We need to have a chat about nutritional “supplements”

I had to wait in the pharmacy recently while I was out shopping. So I decided to take a look at the over-the-counter (OTC) products while standing around.

I was particularly looking at the vitamins and supplements. I saw that they had a lot of products targeted at the Latino community. I took a look at a few. Some seem pretty much the same type of pills and liquids that are available to everyone else: liver detoxifiers, brain boosters, bowel cleansers and similar products.

But a few had some unusual ingredients that I had never heard of before. Apparently they were extracts from plants that may be native to South and Central America.

Being an MD, and a curious guy, when I got home I tried to track the ingredients down. I didn’t have much success in doing that. I also found out that several of these supplements are not listed in the medication checking software that I tried. So one or more of these might be capable of having interactions with other OTC medications or prescription medications, and there may not be a reliable way to find that out in advance. Bear that in mind before you try one.

If it's green, it's gotta be good for you. (Supplement via Shutterstock)

If it’s green, it’s gotta be good for you. (Supplement via Shutterstock)

For example, I ran across a “digestive remedy” that claims to cure just about any problem that you could have with your gastrointestinal tract: gas, diarrhea, constipation, hemorrhoids, belching, heartburn, GERD, etc. And all you need is just three drops whenever any of those problems is upsetting your belly. The ingredients (none of them listed as “active ingredients”): >Lots of water, some sugar, lemon juice and a little peppermint oil. All that for $5.99 for a half-ounce.

I’m not sure that this does anything at all for the conditions listed above. But if it did, you could probably make a few gallons of it at home for the $5.99 cost for a half-ounce.

Also near the supplements were some items listed as “superfood.” One “superfood” was a bag with some chocolate covered berries. They were touted as having a lot of antioxidants. They said that the antioxidants were good for the heart, could help prevent cancer, were anti-aging, chocolate was also good for the heart, etc. Of course, the fine print said that this information hadn’t been verified by the FDA, and neither the FDA of the manufacturer was claiming that these berries actually did do any of these things.

Oh, and the term “superfood”? Superfood is just a way to imply that the product so labeled is supposed to be just wonderful for you. It really isn’t defined in the scientific community. So marketers and manufacturers can use it to catch your eye and lead you to believe that whatever their selling is just fantastic for you nutritionally.

Moving along to the digestive aids area, I spotted a new laxative. It was designed especially for women. It was called “light” and “gentle acting.” I wondered what this special laxative was. A different drug? Smaller dose? No. It was one of the same generic laxatives that was in several other boxes by other manufacturers. And it was the same sized dose and dosing directions, too.

I compared the brand name “regular” laxative to this one for the “ladies.” Active ingredients (just one): It was the same in both.

Pretty pink "lady" pills, via Shutterstock.

Pretty pink “lady” pills, via Shutterstock.

Inactive ingredients (several): the same in both, EXCEPT there was a red dye added to the “ladies” variety. How special.

I didn’t open the box, but I’ll bet that the dye made the tablets pink instead of their normal color. Because apparently, “ladies” like their laxatives pink.

Oh, there was one other major difference. The laxative for the ladies was about $1.50 more expensive from the regular kind.

So, it’s probably a good idea to keep your eyes open, read labels, compare products and keep your hand on your wallet before you buy.

NOTE FROM JOHN: I know I say this a lot, but I’m not kidding, we need your help sharing our content on social media if we’re going to keep AMERICAblog alive. Please share our stories, which brings us visitors, and helps us earn more ad revenue.” Thanks for your help. JOHN

Mark Thoma, MD, is a physician who did his residency in internal medicine. Mark has a long history of social activism, and was an early technogeek, and science junkie, after evolving through his nerd phase. Favorite quote: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science... is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny.'” - Isaac Asimov

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64 Responses to “We need to have a chat about nutritional “supplements””

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  3. docsterx says:

    “We” were addressing supplements and OTCs in the article. You launched into a screed on prescription medications and Big Pharma. Try sticking to the topic at hand. Or at least arguing with the points I’ve raised in reply to your post.

