The hype over the health claims of food supplements

by , Which? Magazine Deputy Editor Energy & Home 22 August 2013
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The UK food supplements industry is worth £385m a year. With some supplements not living up to the health claims on their packaging, we could be wasting an awful lot of money on products we don’t need.

Array of vitamins and minerals pouring from a bottle

Our recent research into food supplements revealed that a third of adults regularly take supplements. This is despite government advice recommending that most people should just eat a balanced and varied diet to get the vitamins they need.

The only people who need to take a supplement (unless it’s been prescribed by a doctor) should be women trying to conceive and in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy (folic acid), children between six months and five years (multivitamin containing vitamins A, C and D), and the over 65s (vitamin D).

Wasting money on food supplements

So why do so many people take supplements, despite not needing them? It’s because they believe they have a positive effect on their health. For example, when we asked people who take glucosamine supplements, 94% said they believed their supplement supports healthy joints and cartilage. However, this health claim has been rejected by the European Union.

Over the past five years, all health claims made on products such as food, drink and supplements have had to be submitted to the EU’s European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Of 44,000 claims made, only 248 have been approved.

Our research brought Bioglan Probiotic capsules, Bimuno Prebiotic powder and Seven Seas Cardiomax to our attention. All made unproven health claims on their packaging and websites. These related to how they help maintain digestive health such as ‘‘helps maintain digestive balance’’ or ‘‘for a healthy heart”.

Healthy joints and bones

Now, if you do want to take a supplement that’s proven to support healthy joints, take a multivitamin containing vitamins C, D, copper manganese and zinc, as all of these have joint care claims that have been authorised by the EU. A multivitamin’s a lot cheaper too – it costs between 3p and 16p a day, compared to glucosamine supplements which cost 30p to £1 a day. Over the course of a year, you could save up to £354!

We’d like to see all ambiguous and exaggerated claims completely removed from all food supplement packaging, so you can feel confident you’re getting a fair deal.

Do you think supplements are a waste of money? Or do you take supplements regularly and swear by the effect they’ve had on your health?

180 comments

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dieseltaylor

I agree with you Maria.

What is the point? An even-handed neutering of all the points made? Make it digestible.?

What we need it is numbering of comments to make referencing easier and a proper bulletin board where the same subject can spawn several threads each easy to follow. This format is pretty nightmarish given responses to points made can appear anywhere in the entire thread.

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Guy Chapman

Numbering and threading would be good, but many of the conversations don’t get long enough to merit huge changes. Only when they mention quackery :o )

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dieseltaylor

Guy – you are correct that the vast majority of Conversations have a small number of responses however as one does not know ahead of time which are going to generate comments perhaps it is sensible to number from the beginning.

If you have wished to follow up some of the remarks about duff appliances I cannot quote you particular comments as there again there are no numbers. You may feel quite miffed if I gave a link where there are 43 comments but I cannot identify which one I am talking about.

You will also note that Which? did not date the recent page on Washing at 60C which I find highly irritating I wonder why they do it? What reason is there not to date pages?
http://www.which.co.uk/home-and-garden/laundry-and-cleaning/guides/using-your-washing-machine/should-i-be-cleaning-at-60/

Is it something to do with reactive testing? This article from mid-July:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/consumertips/10187880/Is-it-really-cheaper-to-wash-clothes-at-30C-rather-than-60C.html

Hi Diesel and Guy, thanks for the suggestions. I can see how numbered comments like on forums would help.

We do have an option that you can use – each comment has its own number and its own link. You can find this by copying the link on the ‘time’ of your comment.

EG. Here’s yours Disiel: Posted 5 September 2013 at 10:55 am http://conversation.which.co.uk/energy-home/food-supplements-health-claims-joint-health-probiotics/comment-page-2/#comment-1335077

You can pop these links into comments or bookmark them to help you join in at the right point. So we could discuss L2′s comment by clicking here. Hope that’s of some help.

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dieseltaylor

Patrick – Thanks for the insight on how to link. Unfortunately though it is hardly intuitive and though I can see its great value across threads I do wonder for a lot of people simply numbering would be adequate. In a thread such as we have currently numbering contributions would also signal that there are other entries being made in the conversation because the numbering would jump.

The method does not seem to be available on the readers views part of the website which over time may become a useful interaction point for readers and Which?.

” belabela wrote:
leak!
The morning after I bought it, there was a huge puddle of water in my kitchen. It leaks when you leave water in it. Unbelievable. I have never spent so much on a kettle and did not expect this kind of problem within 24 hours of buying it. I do not know whether I just picked a faulty one, I would love to see other reviews, but anyway I’m taking it back for a refund tomorrow.
15/2/2011 9:21 PM GST

http://www.which.co.uk/home-and-garden/kitchen/reviews/kettles/bosch-twk8631gb/customer-views/

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Margaret

I took a 7 seas supplement for a while…think it had Rosehips and Turmeric in……My knees felt a lot better…..but my orthopaedic surgeon says they don’t work….and told me that there was evidence to say Glucosomine helped……so I changed. The glucosomine didn’t help. I don’t take any now…..I may also add…I do like 7 seas for another reason. Many years ago I fell down the stairs in a sitting position…bumping my way down at speed….it was very painful. My lower back area was numb and then painful for a few years. Sometimes, in an awkward move….I would just literally crumple to the ground in pain. I started to take 7seas cod liver oil in a little cold milk, shaken, in the morning….on an empty stomach….I may have done this every morning for about 2 months….not sure….My pain has never returned.

