Is the Middle Ground on Dietary Supplements?
Founder Champions Freedom Of Choice
Cristina Crawford - President, The Dietary Supplement Quality Initiative
article originally appeared on the American
Holistic Health Association website, and is reprinted here
a diabetic who relies on dietary supplements to maintain good health,
access to vitamins, minerals, and other natural substances is vital
to my physical well-being. Yet controversial stories about dietary
supplements often appear in the media, along with regular calls
for government regulation of production and testing. Like myself,
more and more people are using supplements. But the middle ground
where consumer confidence and general acceptance of supplements
by medical doctors and insurance providers meet seems nowhere in
first glance, increased government regulation might appear to be
the best way to assure the quality we all want in the supplements
we buy. After all, if regulation "works" for pharmaceuticals, why
not for supplements?
there is no doubt that the double blind studies and clinical trials
which accompany the introduction of pharmaceuticals for general
use is beneficial to consumers -- but only up to a point. Enormous
development costs, in large part a function of burdensome government
regulation, go directly into consumer costs, creating the paradox
of "miracle medicine" that can only be had at outrageous prices
and is often of questionable benefit.
a situation bears little relationship to the way supplements are
produced and consumed. Many supplements are created from plants
and herbs, which by definition are not patentable. This makes it
both logically inappropriate and economically impossible for individual
producers to meet the overwhelming costs of Federal Drug Administration
trials. Further, the active components of supplements act in extremely
subtle ways, often depending on minimal variations in ingredients
government might set standards for testing and certifying supplements
given these conditions has largely been answered by the Dietary
Supplement and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA): It can't! By legally
classifying supplements in ways similar to foods, Congress has wisely
left them right where they should be, in an open, minimally regulated
marketplace where the burden of proof is on the producer and the
informed consumer, exactly where it should be.
centuries, dietary supplements have served the health and wellness
needs of people everywhere. What possible good can come of imposing
an inflexible set of bureaucratic standards and regulations on an
industry whose record of safety and beneficial use is virtually
timeless? The Dietary Supplement Health And Education Act confirms
this observation, giving supplement producers and consumers the
latitude to make and buy thousands of traditional and newly developed
supplements without the burdensome government regulations that are
sure to increase costs, diminish potency, and in the end compromise
the need for clear standards for supplement product testing and
certification remain. General acceptance on the part of producers
of good manufacturing practices is a critical item on the quality
agenda. Also, we need ways to introduce both the public and health
practitioners to the vast body of scholarly and clinical information
supporting supplement use. But none of this will happen without
enlightened activism on the part of consumers and a wider assumption
of responsibility on the part of producers.
why I have founded the Dietary Supplement Quality Initiative (DSQI).
Through innovative programs and our website (www.SupplementQuality.com),
we are providing a forum for discussion about quality issues among
manufacturers, health practitioners, academics and retailers. But
most of all I urge consumers like yourself to get into the discussion.
We need to make sure that you and I get what we pay for.
a company adopts a quality assurance program to make sure that all
the bottles going out its door contain full potency levels of its
products or a consumer takes the time to learn more about the factors
contributing to product manufacturing, testing and efficacy, everybody
knowledge about supplementation is expanding rapidly. We are learning
more about the human body and the differences between minimal and
ideal levels of daily intake. We're also learning about the ways
that various plant chemicals work together in affecting our bodies,
even to such details as brain activity and bone density.
regulation can give us a false sense that we're being cared for.
The fact that judgments are being made for us absolves us of personal
responsibility. A better route lies in empowering people to make
their own choices and challenging producers to define and meet the
highest standards. Consumers of dietary supplements are strongly
motivated to buy the best quality products they can. Freedom of
choice is our best guarantee of having both high quality dietary
supplement products and a vigorous industry and marketplace.
Crawford is a grass roots activist for health freedom. In the mid-1990s
she worked with the New England Health Freedom Coalition in a successful
effort to pass the Dietary Supplement Health And Education Act (DSHEA).
In launching the Dietary Supplement Quality Initiative, Cristina
hopes to preserve and enlarge public access to supplements without
the restrictions and costs typically associated with burdensome