Supplements and Health
Sorting the Facts

Summary

SUPPLEMENTS AND HEALTH: Sorting the Facts
Presented jointly with PRI’s The World & WGBH
Thursday, May 11, 2017

“Lose belly fat”. “Build muscle.” “Lower your cholesterol.” “Improve your sex drive.” Browse the shelves of any supermarket or pharmacy, and you will find dietary supplements that promise to do all this, and more. Supplements are a multi-billion-dollar business, and today more than half of American adults take them, many at the advice of their doctors. But dietary supplements can have real risks. They are not required by federal law to be proven safe “to the FDA’s satisfaction” before hitting the market, raising concern among critics about a perceived lack of safety oversight and consumer education.

Using the latest science as the basis for discussion, Forum experts examined the risks and benefits of supplements. How effective are they? What about dosages — or interactions with prescription medications? Should supplements be subject to more stringent rules and tests? What role should doctors, pharmacists, and drugstores have in helping consumers make safe, educated choices about supplements? This panel attempted to help sort the facts about supplements and health.

Part of: .

Presented jointly with PRI’s The World & WGBH

Image Credit: iStock: monticelllo

  • The Forum Moderator

    Welcome all. Our event will begin at 12:30pm ET.

  • Irene Kolada

    I hear only music?

    • The Forum Moderator

      Thanks — you should be able to see the stream now. If not, please refresh your page.

  • The Forum Moderator

    We have begun. Thanks all for joining.

  • The Forum Moderator

    We are very happy that you have joined us today.

  • The Forum Moderator

    This event is presented jointly with PRI’s The World & WGBH.

  • Wm Scott Pappert

    Would you please ask the panelists what their knowledge is of national registries or a national database that tracks hospitalizations that might be related to supplementation? sounds like there have been several studies done but no aggregated national data? thanks in advance…

  • Daniel Witkowski, MD

    What about the laws to allow ingredients in our food that aren’t allowed elsewhere in the world.
    We need to look at our food industry before the food supplement industry.

  • The Forum Moderator

    This event also is part of The Dr. Lawrence H. and Roberta Cohn Forums.

  • Daniel Witkowski, MD

    Agree with you JoAnn! More attention and education!

  • The Forum Moderator

    Thanks to all leaving comments and questions. We will have a Q&A towards the end of this discussion. If you have a question for our panel, please post them here or email them to theforum@hsph.harvard.edu.

  • Stephen Albers

    How do you compare the voracity of GRAS to supplements standards since neither have significant FDA input?

  • The Forum Moderator

    We also wanted to thank FRONTLINE for letting us show two clips from their film, Supplements and Safety: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/supplements-and-safety/

  • The Forum Moderator

    Have a question for our panelists? Post them here or email them to theforum@hsph.harvard.edu

  • The Forum Moderator

    We will post this video on demand on this site tomorrow. The video also will be posted on YouTube and Facebook.

  • Michael J. Schuh

    Here at Mayo Clinic we routinely review supplements while reviewing Rx and OTC meds. We educate patients the rules are very different for herbals and they interact with Rx, OTC meds and each other. We also utilize available pharmacogenomics data when counseling patients because supplements use the same metabolic pathways as Rx and OTC medications.

    • The Forum Moderator

      Thank you for sharing your comment.

  • Mark Kelman

    I have vigorously tried to meet the RDA’s for all nutrients while maintaining a less than 2200 caloric value per day. I find it to be impossible to accomplish without the use of supplements. So, is it safer to only receive lets say 80% of a handful of nutrients daily? Or is it safer to add a few supplements in order to reach the 100% level? In other words, how accurate are these RDA’s?
    Thanks!!

  • Michael Sinha

    A 2015 Health Affairs study from the Program On Regulation, Therapeutics, And Law (PORTAL) at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that many consumers were unaware of a dietary supplement’s disclaimer or reported that the dislaimer did not affect their perceptions of the product. Should these products be regulated, and if so, who should take the lead?

  • Mary V

    Could you post a link to the website Dr Austin said is one of the best resources on supplements? Thank you.

    • Mark Kelman

      I second that!! I missed it as well. Thanks!!

      • The Forum Moderator

        Yes, happy to do so. We will post after the event.

  • Blanca

    What type of specialist would the panel recommend for a weight loss program and avoid risks with supplements? A bariatric physician? a nutritionist?

  • Daniel Witkowski, MD

    Can you ask that a solution might be that supplements are provided by the physician?

  • The Forum Moderator

    We will be wrapping up soon. Thank you all again for joining us today. Our event will end at 1:30pm ET.

  • Michael J. Schuh

    Some clinical pharmacists are a good source of information on supplements. They have extensive training in pharmacology, therapeutics, pharmaceutics, medicinal chemistry and pharmacognosy.

  • The Forum Moderator

    You can watch this again on demand on Facebook immediately after we end, https://www.facebook.com/Forumhsph/. We also will post this video on demand on this site tomorrow. The video also will be posted on YouTube.

  • The Forum Moderator

    Join us again next week, May 19, 12:30-1:30pm, We will discuss “Gene Editing: Promises and Challenges”, which will be a live webcast presented jointly with NBC News Digital.

  • The Forum Moderator

    Thank you all again for joining us today.

  • Wm Scott Pappert

    thank you for holding this discussion !