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Mel

The article ‘The truth about supplements’ (advertised rather tabloid-sensationalist-wise on Which’s front cover) which presumably sparked off this forum-chat seemed really biased, non-evidence-based and would have been better titled merely ‘A summary of the European legislation’. It failed to point out significant things, such as that the reason many supplement-producers have not even applied for registration is that the hoops they need to jump through for inclusion are such to totally cut out small companies without vast monetary resources. My experience seems to back up comments made above, that since the chemical ‘agricultural revolution’ even soils now returned to organic methods are still badly leached & food is far lower in essential micro-nutrients. I used to think my wholesome veggie-rich diet would be enough, but after I had my first child I was forever going down with bad colds one after another for several years, until I began to wonder about nutritional deficiency. I’m a research scientist so I don’t just gullibly believe all the hype, but I did some reading-up (particularly helpful was an evidence- based book, probably out of print now, called something like ‘Optimum nutrition Bible’) & after about six months of vitamin/mineral supplements my immune system was so much better & has remained so. Also another problem disappeared which had started at the same time but which I hadn’t even linked with nutrition, a sort of extreme ‘allergy’ to the sun, an itchy rash even on slight exposure, which I’d thought must be due to the thinning ozone layer. Much later I read that vitamin deficiencies can lead to it. Back to that Which article. Two points. Firstly Glucosamine and MSM in combination seem to work for me, too: I don’t take them permanently like the vits & mins, but for a few months when various joints damaged in the past from time to time flare up. I guess I must be borderline deficient in something and taking those settles it down again for a few years. Secondly the article’s throw-away jibe at wanting to see Echinacea banned really made my blood boil. I am convinced that stuff works. When I get my once-or-twice-a-year cold, if I remember to take a dose the cold goes (sometimes overnight), whereas if I don’t, it will hang around a bit. Not a controlled trial, but good empirical evidence. Which doesn’t seem to have lived up to its usual standards of evidence-collecting in this article, and has done its readers scant favours.

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Guy Chapman

Not really. The simple truth is that the vast majority of all supplements bought by consumers in the UK are not only completely unnecessary, they make no provable difference to people’s health.

You can tell because the labels say things like “can help support your immune system” – if it actually provably did support your immune system then it would have a much stronger statement, but the Code of Advertising Practice restricts them to claims that can be supported by robust evidence.

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chrisb1

Guy,
“The simple truth is that the vast majority of all supplements bought by consumers in the UK are not only completely unnecessary, they make no provable difference to people’s health”.

That’s quite a bold statement which contradicts the evidence…………….

Makes you wonder why Obstetricians recommend nutritional supplements such as “Pregnacare Plus” as they did for my daughter during her own pregnancy.

And……….
Oral nutritional supplements provided to patients during hospitalisation is associated with significant reductions in length of stay and hospitalisation costs.
http://www.nutraingredients.com/Research/Health-economics-Nutritional-supplement-intervention-may-have-significant-benefits-in-hospital?utm_source=copyright&utm_medium=OnSite&utm_campaign=copyright

or this………
http://examine.com/supplements/

for example, the science and benefits of Vitamin C supplementation…………..
http://examine.com/supplements/Vitamin+C/#citations

http://www.crnusa.org/CRNPR12_CRN_Updated_Benefits_Report_062012.html

or even this………..
http://www.sciencedaily.com/news/health_medicine/dietary_supplements/

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french lady

My GP do not treat me for my menopause and no NHS patients I know are treated. Strangely all my friends with private health insurance are treated for their menopause by NHS. My GP says that my symptoms can be treated by supplements but he cannot tell me which supplements to buy because he cannot recommend a commercial name! I am oblige to take some supplements without to know if they are good or not but because without them I cannot sleep, sometimes 2 nights before to be exhausted enough to be able to sleep a good part night, I never had problem to sleep before, and you add hot flush and mood swing. It is the third year I take supplements, and when I stop the symptoms reappear. So I take supplement to be OK.

Personally I thing the only thing to take without risk is Vitamin c as it is completely cleans out of the system.

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Guy Chapman

NHS offers only evidence-based treatments supported by NICE, whereas the private sector will do pretty much anything that’s legal as long as someone pays the bill.

Your GP may be able to refer you to a dietician, but in most cases treatments for menopause symptoms are becoming recognised as medicalising normal life and there’s much more focus on helping people to just live through them.

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chrisb1

frenchlady,
the supplement that is reported to work very well for the menopause is listed here with testimonials…………
http://www.amazon.co.uk/product-reviews/B0013GAH12

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chrisb1

So are supplements a waste of money?