  4. docsterx says:

    Wow, good job at refuting my points. Just keep making those broad generalizations and accusations instead of addressing facts. That really doesn’t help your credibility.

  5. notayot says:

    Most water molecules at some time came in contact with feces of some sort from at least one living critter. Makes you wonder if water “remembers” that too!

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  9. cleos_mom says:

    Amen to that. It’s like buying a late-model GM car: hopefully all the lethal bugs that the company decided to ignore have already been exterminated.

  10. cleos_mom says:

    Some are certainly a rip-off but have you noticed that the same hyperbole gets used in promoting the latest Magic Pill on TV? And quite often the ads for the Magic Pill abruptly disappear and six months later you see an ad for a law firm that will take your case if the Magic Pill turns your skin green or makes your toenails fall off.

  11. cleos_mom says:

    About 20 years ago, I had a nasty case of bronchitis. The doctor at the cattle-call clinic that was approved by my insurance policy gave me a prescription for an antibiotic that I faithfully took for the entire prescribed period. Bupkes. The infection just got worse and worse. I planned to go back and tell them that they prescribed the wrong antibiotic (did not tests; just wrote a prescription) but on an impulse I tried a homeopathic remedy in pill form.

    Within six hours I felt a slight improvement. After 36 hours I was able to sleep in my own bed (I couldn’t breathe while lying flat and had been sleeping, or trying to sleep, on the sofa propped up by pillows). Within 5 days the infection was gone. Finito.

    I understand that this is an anecdotal case but when your own body is the setting for the anecdote, that distinction takes something less than center stage. The author of this article has legitimate concerns about quackery but if convention medicine really wants to address that it has to deep-six the “if you can’t get well The Approved Way, you’ll just have to resign yourself to not getting well” mentality.

  12. Jafafa Hots says:

    The pharmacies are also full of “homeopathic” remedies… which is essentially just water that was supposedly shaken in a specific way to make it “remember” that it once contained something that it no longer contains because it has been diluted to the point where that “ingredient” is no longer detectable…

    … and that ingredient which is NOT THERE, was something like poison ivy to cure itchy skin under the principle of “like treats like.”

    Seven bucks for 2.4 ml of water.

    What an amazing scam.

  13. Houndentenor says:

    Agreed. And we can quantify the efficacy of aspirin. We can determine which dosage is appropriate. Is it safe for everyone? How does it interact with other substances (not just other meds but also food)? These are important questions. All of these things are chemical substances. The fact that something occurs in nature does not give it any magical properties. It can be analyzed the same way whether it is “natural” or synthetic. If it cant be shown to be effective (as aspirin has been) then it is a fraud. There is a lot of fraud in the supplement and natural remedy business. And it’s a big business. I never claimed that none of them work as promised. I only said that such claims should be verified scientifically.

  14. TampaZeke says:

    Wow. Just like every other doctor I know, you know so little about the pharmaceuticals you prescribe and what happens to them once they leave your office.

  15. TampaZeke says:

    I was referring to the greatest threat to health in America in relation to the topic we were discussing. Don’t get cute!

  16. rmthunter says:

    After reading through the comments here, a couple of observations:

    “Dietary supplements” covers a lot of territory, from vitamin tablets to snake oil. Some of them are useful, some are junk, most (hopefully) are somewhere in between, and at least harmless.

    There have been clinical trials of herbal remedies; some have confirmed their uses, some have disproven the traditional beliefs, most have been inconclusive. One of the problems is that researchers tend to isolate an “active ingredient” and examine that. Herbal medicine doesn’t really work that way — sassafras, for example, contains a component that fosters tumors, and a researcher isolating that and testing it is going to get mice with tumors. However, the whole root also contains a component that suppresses tumors, so in traditional usage, they neutralize each other. (And, as someone mentioned, a lot of our pharmaceuticals were developed from traditional remedies.)

