Test Your Supplement Savvy
Advertised throughout the media,
displayed in grocery stores and pharmacies, and promoted widely on the Internet,
dietary supplements look like just another consumer product on the shelf. But
Take this quiz created by the Federal
Trade Commission to find out how much you know about using dietary supplements
- A supplement labeled ''natural''
means that it also is:
B. without any risk of side effects
C. safe to use with other medications
D. none of the above
- Since dietary supplements are so
easily available, and don't require a doctor's prescription, they are much
safer than drug products and can be used to self-treat illnesses without a
health professional's advice or supervision.
- Testimonials in dietary supplement
promotions give a good idea of the supplement's benefits and safety because
they’re based on firsthand accounts.
- Many supplements have proven health
- Before you start taking a dietary
supplement, talk it over with a knowledgeable person like:
A. Your doctor or health professional
B. Your pharmacist
C. A supplement salesperson
D. a friend who takes them
- D. The term ''natural'' may suggest
to consumers that the supplement is safe, especially when compared with
prescription drugs that are known to have side effects. But natural is not
necessarily safe. Although many supplements can be used safely by most people,
other supplements, including some herbal products can be dangerous.
Aristolochic acid, which has been
found in some traditional Chinese herbal remedies, has been linked to severe
kidney disease. And the herb comfrey contains certain alkaloids that, when
ingested, have been linked to serious, even fatal, liver damage. Animal
studies suggest that the herb may cause cancer, too.
Even certain vitamins can be toxic at
high doses. And certain supplements have been found to interact with other
medications in ways that could cause injury.
- False. Studies have shown that some
herbal products interact with drugs and can have a wide range of effects. For
example, St. John's Wort can lower the effects of indinavir, a protease
inhibitor for treating HIV.
St. John's Wort also may interfere
with drugs used by organ transplant patients and drugs used to treat
depression, seizures and certain cancers. In addition, there are concerns that
it may reduce the effectiveness of oral contraceptives.
Garlic, ginkgo, danshen and dong quai
can cause blood to thin, which could cause serious problems for people on
drugs like warfarin or aspirin.
Dietary supplements are not required
to go through the same pre-market government review for quality, safety and
efficacy as drug products. But that doesn't mean they should be taken lightly
– or without consulting your healthcare professional, especially if you have a
medical condition or are taking other drugs.
- False. It's unwise to judge a
product's efficacy or safety based only on testimonials.
First, it is very difficult to verify
the accuracy of the account: Some marketers may embellish or even make up
testimonials to sell their product. Second, you can't generalize one person’s
experience to others. Anecdotes are not a substitute for valid science.
- True. Studies suggest that several
popular supplements, including herbal products, may provide health benefits.
For example, calcium can reduce the risk of osteoporosis, folic acid during
pregnancy can prevent birth defects, and there is some evidence suggesting
that St. John's Wort may be helpful for some people with mild depression.
Check out any health claims with a
reliable source, such as the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary
Supplements, a public health or scientific organization like the American
Cancer Society or the Arthritis Foundation, and your health provider.
- A or B. Talk to your doctor,
pharmacist or other health provider about any medicines you take, as well as
any dietary supplements you’re using or thinking about using. Though some
doctors have limited knowledge of herbal products and other supplements, they
have access to the most current research and can help monitor your condition
to ensure that no problems develop or serious interactions occur.
Retailers or marketers can be good
sources of information about their products and their ingredients, but bear in
mind that they have a financial interest in their products. If your doctor or
pharmacist has a financial interest in the product, get a second, independent