Just one example would be the case for taking supplemental Folic acid which prevents neural-tube defects, and prescribed for pregnant Mothers on a routine basis, but this is entirely due to the absence of folate within the diet, where supplementation would then be unnecessary.
http://www.crnusa.org/benpdfs/CRN000benefits_ExecSumm.pdf

Here is the case FOR supplementation from the Council For Responsible Nutrition……
http://www.crnusa.org/benpdfs/CRN000benefits_ExecSumm.pdf

In addition, Intensive Farming methods over the years have resulted in mineral-deficient-crops and therefore nutrient-deficient people.
You will find that the case against supplementation is made by those who support the “balanced diet” view and have little to no knowledge of nutrition at all.

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chrisb1

Other examples of the need for supplementation………

“In 1992, the official report of The Rio Earth Summit concluded “there is deep concern over continuing major declines in the mineral values in farm and range soils throughout the world”. This statement was based on data showing that over the last 100 years, average mineral levels in agricultural soils had fallen worldwide – by 72% in Europe, 76% in Asia and 85% in North America”.
http://web.archive.org/web/20100825003336/http://www.physicalnutrition.net/soil-mineral-depletion.htm

Changes that have occurred in levels of certain vitamins and trace minerals in our food supply over the last 50 years……………….
http://web.archive.org/web/20030422165615/http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20020705/favaro_nutrients_chart_020705
http://web.archive.org/web/20070222140409/http://www.trccorp.com/faq_root_disease3.php

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chrisb1

A 100-plus page report by The Council For Responsible Nutrition– titled “The Benefits of Nutritional Supplements” — reviewed more than a decade’s-worth of the most scientifically-significant studies measuring the health benefits of multivitamins and other nutritional supplements, including antioxidants (vitamins C and E), calcium, long chain omega-3 fatty acids (fish oils), vitamin D, vitamins B-6 and B-12, and folic acid.

“The medical and scientific communities are rapidly accumulating powerful evidence about the role of nutritional supplements in both health promotion and disease prevention,” said Annette Dickinson, Ph.D., the author of the report and CRN vice president, scientific and regulatory affairs.

“This growing critical mass of data underscores the need for health professionals to do more to encourage patients to get into a regular, defined routine of supplementation. While it is never too late to start incorporating supplements into a healthy lifestyle, there is compelling evidence that consistent, long-term use provides the strongest benefits. For as little as a dime a day, the cost of a basic multivitamin, you can make a sound investment in good health,” she said.
http://thyroid.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http://www.crnusa.org/benefits.html

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Guy Chapman

Always assuming that the supplement industry is being honest about this, and that the supplements they sell actually contain what they claim.

And of course due to the supplement industry’s success in getting an industry-friendly regulatory framework, neither of these is at all dependable.

http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/new-concerns-about-the-safety-and-quality-of-herbal-supplements/

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Malcolm R

Chris, is this the same CRN organisation?
“The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), founded in 1973 and based in Washington, D.C., is the leading trade association representing dietary supplement manufacturers and ingredient suppliers. CRN companies produce a large portion of the dietary supplements marketed in the United States and globally.”
If so, how can an organisation representing those with a direct financial interest in promoting supplements be cited as support for taking supplements? Or have I misunderstood your post and are you showing this up as a biassed source of advice?

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chrisb1

You are quite right Malcolm that this is the same CRN.

I understand the point you are making in that how is it possible for an objective, impartial assessment made on nutritional supplements by an organisation that is the leading trade association representing dietary supplement manufacturers and ingredient suppliers.

It is right of course to conclude that bias could play a major part here, but CRN have claimed to have assessed the science on supplements over the last 10 to 15 years and have arrived at their conclusion. It could be significant that Harvard supports their viewpoint.

Two things are therefore very apparent……….
#1. They are either liars.
#2. They are telling the truth.

Difficult to know who to believe isn’t it?, but you are hardly likely to have a favorable outcome for supplements from a pharmaceutical organisation/journal, or even a favorable outcome on pharmaceuticals from a supplement trade association.

Personally, I think it would take a very brave association such as CRN to publish lies that can be shot-down in flames, so in my view, there must be a large element of truth in what they have to say.
On top of that, my own personal experience would bear out the real benefits of supplements and a very strong argument in their favor and use.

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Malcolm R

Chris, the issue is whether parties with an interest in the outcomes might be selective in the material they choose to use that is helpful to their argument. I would prefer to see an independent peer-reviewed report for any issue that involves profit.

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Guy Chapman

We already know that parties with a vested interest are not objective.
We also know that regulators are there to keep medicine more or less honest.
We also know that massive political lobbying by the supplement industry means that the supplement industry is virtually unregulated, to the point that many of their products, when tested, bear little or no relationship to what’s on the label.

The only thing we don’t know is why those who profess an interest in keeping medicine honest, give the supplement industry and other alternatives a completely free pass on this.

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chrisb1

Yes I agree that parties with a vested interest are not necessarily objective; “vested interests” for the most part means any party/organisation/company that has a significant financial interest and incentive in their promotions and support.
In this respect, pharmaceutical companies have more of a vested interest than most if not all, because of patents and the extortionate sums acquired this way. I have mentioned before now that the major drug companies, spend more on advertising than on R&D.

