The People's Perspective on Medicine

Show 1187: Are Supplements Really a Waste of Time?

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Many people take supplements. A major review last summer concluded, though, that they are a waste of time for heart disease. Is that really true?
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Last summer, a major review of research on supplements to improve heart health concluded that most do nothing to prevent heart attacks, strokes or premature death from cardiovascular causes (Annals of Internal Medicine, Aug. 6, 2019). In other words, they are a waste of time and money. (The possible exceptions include omega-3 fats and folate.)

This meta-analysis got an enormous amount of attention, mostly of the “told you so!” variety. The view that dietary supplements result only in expensive urine has been prevalent in medicine for some time. But should we dismiss all supplements as ineffective? Or are there situations where certain supplements could be useful?

Dr. Low Dog Presents Some Alternatives:

Dr. Tieraona Low Dog is one of the country’s leading experts on the science behind dietary supplements. What does she think about the conclusions of the recent meta-analysis? Does she agree that supplements really are a waste of time? What are the limitations on this type of research?

Is a Strict Diet a Waste of Time for Heart Health?

The meta-analysis was not limited to individual supplements. In addition, the scientists evaluated certain diets that have been recommended for improving heart health. They found that a low-salt diet could help people avoid premature death from cardiovascular causes, especially people with high blood pressure. Other widely recommended diets didn’t fare so well, however. Are low-fat diets really ineffective at preventing heart disease? What about a Mediterranean style diet with lots of vegetables, fruits and olive oil and very little meat or sugar? The investigators found that this well-studied eating plan was also a waste of time.

Call in Your Questions About Supplements:

After you listen to Dr. Low Dog, you may have observations or questions you want to share. Joe and Terry will respond. Our lines are open for your questions and comments this week. Call 888-472-3366 between 7 and 8 am EDT on Saturday, November 2, 2019. You can also reach us by email: radio@peoplespharmacy.com.

The Problem with Zantac:

For more than a year, you have heard about recalls of blood pressure medicines like valsartan, losartan and irbesartan. The makers of the raw materials used procedures that resulted in contamination of these drugs with nitrosamine compounds that are probable carcinogens.

Recently, a mail-order pharmacy called Valisure announced that ranitidine carries large quantities of one such compound, NDMA. This results, apparently, not from contamination but from the inherent makeup of the molecule. Listen to the founder and CEO of Valisure, David Light, describe why his pharmacy tests every drug they dispense and how the problem with ranitidine (Zantac) came to light. What might you use instead?

This Week’s Guests:

Dr. Low Dog is a founding member of the American Board of Physician Specialties, American Board of Integrative Medicine and the Academy of Women’s Health. She was elected Chair of the US Pharmacopeia Dietary Supplements/Botanicals Expert Committee and was appointed to the Scientific Advisory Council for the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Her books include: Women’s Health in Complementary and Integrative MedicineLife Is Your Best Medicine; and Healthy at Home. Her latest is Fortify Your Life: Your Guide to Vitamins, Minerals and More. Her website is drlowdog.com.

David Light, a biotech entrepreneur and scientist, is the founder and CEO of Valisure, an online pharmacy that puts medications through rigorous chemical analysis before sending them to consumers. The website is www.valisure.com.

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