Gambling with Supplements


We all know the generic, good for everyone doctor’s orders. Eat right, exercise, and get your regular check-ups to reduce your risk for common health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and many forms of cancer.

Vitamins and minerals are an important part of the “Eating right” instruction. Vitamins and minerals are, in fact, micronutrients that the body utilizes to catalyze (start or speed up) the different reactions of the body. For example, Vitamin D plays a role in the absorption of Calcium (a mineral) in the body. Without Vitamin D, Calcium becomes more difficult to absorb which can result in the breakdown of bones and teeth causing things like rickets or osteoporosis.

In cases where a vitamin or a mineral is not easily attained through food or if a person is consistently deficient in a vitamin or mineral, it is often recommended to supplement those components. This is what causes the giant aisle of vitamins and supplements in your local store.

However, there is in fact a caveat to this craze for supplements. The biggest issue with the heavy utilization of supplements is the fact that these supplements are not regulated in the same way as pharmaceutical drugs. In fact the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is not authorized to review dietary supplement products for safety and effectiveness before they are marketed, as stated on the FDA website. This means that the FDA cannot rule a supplement as unsafe until the product has been marketed. Also, there are links to sites where patients can report any adverse reactions to the FDA.

In contrast, pharmaceutical companies have a very involved process that involves testing on cell lines, animal models, and hopefully clinical trials. Each level must be documented thoroughly. Any dangers or risks must be accounted for, and often the drug must be re-configured or re-synthesized before starting the entire process all over again. This process is very lengthy and a giant investment made for each person involved.

Supplements are easier to develop and easier to launch due to the lowered level of regulations. This is why doctors do not have to prescribe them. They are instead recommended and often vaguely at that. Also patients are frequently not reporting these supplements on lists of medications taken because they are not considered to be medications by the majority of society.

This is a big deal because often these supplements can cause an adverse drug reaction if paired with the wrong prescribed medication. An adverse drug reaction (ADR) is a term that denotes an unwanted, uncomfortable, or a dangerous effect due to a drug taken. This can range from acute nausea to more fatal events. While the actual supplements may not always be the problem, the additional inactive ingredients could also be an issue.

The best thing to do is to discuss all medications and supplements taken with your primary care physician. He or she may recommend a pharmacogenomics test that could assist with providing suggestions for appropriate medications that are best suited for each patient. This could prevent adverse events as well. For any concerns regarding the drugs you are taking and how they could be metabolized by the body, ask your doctor about our pharmacogenomics testing, RESPONSE, today!