The most prolific “political lobbying” by far is from the pharmaceutical companies where the total lobby dollars spent between 1998 and 2012 was $5.3 billion, or nearly three times greater than the second most generous industry: insurance, and well above Oil and Gas at $1.4 billion, and Securities and Investment at $1.0 billion.

Supplement lobbying pales into insignificance in comparison.

You will have to substantiate your claim that many supplement “products, when tested, bear little or no relationship to what’s on the label”, to have any credibility, quoting sources please.

The supplement industry probably needs more regulation to ensure a consistently high standard of quality, but you seem to be unaware of the new regulation gradually being imposed by the EU.

This is also the case within the United States, where since 2007, manufacturers are required to evaluate the identity, purity, quality, strength, and composition of their dietary supplements’ ingredients and finished products to be compliant with the Current Good Manufacturing Practices in manufacturing, packing, labeling, or holding operations for dietary supplements. One aspect of this evaluation can involve the use of NIST Standard Reference Materials :( http://www.nist.gov/srm/) as controls. Laboratories must also demonstrate analytical proficiency.
http://ods.od.nih.gov/Research/AMRMQualityAssuranceProgram.aspx

In addition, the need for the regulation of dietary supplements is not quite the same as the need for the regulation of drugs, because they are identified as “foods”; it is for this reason that they are known as supp-le-ments, because they supp-le-ment the diet.

When critics state that dietary supplements are “unregulated,” what they generally mean is that dietary supplements are not regulated like drugs. This is true, because dietary supplements are regarded and regulated as food, not drugs.

DSHEA defines dietary supplements as products intended to supplement the diet.
According to DSHEA, dietary supplements may contain vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanicals, amino acids, other dietary substances, or combinations or extracts of any of these “dietary ingredients.”

Drugs have to be highly regulated because of potential toxicity and serious harm as a result, and as I have highlighted before now.
Supplements on the other hand are for the most part non-toxic, with a few exceptions such as Vitamin A and Iron.
Supplements as foods are not drugs, although some seem to equate the two as being synonymous.

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Guy Chapman

No, Chris, when we say that supplements are not regulated, what we mean is that they are basically not regulated. The US market is worst: not only do vendors not have to prove their products are safe, the FDA actually has to prove they are harmful in order to get them controlled – and then they just slightly reformulate them and start right back up.

Herbs have potential toxicity, supplements have potential toxicity, quack remedies sold as supplements have potential toxicity. Simply slapping a “natural” badge on it does not change anything.

There have been substantial harms documented due to supplements such as aristolchia, DMAA, black walnut. The last was found as an undeclared ingredient in random testing of supplements – a test which found that of 12 companies whose products were sampled, only two were authentic.

A study of 131 herbal teas revealed only 58% of products could be authenticated, and 33% were contaminated.

A study of 40 “black cohosh” supplements noted that 25% were substituted with related species.

Half of the ginseng products examined in one study contained other forms of ginseng than the labelled Panax ginseng.

A 2005 survey of 230 Ayurvedic medicines found that 20% were contaminated with heavy metals such as lead, mercury and arsenic.

I support a completely level playing field: every claim held to the same standards, every medicinal product required to demonstrate safety and efficacy. Don’t you think that’s a good idea? Big Herba has the money, they just spend it on marketing instead of science.

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chrisb1

You have highlighted some issues of contamination with some supplements, but these are isolated cases and not widespread.

I refer to my earlier post which points out that the EU is currently in the process of regulating supplements, and in the United States where supplement manufacturers have to comply with GMP’s (Good Manufacturing Practices) and Laboratories must also demonstrate analytical proficiency, and held to account if this is not the case.

I also support a completely level playing field: so every claim should hold to the same standards, and every medicinal product required to demonstrate safety and efficacy, and a good idea of course.

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Guy Chapman

So you say. But then a test of a decent sized random sample found that the vast majority did not contain what they said n the label.

Of course, if they were regulated like real medicinal products, we’d know, we’d have full assays available, and licenses would be withdrawn for failure to comply.

I know, level playing field, crazy talk. Much better to let the supplement industry do what it likes, it makes a lot more profit for its shareholders in the senate that way.

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chrisb1

So where exactly do we find these “independent peer-reviewed reports” Malcolm? and by whom?

Pharmaceutical studies are peer-reviewed by Doctors and scientists who are usually in their employ or sphere of influence, and Nutraceuticals/supplements at Universities and Medical Centers.

So, for example, can we trust peer-reviews or pharmaceutical studies given the following………

Medical Journals Are an Extension of the Marketing Arm of Pharmaceutical Companies…………
http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.0020138

Evidence on peer review—scientific quality control or smokescreen?
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1114539/

Studies in Nutrition and Nutraceuticals are, to the best of my knowledge, conducted by Independent Universities, and Medical centers associated with Universities around the World, such as the VA Boston Healthcare System in Massachusetts……………
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131107103538.htm

Personally, I’d be more inclined to believe studies on Nutrition/Nutraceuticals than Pharmaceuticals, because in the latter case, this industry is subject to bias and motivated by profit, which the “All Trials Initiative” is attempting to address.

