I am often asked, as a physician, “If it is natural, it has to be good for you, right?” Not necessarily.
· Lead is natural. Lead is completely toxic to the human body.
· Arsenic is natural. Arsenic is completely toxic to the human body.
· Too much Vitamin A can cause liver failure.
· Too much Vitamin C or Calcium can cause kidney stones.
· Too much Fluoride can cause brittle bones or stained teeth.
These are just a few of the “natural” elements or vitamins that cause health problems.
Half of all Americans use supplements. As a nation, we spend nearly $30,000,000,000. That is thirty billion on health food supplements. Enter one of these health food or nutrition stores and you will be offered all kinds of health benefit claims. Many, nay perhaps most, of the claims are not scientifically proven. They are claims offered in some limited way by persons inadequately trained to do so. But people buy because they are seeking a fix, they are afraid of some health risk, they distrust medical opinions or they don’t want to spend money getting medical advice.
Now we learn that Gingko biloba, touted as a natural herb causes cancer in animals. It is not yet proven to cause cancer in humans but the evidence is concerning enough that the Center for Science in the Public Interest suggests consumers should avoid it. I would agree.
Some will laugh or ridicule that recommendations are based upon animal data but it is the scientific standard used to measure safety of ALL of our medications. While imprecise, it is the best society will allow.
Not all supplements will eventually be found safe for human consumption. If you choose to use a supplement:
· Use a supplement that is as pure as can be.
· Use a supplement that lists the quantity of the active ingredients, usually mg.
· Use a supplement from a reputable national company.
· Keep a watchful eye for any new scientific evidence that suggests risk.
Just as we are now learning that table salt, sugar, wheat, gluten, soy, lactose, etc. can cause health problems for some people, there is a reasonable chance your favorite supplement will be found to contain something that put your health at risk.
I guess when you take supplements; it is “buyer beware”.
Dr. H. Stueven