    By the same token, pharmaceuticals are the “active ingredient” writ large. That and some buffers and fillers, so you can make a pill out of it. They all have effects other than the one they’re to be used for. For myself, I routinely tell my doctors, “If there are side effects, I’ll have them” — I tend to react strangely to pharmaceuticals, leading to the speculation in some quarters that I have the biochemistry of a cat. Be that as it may, I avoid OTC and prescription decongestants/expectorants, for example, like the plague: they either have no effect, or they knock me out and dry me out too much. I’ll stick with eucalyptus oil, thank you very much, which my mother used on me when I had colds as a kid. It works. Lavender oil is still the best topical anesthetic I’ve found, and it smells good.

    I tend to be suspicious of hype — I’m a “prove it” kind of guy. Most people, it seems, are not. Unfortunately, most of what’s out there on supplements is hype. The irony is that the information is available, but you have to search for it, which most people won’t do. I would be strongly in favor of the FDA regulating supplements (as haphazard as that might be), just to enforce some sort of disclosure standard.

    The bottom line, I guess, is that supplements (which I’m taking to include things like essential oils and herbal remedies) are not all garbage, just as pharmaceuticals are not all miracle drugs, but we’re sadly lacking in consumers who are willing to educate themselves — the manufacturers sure as hell are not going to do it.

    (A footnote, speaking of traditional remedies: one of my doctors recommended acupuncture as an aid to quitting smoking. I haven’t tried it because I have a near-pathological distaste for needles, but it’s worth noting that it comes with professional endorsement.)

  17. drdick52 says:

    For the record, if supplements work, it is because they contain biochemicals, many or most of which are available in more effective and purer forms with controlled dosages as pharmaceuticals.

  18. drdick52 says:

    I would agree completely about that, which has nothing to do with what I was saying here. My only point in my last comment is that while some herbal remedies (and only those) can be effective, they do not and cannot control dosage levels, which is a problem. I am not a fan of the supplement industry or any other “alternative medicine.” I just like to be honest about what does and does not work.

  19. rmthunter says:

    Whenever I fill a prescription, I get an information sheet on the drug I’m getting — what it’s prescribed for, other uses, what it does, side effects, possible allergic reactions, who to call if there’s a problem, up to two or three pages worth of information. All I have to do is read it if I want to know what it is and what it does.

    This is provided by the pharmacy, in addition to whatever might be included with the drug itself. (My inhaler comes in the manufacturer’s packaging, with two information sheets inside — directions for use and all the information provided by my pharmacist.)

    And if your pharmacist doesn’t provide that information and it’s one of those prescriptions that’s pills in a little amber plastic container, you can always look it up online.

  20. docsterx says:

    That’s good that you question why you’re being asked to take a medicine. Many people don”t.

    But most scientific studies aren’t bogus. I think you’re thinking of research conducted in house by drug companies vs. studies conducted outside of that realm.

  21. docsterx says:

    Most doctors are highly suspicious of what Big Pharma tells them. Many are familiar with the pharmaceutical scandals. Many of us have heard more about those scandals than has been released to the press. We know the drug reps and manufacturers are hell-bent to sell their products. It would be like you buying a new car and accepting everything the salesman tells you at face value as absolute truth. The vast majority of people don’t do that. They get recommendations from other consumers, mechanics, auto magazines, Car Talk and other sources. They then make a thoughtful choice.

  22. docsterx says:

    “People know more about OTC products than they do about the pharmaceuticals they buy.” That’s debatable. You mean to say that when the average consumer buys an OTC that has psyllium in it, he knows what that is and what it does? Or that he’s going to rush home and look it up? I doubt that.. He’s going to see that the package says “laxative” and, perhaps, read the directions. I’ve asked patients why they tried an OTC or supplement. Often I’ll get a response like, “Aunt Betty told me it worked for her and that I should try it.” Not a discussion of the active ingredients, additives and other components of the medication.

    And if an Rx medication is labeled as (RS)-1-(Isopropylamino)-3-[4-(2-methoxyethyl)phenoxy]propan-2-ol that will help the average patient to decide whether to take it or not? Or if it were labeled a “selective beta-1 blocker” that would tell him what, exactly? At least, with Rx medications, the patient can access additional information in detail on the drug’s website or on the manufacturer’s website. Of course, the information is pretty technical, so many drugs have a more easy to understand summary for patients. Admittedly, this is far from perfect, but it IS better than the information that is found on most OTC sites concerning supplements, neutraceuticals, etc.