Please bear in mind that their is little profit margin with Nutraceuticals/Nutritional supplements when compared with Pharmaceuticals and the latest patented block-buster drug.

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Guy Chapman

The supplement market is a multi-billion dollar market, and the money it spends on lobbying and advertising, it can afford because it spends practically nothing on research.

The idea of “big pharma” versus “little farmer” is cute, but wrong.

Check the sources in this blog post re research numbers. http://www.skepticnorth.com/2011/02/bankers-buyouts-billionaires-why-big-herba%E2%80%99s-research-deficit-isn%E2%80%99t-about-the-money/

I have no idea why vendors of “alternative” products get a completely free pass on conflicts of interest from those who rail against them in medicine.

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chrisb1

It is true of course that the supplement market is a multi-billion dollar global market, and in terms of %, they spend much less on R&D when compared to Pharmaceuticals and with good reason.

Nutritional research is mostly being done by Universities around the World, so we already know the benefits of the Vitamin B Complex or Vitamin A or any other type of Vitamin or Mineral: this is ongoing research by academic institutes in the role played by individual nutrients in human health or combinations of the same.
One example would be Astaxanthin, (a carotenoid phytochemical found in plants) where research has been conducted by the School of Food Science, Washington State University,
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20205737

Annual sales of Pharmaceuticals are approx’ $430 billion, whereas the annual sales of Supplements amount to approx’ $38 billion, but the % of cost of R&D of the latter could and probably should be higher, so in that regard I would agree with you.

R&D costs of Pharmaceuticals probably need to be higher anyway, because of the risk of toxicity and potential harm, whereas the risk of toxicity and potential harm from supplements is far lower, and which have a history of safety and efficacy of use in comparison.

This is not to say that the Supplement Industry do not behave in the same way as the Pharmaceutical Industry, where the profit motive seems to take a leading role, and if so, both should be brought to account.

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Guy Chapman

What the supplement industry mainly does is leave cranks to make inflated claims for supplements, and then advertise them on an availability basis.

The “history of safety and efficacy” assumes that safety and efficacy are proven. In fact, neither is the case. As I pointed out before, a study found that only 2 of 12 manufacturers of herbal supplements were shipping what was advertised on the label, many products contained none of the supposed ingredient at all, others were adulterated with products that have known side effects or cause withdrawal symptoms when stopped. DMAA and aristolchia have caused fatalities, there is evidence of heavy metal contamination in ayurvedic products and so on.

There is no credible rationale at all for failing to apply a similar standard to all medicinal products. Herbal remedies are medicinal products, yet they can be sold without evidence of either safety or efficacy, quite legally; usually the medicinal claims are made at arms-length via crank websites often run by people who have highly lucrative supplement sales businesses (Mercola and Adams, for example).

I do not believe that slapping a “natural” label on something earns it a free pass from scrutiny. I think it’s fine for science to test any medicinal claim. Any claim supported primarily by vested interests, which applies to drugs and supplements equally, should be subject to the strongest scrutiny, and science originating wholly within that culture should be checked independently wherever possible.

That’s how we know Vioxx is dangerous and goji is a waste of money. I am happy to know these things.

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chrisb1

If the supplement industry mainly use cranks to make inflated claims for supplements or superfoods then Professor Robert Thomas, a consultant oncologist at both Bedford Hospital and Addenbrooke’s, part of Cambridge University Hospital must be a crank then?

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chrisb1

Goji berries a waste of money!!

Here’s a sampling to be getting on with……………………

An RCT no less………….
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18447631

RESULTS: Significant differences between day 1 and day 15 were found in the GoChi group (N = 16) in increased ratings for energy level, athletic performance, quality of sleep, ease of awakening, ability to focus on activities, mental acuity, calmness, and feelings of health, contentment, and happiness. GoChi also significantly reduced fatigue and stress, and improved regularity of gastrointestinal function. In contrast, the placebo group (N = 18) showed only two significant changes (heartburn and happiness). No significant changes in musculoskeletal or cardiovascular complaints were observed in either group. All parametric data (body weight, etc.) were not significantly different between groups or between day 1 and day 15 for either group.
CONCLUSIONS:
These results clearly indicate that daily consumption of GoChi for 14 days increases subjective feelings of general well-being, and improves neurologic/psychologic performance and gastrointestinal functions. The data strongly suggest that further research is indicated to confirm and extend knowledge of the potential effects of Lycium barbarum upon human health.

Scientific Research on Goji–“lycium barbarum”
http://www.gojitrees.com/RichNatureCerts/Research%20and%20References%20on%20Goji%20Science.pdf

Studies Involving Goji Berries…………….
http://www.gojijuices.net/gojijuiceresearch.html

More studies………….

Amagase H, Nance DM. “A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical study of the general effects of a standardized Lycium barbarum (Goji) Juice, GoChi.” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2008;14:403-412.

