Most supplements are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to
be safe, pure, and effective. Some supplements, especially vitamins, are useful in
certain situations to correct deficiencies and improve health in other ways, but many
are known to be harmful. For example, a dietary supplement sold nationwide as a
weight loss and body-building aid caused cases of liver damage resulting in hospitalizations,
liver failure, liver transplants, and at least one death.

A review of 977 events reported to the FDA between 2004 and 2015 found that after taking a single
supplement, most often those related to bodybuilding, there were 166 hospitalizations,
39 reports of life-threatening events, and 22 deaths. According to a study in
the New England Journal of Medicine, 23,000 people per year end up in a hospital
emergency room after taking a supplement.

Many supplements can be considered a type of “complementary” or “alternative
medicine.” Despite the popularity of alternative medicine, and annual expenditures
of nearly $15 billion a year on homeopaths and various other healers, alternative
medicine is not proven to have a benefit to health beyond a placebo effect. The
placebo effect is the relief of symptoms attributable to patients’ “participation in the
therapeutic encounter, with its rituals, symbols, and interactions.” Many symptoms
are responsive to placebos that cause the release of substances such as endogenous
(intrinsic) opioids and dopamine, but the basic biology of a disease condition
is rarely altered by a placebo. The psychological factors that promote beneficial
placebo effects also have the potential to cause an increase of symptoms. For example,
if a person is warned about possible side effects of a medication, heightened
attentiveness to normal background discomforts may be perceived to be side effects
of the medication. When this happens, it is called a nocebo effect.

Vitamins are essential to human health, but when added in large quantities as supplements
to the diet, they do not enhance health, and they may cause toxicity from
an overdose. With some exceptions, such as some elderly, vegans, pregnant women,
and infants, it is possible to get the needed vitamins and minerals from healthy
nutrition. For those with specific dietary limitations, needs, or deficiencies, as determined
by a competent health care professional, and perhaps for those who want
insurance against possible deficiencies, a standard-dose multivitamin/multi-mineral
or vitamin D supplement that does not exceed recommended levels, is a reasonable
and inexpensive choice.

This blog presents opinions and ideas and is intended to provide helpful general information. I am not engaged in rendering advice or services to the individual reader. The ideas, procedures and suggestions in that are presented are not in any way a substitute for the advice and care of the reader’s own physician or other medical professional based on the reader’s own individual conditions, symptoms or concerns. If the reader needs personal medical, health, dietary, exercise or other assistance or advice the reader should consult a physician and/or other qualified health professionals. The author specifically disclaims all responsibility for any injury, damage or loss that the reader may incur as a direct or indirect consequence of following any directions or suggestions given in this blog or participating in any programs described in this blog or in the book, The Building Blocks of Health––How to Optimize Your Health with a Lifestyle Checklist (available in print or downloaded at Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble and elsewhere). Copyright 2021 by J. Joseph Speidel