    Additionally, what’s behind the counter is regulated. What’s in front of the counter isn’t. Someone can mix and match dozens of medications from the open shelves and the pharmacist (or doctor) will have no idea what he bought or what combinations he may be using.

    Again, I think that you’re getting carried away by your feelings. If you step back and read what you wrote, I think you’d see that.

  23. docsterx says:

    First off, it’s hardly “my” pharmacy. I don’t own it. I was there to get a prescription medication filled for my use. I don’t own any Big Pharma stocks and I’m not a supporter of their outrageous prices, their data falsification, their covering up of serious side effects, etc. The only connection I had with Big Pharma was that I helped collect data in three Phase III trials for three different antiretroviral medications in the period of 2000-2002.

    Most physicians that I’ve spoken to have heard a statement like this in their pharmacology courses: “All drugs have the potential to be toxic” or some variation of that phrase. So, yes, physicians are aware that medications can sometimes cause problems. As are pharmacists, nurses, and just about anyone in the populace who follows news. OTCs, herbals, supplements Rx medications and others all fit into that class. Any drug can have side effects.

    “I can assure everyone that the greatest threat to health and wellness in America are FDA approved, prescription-only pharmaceuticals . . . .” Really? So obesity, which is endemic in the US, isn’t a major threat to the health and wellness of America? Cancer and heart disease, leading causes of death in the US, aren’t major players in Americans’ lives with respect to mortality, years of potential life lost, and diminished quality of life? And all of those prescription drugs that are so terrible (antibiotics, antiretrovirals, antihypertensives, antidiabetic medications, etc.) haven’t been life saving for millions in the US alone?

    Where did I say that I trusted the pharmaceutical industry? Please, don’t put words in my post that I didn’t type there. You seem to be so overwhelmed by your anger at the pharmaceutical industry that you are reduced to using hyperbole and lashing out. As in “The FDA is no longer a government agency. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of the pharmaceutical industry.” When did that legislation pass?

    For your information, one of the posts on my “to write” list is one on two fairly recent Big Pharma recalls of medications because of improper quality control issues. Please, don’t put words in my post that I didn’t type there. I think that your emotions are holding sway over your logic and critical thinking.

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  26. judybrowni says:

    NEVER, NEVER, NEVER — if you can help it — agree to take the “newest” pharmaceuticals on the market.

    Unless you want to be the unpaid guinea pig testing it for the pharmaceutical industry, and the eventual client of the lawyers who will end up leading the class action suit, after all the side effects have finally been discovered — that screwed you up so badly, you make a great test case for court.

    Wait for two to five years before you take the latest wonder drugs: by which time other poor saps will have unwittingly tested the drugs before you, and even the newspapers won’t have been able to ignore the lawsuits.

    I had a friend, a scientific writer, who quit an EXTREMELY well paid job with a pharmaceutical company — after she discovered she was expected to lie, profusely, in the writeups based on initial testing.

  27. Naja pallida says:

    The efficacy of various things is not really the question nor the problem with the supplement industry. We’re dealing with a commercial trade that doesn’t have any requirement to provide you with what they say they’re providing you with, and frequently don’t – or they give you with more than you think you’re getting, like pesticides. Then they can make almost any claim they want about their product, as long as they qualify anything they say with: “This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA.”

    There is a reason people take aspirin as it is now instead of just going out into their yard, finding a willow tree, and chewing on a chunk of its bark. It’s been regulated, standardized and purified. You know exactly what you’re getting, and in an appropriate, known dosage. Supplements offer no such guarantees, and have no requirements to do so at all.

  28. drdick52 says:

    In fairness, a fair number of herbal remedies, though far from most, do work and are the basis for modern pharmaceuticals (such as aspirin, which is derived from salicylic acid found in willow bark). Unfortunately, even with those which do work, it is impossible to control the dosage of the active chemicals which vary from one plant to another and even in the same plant at different points in the growing season.