Chang RC, So KF. “Use of Anti-aging Herbal Medicine, Lycium barbarum, Against Aging-associated Diseases. What Do We Know So Far?” Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology. 2008;28(5):643-52.

Ho YS, Yu MS, Lai CS, et al. “Characterizing the neuroprotective effects of alkaline extract of Lycium barbarum on beta-amyloid peptide neurotoxicity.” Brain Research. 2007;1158:123-134.

Li XM, Ma YL, Liu XJ. “Effect of the Lycium barbarum polysaccharides on age-related oxidative stress in aged mice.” Ethnopharmacology. 2007;111:504-511.

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Guy Chapman

I think we’re unlikely to approach the level of clarity about this issue exhibited in this ABC TV show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fPGnBkH3fBg&feature=youtube_gdata_player

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chrisb1

Love the white coat in the youtube video: it gives the speaker an air of authority that would probably be absent if she was in plain clothes.

Superfoods?

This depends on what is meant by that term, but here’s one example on Spirulina and the science that supports its ingestion………….
http://www.superfoods-scientific-research.com/green-foods/spirulina-joins-cancer-fight.html
http://www.superfoods-scientific-research.com/green-foods/spirulina-helps-boost-immunity.html
http://www.superfoods-scientific-research.com/green-foods/spirulina-therapeutic-properties.html

Pomegranate, green tea, turmeric and broccoli……………..
UK scientists show super foods proven to beat prostate cancer.
http://www.cuh.org.uk/cms/news/cancer-services/uk-scientists-show-super-foods-proven-beat-prostate-cancer

Ranked as one of “America’s Best Hospitals” in cancer by U.S.News & World Report………

Mushrooms may slow the growth of breast cancer, blueberries could slow down the spread of cancer and grape seed extract might starve cancer cells.
http://nationalevents.cityofhope.org/site/PageServer?pagename=walk_super_foods

A Harvard School of Public Health study published in the January 2013 issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, finds that three or more servings of blueberries and strawberries per week may slash a woman’s risk of heart attack by as much as 33%. Researchers attributed benefits to the berries’ high anthocyanin content, which may help dilate arteries, counter the buildup of plaque and provide other cardiovascular benefits.
http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/127/2/188.full
http://www.wildblueberries.com/health/research.php

Just a sampling of current scientific research into the health-benefits of “superfoods”.

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Guy Chapman

What, a website devoted to promoting superfoods claims there’s loads of evidence supporting superfoods? Who predicted that?

Leaving aside for a moment your pathological skepticism towards evidence conflicting with your worldview, goji is under serious scrutiny for the marketing claims made (see sections in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goji), “miracle” antioxidant source acai contains less antioxidants than many much cheaper products (see sections in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A%C3%A7a%C3%AD_palm) and so on.

If you always believe websites promoting “miracle” supplements you will of course only ever hear that they are “miraculous”. The question is, why do the commercial interests promoting these products get a free pass when in any medical intervention, the taint of commercial interests is a trigger for pathological skepticism?

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chrisb1

It is more than likely that you are looking at the wrong websites Guy; they are not promoting superfoods, just examining the science behind them.

Unless of course you think that Professor Robert Thomas, a consultant oncologist at both Bedford Hospital and Addenbrooke’s, part of Cambridge University Hospitals is marketing them himself?

The other links with research provided by Cityofhope are ranked as one of “America’s Best Hospitals” in cancer by U.S.News & World Report.

Must try harder.

Thank you.

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Guy Chapman

Your view of the “right” websites to use for reference is radically different from mine. Oddly, mine seem to have more references to equivocal and disconfirming studies and information, and this applies across the board (medicine and alternatives).

“Must try harder” to believe the claims of salesmen, unsupported by scientific consensus? No, I don’t thinks so, thanks all the same.

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chrisb1

Guy,
The website for Cityofhope is ranked as one of “America’s Best Hospitals” in cancer by U.S.News & World Report, and Professor Robert Thomas, is a consultant oncologist at both Bedford Hospital and Addenbrooke’s, part of Cambridge University Hospitals.

So by your own definition, these are salespeople for “miracle foods”?

Your logic leaves much to be desired.

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chrisb1

Part of Lisa Barbers comments for WHICH include…..

“The only people who need to take a supplement (unless it’s been prescribed by a doctor) should be women trying to conceive and in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy (folic acid), children between six months and five years (multivitamin containing vitamins A, C and D), and the over 65s (vitamin D)”.

In response to this I would say that Doctors such as GP’s know very little about nutrition as they receive but scant training in nutrition or the nutritional sciences.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/8572874.stm

However, it would be correct to state that supplements would be needed by those groups she has mentioned, but it is comments such as this that ignore the actual science and research that has recently been conducted….

