluated by the FDA

And why the hell not? Isn't that what we pay it to do??

I always thought my father was a hypochondriac. He took an amazing array of vitamin supplements every day, in what I was sure was a vain attempt at immortality.

Yet today, and every day, I take at least as many pills as he did. I can give you good reasons for every one of them. At best, each will do its part to stave off the ravages of aging. I hope that at worst they are a waste of money (and an unpleasant test of my highly developed gag reaction).

Actually, I think most of them don't make a difference, either because they correct deficiencies I don't have or because they don't actually do anything in the first place.

And the FDA isn't helping one bit. Every one of these pills comes in a bottle with carefully worded statements of the form "this may help do blah blah blah" and the standard disclaimer, "These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA".

If the FDA was doing its job, it would make a serious investigation into the benefits of taking 3 grams of vitamin C daily. Or 15 grams - I know people who take that much when they aren't sick.

What about the Glucosamine/Chondroitin complex I've taken since before my knee surgery? Does it help or do nothing?

I've been taking Alpha Lipoic Acid and Carnitine since attending a talk by Bruce Ames, the cancer-in-rats researcher at Berkeley who said his rats "did the macarena" after being dosed. This stuff is supposed to keep my DNA from getting replication errors. Sounds good to me, and it's backed by research and theory .. but can the FDA puh-leeez sponsor some big studies to support or refute these claims?

Again, it's what our tax money is supposed to pay for.

My list goes on - Lysine/Proline complex, B12, CoQ10, Omega3, Piracetam (and friends), Huperzine/Vinpocetine. I probably take a dozen pills a day, with full knowledge that probably 90% are unnecessary. If only I knew which 90%...

Even the Saw Palmetto "Prostate Formula" things, which have a measurable and repeatable effect, carry this useless disclaimer.

Why is this? I don't buy the line that supplement manufacturers would rather thrive on uncertainty than have their claims possibly disproven. I think it's because America has been drinking the "Free Enterprise Is Always Right" Kool Aid for so long, it doesn't know any other way.

I'm no fan of Big Government, and I can think of lots of things I really don't want the government to run. But I do expect it to provide police, highways, environmental oversight, etc etc etc. And I want the FDA to actively evaluate everything that is claimed to have an effect on health. That what we pay them for, because this is not a job for capitalism.


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