  29. Naja pallida says:

    Not sure what this has to do with the subject at hand… or why you’d ask me… but each state has its own laws with regard to easements and public use. If any such situation were ever to come to a lawsuit, I’m sure it would depend entirely on which judge made the ruling. Like the case in Salt Lake City, the initial court rulings ruled against the LDS Church, in favor of free speech, and then it was overturned on appeal. Seems likely that it would be an entirely random, case by case situation – and I’d expect nothing less than any decisions to fall on ideological, rather than legal, grounds.

  30. Drew2u says:

    Question: If churches (specifically Catholic and Mormon) can purchase public land in parks and on sidewalks adjacent to their buildings, then can the city/state sell the buffer area around the entrance of health clinics so those clinics could erect a fence around that private property? and from that, hire/obtain security?

  31. Houndentenor says:

    And those that had a benefit were those subject to the placebo effect (usually pain relief). If herbs or supplements have medicinal properties (and some will) then their proponents should be able to demonstrate those benefits in a double blind study.

  32. discus_sucks_ass says:

    to me the worrisome part is how drug reps will hand out samples of “new” drugs and a doctor turns around and hand them out like candy to patients

  33. TampaZeke says:

    People know more about the OTC products than they do about the pharmaceuticals they buy. In fact, doctors know more about the OTC products than they do about the pharmaceuticals they prescribe. I’m not defending the OTC’s. I’m just saying that if the doctor were honest, or more knowledgeable, about the drugs HE’S prescribing he would be more fearful of what’s behind the counter than he would be about what’s in front of it.

  34. discus_sucks_ass says:

    while you do have a point, I think you trying to force a conclusion on this is unwise. The crap he is talking about are available to everyone and for “impulse” buys.

  35. TampaZeke says:

    As a pharmacist I can attest to the problems with OTC products, including nutritional supplements. However, I have to ask the good doctor if he’s equally, or even MORE, concerned with the FDA approved, behind-the-counter drugs in his pharmacy? I can assure everyone that the greatest threat to health and wellness in America are FDA approved, prescription-only pharmaceuticals behind the counter. Just remember that ALL of the drugs in those “call us if you or a loved one has died are been seriously injured” commercials were FDA approved. The entire western medical/pharmaceutical system is severely flawed and based in a for-profit motivated system designed to maintain illness through MANAGING symptoms and not on HEALING the sick by curing the source of their symptoms. Once I realized that our system is hopelessly lost I had to make the difficult decision to leave the profession in spite of the time, money and energy invested in my PharmD.

  36. Baal says:

    Pharma pays for the initial Phase III trials that get the drugs approved. You are correct, they are not necessarily to be trusted either. After that, subsequent studies are usually funded by other sources, such as NIH or studies in other countries. I have participated in some of those, and nobody has bought me.

    So maybe the best course is to avoid any drug that has not been around for awhile and subjected to some extensive clinical trials. You don’t want to just reject everything, at least I don’t where my own health is concerned. That is what I meant by “evidence based”. It comes over time.

    But for supplements, there is not even an attempt.

  37. therling says:

    I’m not sure if it’s tat you can’t read up to a sixth-grade level, but please re-read carefully the second sentence in my post above.

    I’m also amused that you are trying to use the “you’re just a shill for Big Pharma” ad hominem attack, a line of argument that is the epitome of intellectual laziness.

  38. drdick52 says:

    “But there are real holistic and alternative healers out there who know what they’re doing.”

    Cites needed. So far virtually all alternative therapies which have been subjected to clinical trials have failed to provide any substantial benefit.

  39. Naja pallida says:

    While I think John Oliver’s teardown is entirely warranted, Dr. Oz does have his moments. I think, generally, he does attempt to educate more than sell products. It’s just that in this particular case, like a fool, he got his hand caught in the cookie jar. He should be avoiding pushing any particular products entirely if he wants to be taken seriously. Not that I’m a particular fan of his show, but they show reruns late at night here and sometimes when I’m working late I’ll put it on just to have some noise in the background.