A new study in the British Journal of Nutrition reveals that despite the wide range of foods now available, many developed countries including: Germany, The Netherlands, The UK, and The USA, suffer from “widespread” vitamin inadequacies throughout the entire population rather than in just certain population groups.
The analysis revealed that three-quarters of the population in Germany, the UK and the USA, do not meet the dietary intake recommendations of the respective countries for a number of essential micronutrients.
http://www.nutraingredients.com/Research/DSM-research-reveals-inadequate-vitamin-intake-in-Europe-and-USA

Evidence increasingly suggests that vitamin and mineral deficiencies are widespread in the European Union. A recent report, for example, suggests that up to 3.6 million people in the UK now suffer from malnutrition. As a result, according to the British Association for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, malnutrition currently costs the UK’s National Health Service more than £7.3bn (€10.8bn / US $14.8bn) a year.
http://web.archive.org/web/20090108092648/http://news.independent.co.uk/health/article2516769.ece

With other estimates suggesting that up to 6 per cent of the UK population could be suffering from serious vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and UK hospital figures showing malnutrition to be found in all age groups, including newborn babies, one has to question the wisdom of an upcoming proposal from the European Commission – the European Union’s executive body – that threatens to ban thousands of vitamin and mineral supplements from being sold in Europe.

This also begs the question as to why only the “over 65′s” are an “at risk” group warranting the need for Vitamin D supplements, when the evidence and the research states other wise.

A report issued by the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) and published in the scientific journal Osteoporosis International, shows that populations across the globe are suffering from the impact of low levels of vitamin D. The problem is widespread and on the increase, with potentially severe repercussions for overall health and fracture rates.
A. Mithal, D.A. Wahl, J-P. Bonjour et al. Global vitamin D status and determinants of hypovitaminosis D. Osteoporosis International,
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090630143523.htm

Vitamin D could also save more than 10,000 Canadian lives annually……………..
http://www.vitamindwiki.com/tiki-index.php?page_id=105

WHICH’s investigation has also revealed: “Over the past five years, all health claims made on products such as food, drink and supplements have had to be submitted to the EU’s European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Of 44,000 claims made, only 248 have been approved”.

But if WHICH had delved into this a little more deeply they would have discovered that……

“Why have so many health claims been rejected by EFSA?

It was widely understood that to get an ingredient onto the ‘positive list’, manufacturers
would have to go through a very time consuming and costly process for them to prove
that each nutrient was safe. This might have cost more than £250,000 per ingredient.
With many innovative, supplements containing sometimes upwards of 30 ingredients
each, this burden upon many manufacturers, typically being small companies, would
effectively lead to them being put out of business. This would be the case even if the
products included natural sources of vitamins and minerals that had been part of the
human diet for thousands of years.

There are many reasons why EFSA’s rejection rate for general function health claims has been so high, but the single most important one relates to the specific form of scientific substantiation employed by EFSA in its evaluation of claims. The Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation itself defines a health claim as “any claim that states, suggests or implies that a relationship exists between a food category, a food or one of its constituents and health”, requiring that the relationship is supported by “generally accepted scientific data”. However, in its interpretation of this, EFSA requires that an unequivocal causal relationship between consumption and the claimed effect has been demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt. This level of scientific certainty is simply not possible in the greater part of the field of nutritional science. The sheer complexity of human physiological and metabolic interactions with our food, genetic variations between individuals, variability in the chemical composition of foods, along with the relatively low investment in research, mean nutritional science is far from being black and white.
Making matters worse, since the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation exists within the realm of food law and not medicines law, EFSA has seen fit to require only human studies on healthy populations to substantiate beneficial relationships. Of this, only clinical (intervention) studies are accepted in their own right, with observational and epidemiological studies only being allowed as supporting data. Animal studies or biochemical evidence are also of little value in the EFSA evaluation process.
This system of evaluation, based largely on a pharmaceutical model for proof of efficacy, is the very system that was used in EFSA’s initial evaluation of some 1500 health claims concerning botanicals. The result was a staggering 97% rejection rate. This for foods from plants that are the primary foods of human beings! It beggars belief that the ‘experts’ employed by EFSA seem to continue on the same track, seemingly in ignorance of the fact that nutritional science is a rapidly growing and dynamic discipline that doesn’t fare well in the black and white space of European regulation. To have an extremely high threshold for scientific substantiation, whereby a health relationship has to have been proven in healthy people via clinical trials, is a very tall and costly order. Even the relationships between table salt intake and hypertension risk, or the lowering of cancer and heart disease risk through the consumption of more fruit and vegetables, aren’t proven in this way. These relationships are demonstrated through epidemiological and observational studies, not clinical ones. An enormous number of studies have also been undertaken on unhealthy populations because those who have had an interest in funding the studies have often been moved to demonstrate the importance of particular foods or nutrients in correcting pre-existing health conditions. All of these studies are, however, out of bounds from the EFSA evaluation process.

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Guy Chapman

Chris, this is a mess of special pleading. Doctors (and especially the dieticians to whom they refer people with complex dietary issues) know massively more about human health than the average vitamin peddler, and have no vested interest in one form of treatment over another: they get paid according to the people they treat, no the way they treat them.

The basis of the claims that science “doesn’t understand” this or that magic supplement basically comes down to the fact that science doesn’t accept as gospel the views of its proponents.

