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US Consumers and Vitamins


Friends and I were discussing the claim that US consumers are about to lose the right to purchase vitamins, minerals, and dietary supplements, and one member of the clan pointed out a Snopes page that debunks the news as a hoax:

Urban Legends Reference Pages: Politics (Vitamin See). However, there is a claim from cynical skeptics that Snopes is not so righteous as it claims…

Anyway, while this CODEX issue might very well be an urban legend, I’m afraid the truth is that here in the EU, they really are intending to stifle vitamins and supplements. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing I don’t know. Personally, I try to avoid supplements, but I realise millions of people have a use for them.

There are, however, lots of problems with certain supplements (natural cadmium levels associated with zinc, mean that zinc tablets are high enough to cause problems with long-term use, mega-doses of any vitamin cause toxicity, calcium bodies (kidney
stones) for instance with vitamin C, many herbal remedies need not necessarily be contaminated to be harmful, although contamination of Chinese herbal medicines with mercury and arsenic have been reported on many separate occasions here and
in the US), and wasn’t there a fairly recent problem with a contaminant in taurine?

Long-term use of echinacea can cause health problems, while the use of St John’s Wort is contraindicated for several prescription medicines. Even drinking too much grapefruit juice can interfere deliteriously with liver enzymes and cause heart
problems for users of certain antibiotics and antihistamines.

Dose is always the issue in toxicity, whether that’s dose of the active or a contaminant.

There may be a place for vitamins and supplements, but perhaps it is about time these were brought under more strict regulations so that benefit-risk management (BRM) can be considered in a more logical manner than it currently is. BRM is after all at the top of all pharmaceutical company agendas and adverse drug reactions (ADRs) feature prominently in the minutes.

http://tinyurl.com/6da7l – PDF from EU on the directive set to be enforced 1 August 2005

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3831931.stm – WHO warnings on supplements and vitamins

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3443651.stm – EU rule change attacked.

Freelance science journalist for more than 1/4 century. Author of the bestseller Deceived Wisdom. Sharp-shooting photographer and wannabe rock god.
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