  40. Naja pallida says:

    Vioxx was one of the first major cases where this kind of thing came to light. Merck was pushing it like the best thing since Aspirin, and conveniently ignored, or deliberately manipulated, all the research that was showing it was causing heart attacks and strokes. In their original primary safety study for the FDA, they specifically cut off the data collection to just before people started dying.

    A company like that should have been sued and fined out of existence, and everyone involved with making decisions about the “science” jailed, but no… this is just the way our pharmaceutical industry works. They are constantly doing cost-benefit analyses on whether it will pay off if they manipulate the data. If you can sell a deadly drug for 5-6 years before anyone comes to the realization that its deadly, and make billions, and only be fined millions for your efforts. It’s just the cost of doing business. So what if a few thousand people have their lives destroyed.

  41. Naja pallida says:

    Let’s not kid ourselves, the supplement industry is owned and operated by the pharmaceutical industry. They’re not dumb, they saw a multibillion dollar revenue stream and snatched it up. That they’re profiting off people’s misery and gullibility is just how the health industry does business in the US. Not unlike how the tobacco industry owns the vaporizer industry. Highly regulated in your usual sector? No problem… here’s a way to get around that.

  42. Naja pallida says:

    The supplement industry hasn’t really changed since the days of the shady guy traveling from town to town with a cart full of tiny glass bottles touting wonder cures for everything from warts to appendicitis. It just has a better distribution system now. You wouldn’t eat a random sandwich some stranger off the street handed you, even if he claimed it would sooth your hemorrhoids. Why would you take a random pill from a strange company promising the exact same thing? Buyer beware, for Dog’s sake, do your research before taking anything… and realize that there’s no shortage of completely crap information on supplements online. If something sounds too good to be true, it is.

  43. 2karmanot says:

    Dr. Oz and his ilk are little more than carnival barkers.

  44. Indigo says:

    Depends on who you work with. New Age practitioners, for the most part, are both expensive and untrained. But there are real holistic and alternative healers out there who know what they’re doing. You have to shop around and what works isn’t on the InterNets. ;-)

  45. Indigo says:

    Some biochemicals works, some do not. All biochemicals are priced to exploit the American public. Yes, supplements are buyer-beware products but so are the BigPharma industry’s products.

  46. nicho says:

    What a load of bullshit. Anyone who can read past sixth-grade level knows that Big Pharma owns the researchers and, if possible, hides any evidence that their stuff is crap.

  47. nicho says:

    No there isn’t and attempt to make it evidence based. Quite the opposite. Researchers need money. Bug Pharma has the money. They will only fund studies that will provide “evidence” that you need to buy their medications. In fact, they bury any studies that provide evidence that their products are worthless and/or dangerous.

  48. therling says:

    The arguments that “…most “scientific studies” are bogus,” and “researchers get grant money” sound an awful lot like those used by climate change denialists.

    That there are problems with Big Pharma does not mean that so-called “alternative medicine” has any validity.

  49. drdick52 says:

    Compared to paying for treatments that do not work? I am not a fan of the pharmaceutical industry or the AMA, but biomedicine actually works and the alternatives generally do nothing good.

  50. Houndentenor says:

    Part of the problem is that the media will run with a story that is in fact just a small study that calls for further research. Those small studies are useful as a first step (is there anything here that warrants an expensive larger study?) but they are not conclusive. If the press corps weren’t so stupid, they might report these stories more accurately and prevent much of this confusion.

  51. Houndentenor says:

    Like the “alternative medicine” is cheap? LOL

  52. Baal says:

    You may well be onto something here.

  53. Baal says:

    The difference is that there is an attempt to make medicine evidence-based, which is why guidelines change, and why one can acutally point to progress in medicine. This is not the case for supplements, most of which are pretty much snake oil.

  54. Baal says:

    Not to mention that there is no evidence that the vast majority of the supplements marketed for everyone else — let alone the ones marketed to Latinos — are of any value. FDA is precluded by law from regulating many of these things the same way they would regular pharmaceuticals, so it is the wild wild west thanks to Orin Hatch and Tom Harkin.

