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Recommendations of the NCAHF Task Force
on Supplement Abuse (1987)
- Be aware that supplements cannot change a poor diet into
a good one; good nutrition involves more than supplements are
apt to supply.
- Few people need to, supplement their diets with pills, but
if you do choose to supplement, to assure safety do not exceed
the Recommended Dietary Allowances for vitamins and minerals.
- To assure good nutrition apply the three principles of variety,
balance and moderation; use the USDA Food Groups model and USDA/HHS
To Health Practitioners:
- Include questions about supplementation practices when taking
health histories and be alert to signs of adverse effects.
- Report adverse effects of supplementation to the FDA.
- Encourage patients to apply the USDA Four Food Groups model
and USDA/HHS U.S. Dietary Guidelines rather than supplementation
as the way to improve nutrition practices.
- Combat "trophophobia" (i.e., the fear of nutritious
- Put an end to the unwise "buyer beware" situation
which now exists in the food supplement market by repealing the
1976 Proxmire Bill exempting food supplements from FDA regulation.
- Require food supplement to meet standards of safety and effectiveness.
- Require warning labels on potentially hazardous supplements.
(i.e., Vitamins A, D, E, niacin, niacinamide, B6, folacin, C,
calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, and selenium). [See over for
- Promote the adverse reactions reporting program aggressively.
- Use criminal prosecution against violators of consumer protection
- Legislate minimal requirements for education in nutrition
sciences for all students on the secondary level that will include
all of the basic information in the National Academy of Sciences
Recommended Dietary Allowances publication.
Rationale for Warning Labels
Warning labels should be required on potentially hazardous
food supplements. NCAHF is aware that certain supplement trade
associations are making it appear that such a requirement is unnecessary
because the amount of known harm from supplementation is small.
However, we argue that:
- The amount of harm from supplementation is largely unmeasured
which means that knowledge of the extent of harm due to misguided
supplementation is unknown making it impossible to state with
confidence that the amount of harm is small.
- The basic dictum that should be followed is that nothing
is safe until demonstrated to be with the burden of proof upon
- Applying the benefit/risk ratio approach reveals that the
potential benefits of supplementing above the RDA without medical
indication are far fewer than the potential for harm.
- The aggressive promotion of megadosing by orthomolecular
zealots needs to be countered by warning labels on the very products
- The widespread amount of irresponsible advertising vitamin
companies ignoring possible drug-nutrient interactions, and nutrient
imbalances needs to be offset.
- The failure of the supplement industry to regulate itself
by keeping dosages low enough to discourage overdosing or provide
consumer warnings on potentials for harm clearly shows that the
industry needs this type of regulation.
- The human propensity to believe that if a little is good
then more is better needs to be countered.
- Long term use of megadoses of some nutrients may decrease
longevity (e.g., zinc appears to lower HDL possibly increasing
the risk of coronary heart disease).
Given these factors the only responsible course to follow is
to require warning labels.
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This page was posted on 12/1/00.