  55. TheOriginalLiz says:

    It’s an ongoing battle between those who lack intelligence (willfully or otherwise) and those who lack scruples. Isn’t it natural selection for the predators to take out the least fit of a herd? Though, I grant you, usually, the predators are not actually part of the herd.

  56. RepubAnon says:

    Sure, the stuff in the supplements may be useless – or possibly even harmful. But at least we don’t have to worry about burdensome government regulations! Besides, free market principles make regulations unnecessary – once enough people drop dead from the supplements, the surviving consumers will know not to buy that brand.

    Of course, the new brand will be made by the same folks, with the same ingredients… only the company and brand names will be changed, to protect the con artists.

  57. nicho says:

    Unless it’s a short-term drug for a specific condition, I resist it as best I can. I force them to really make a case for it. And I tell them outright: You’re going to have me on this drug for the rest of my life. Why? Especially when it’s something that will allegedly prevent something of which I show no current symptoms. They always point to scientific studies — and I point to the fact that most “scientific studies” are bogus. They’re paid for by Big Pharma and Big Pharma suppresses studies that show their products are worthless — or worse, dangerous. Researchers don’t get grant money to study remedies that won’t make billions for Big Pharma. BTW — if you’re a male and your doctor is trying to get you on testosterone replacement — BEWARE! There is no independent research showing this is necessary, useful, or even safe.

  58. Indigo says:

    You call it rational, I call over-priced.

  59. Indigo says:

    Yes, I know what you mean. In fact, my parrot has grown so fond of heavily prescribing whatevers that I’m going shopping for a new parrot. Trouble is, almost every parrot in town has decided that “preventive medicine” means taking drugs for things that might develop but aren’t even on the horizon. It’s not easy to find an “holistic” parrot without looking in the quackery aisle.

  60. drdick52 says:

    For reasons that escape me, the 21st century seems to be experiencing an explosive revival of snake oil and quackery. From supplements and “essential oils” to homeopathy, naturapathy, and chiropractic, as well as the antivaxxer insanity, there has been a massive rejection of rationality and science in favor of medically dubious (at best) faith based treatments.

  61. nicho says:

    Of course, the medical-pharmaceutical industry isn’t any better. Your doctor says an aspirin a day is necessary or you’re going to drop dead in the street. Whoops, now researchers say it’s bad for you. Low testosterone? OMG, you need testosterone replacement or heaven knows what. Whoops, bad for you. Everybody in the world has to be on a statin. What’s that? Not such a good idea. Don’t eat eggs. Eggs are great. And so on and so on. Most doctors just parrot what Big Pharma tells them.

  62. nicho says:

    All you need to do is watch John Oliver’s brilliant skewering of Dr. Oz and the supplement industry.


    This is an industry that has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to avoid regulation and oversight.

  63. S1AMER says:

    Plus ca change …

    I have a strong interest in the quackery of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Products are packaged a bit more slickly these days, and the advertising is worded a bit differently (and on the internet!), but the similarities with a century ago far exceed the differences. Forget pure food laws and regs going back to 1906 — it’s still a highly lucrative market for purveyors of garbage to the gullible and hopeful (or, sometimes, hopeless).

  64. bkmn says:

    I have zero trust for the “supplements” that are on the market. Manufacturers fight tooth and nail against having any oversight by the FDA or any government agency. You have no idea if that ecchinacea you are taking for a cold was dusted with one or more pesticides, herbicides or fungicides or if it even is really ecchinacea.

    I am also leery of vitamins. The long term studies have not shown any real benefit (or problem) to taking a multivitamin daily. I worry that your body can not handle processing the refined vitamins at the high doses when combined with that many other components (most multivitamins include multiple minerals). Vitamins can take a real big bite out of a limited income with no real payoff (other than a feel good-placebo effect). Pharma has also co-opted the vitamin market when they saw the money they could make with next to no oversight.

    As for over the counter medications I always opt for the store brand when possible so that I don’t help pay for the marketing that the name brands use.

    As always the best advise is to eat a varied diet, more plants than animal and move.

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