The rules in place are if anything too weak, and they are routinely ignored by the supplement industry. I have a very hard time accepting the assertions of those whose advertisements lack credible evidence, that they should be allowed ot use a weaker standard of evidence because Natural.

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Mel

Guy, it looks as if you haven’t understood the previous post by ‘Chris’. Not a ‘mess of special pleading’ at al, but carefully and clearly set out. As a professional scientist, I find his arguments, and the manner in which evidence is cited in support, detailed, interesting, thought-provoking and worthy of follow-up.

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chrisb1

Thank you Mel, that is very encouraging.

As Mel has mentioned Guy, this is most definitely not a “mess of special pleading”.

I have become accustomed to your generalized sweeping statements that avoid the crux of the issues at hand, but then it would seem you resort to any measure or argument not to accept the evidence I have presented. I will leave others to arrive at their own conclusions as to why this is the case.

Further, I would say that although Dietitians are highly qualified in dietetics and nutrition, I have reservations about some of their advice (and therefore credibility) when, (for example) they recommend junk confectionery laden with white sugar to cancer patients at the Royal Marsden Hospital, in the mistaken belief that this will “give them energy”.
Whether Dietitians know more about nutrition and how this affects human health is debatable when compared with other qualified nutritionists, such as those who advocate disease-reversing plant-based diets such as: Dr C B Esseltyn MD http://www.heartattackproof.com/ ;
Dr Joel Fuhrman MD http://www.drfuhrman.com/disease/default.aspx ; Professor TC Campbell http://www.thechinastudy.com/the-china-study/praise/ ; Dr Dean Ornish MD, whose way of eating was rated #1 for heart health by U.S. News & World Report in 2011 and 2012.
Not a Dietitian anywhere in sight.

The “Vitamin peddlers” that you refer to, usually have science on their side and manufacture supplements based on that evidence. This fills a perceived need in nutritional therapeutics, such as with nutraceuticals, not obtainable from what you and they refer to as a “balanced diet”.
http://news.cision.com/the-investor-relations-group/r/standard-american-diet-inadequate-to-maintain-health–say-experts,c9218671 ; and more.

Your comment……….

“The basis of the claims that science “doesn’t understand” this or that magic supplement basically comes down to the fact that science doesn’t accept as gospel the views of its proponents”.

Science does in fact understand the wealth of nutrition concerning human health, but it is still in its infancy. Your use of the term “magic supplement” speaks volumes on your opinion here, and it is only “opinion”, as there is no such thing.

The supplement industry is not perfect Guy, but they are at the “cutting edge” of research into how these are of huge benefit for health and the treatment of disease; such as with non-toxic nutraceuticals and botanicals which offer a viable alternative to toxic dose-dependent pharmaceuticals, and where the latter companies perceive them as “competition”, and strive to have them suppressed to non-therapeutic levels of use, in the interests of monetary gain.

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chrisb1

Guy,
almost 60% of experts sitting on the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) panels have direct or indirect links with industries regulated by the agency, according to an independent screening performed by Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) and freelance journalist Stéphane Horel. The report “Unhappy Meal. The European Food Safety Authority’s independence problem”identifies major loopholes in EFSA’s independence policy and finds that EFSA’s new rules for assessing its experts, implemented in 2012 after several conflicts of interest scandals, have failed to improve the situation.

Many are now of the opinion that this is the sole reason that the system of scientific evaluation on the health-claims of food products and supplements, has been based on a pharmaceutical model for proof of efficacy, rather than including other scientific sources of efficacy, so that many health-claims would not be permitted.

Operating outside the basic principles of freedom and democracy, the Brussels EU seems to have become a dictatorship. Neither the 27 ‘Commissars’ making up the European Commission, the executive level of the Brussels EU – nor even the Brussels EU President, Herman van Rompuy – have been elected by the people. Instead, the power of the people to determine their government has effectively been transferred to corporate interests. The control of EFSA’s panels by representatives of the very industries it claims to be regulating is a classic example of this.

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Dave,Newcastle

chrisb 1, can you explain how is it that having had until recently a socialist government in power for 13 years in the UK the then Department of Health did not make available on prescription a wide selection of vitamins and supplements if they have health benefits proven beyond reasonable doubt? It would appear from your contributions that the socialists missed a great opportunity to make considerable improvements in the health of the nation. This seems at odds with socialist philosophy.

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chrisb1

Not too sure as to your reasoning here Dave as politics has little to do with health, and whoever is in power.
Government ministers take the advice of civil servants who support and a part of the status quo, and in health matters the Chief Medical Officer, affiliated to Mainstream medicine.

Nutrition is an emerging and growing Science still in its relative infancy, but has to compete with established pharmaceuticals and pharmaceutical-therapy (a mainstay of Modern Medicine). In fact the entire system of Medicine revolves around pharmaceuticals and their treatment of disease.
Nutrition and Nutraceuticals in particular are perceived by the pharmaceutical companies as competition, resulting in the proposed and implemented draconian measures by EFSA in restricting the MPUL’s (maximum permitted upper levels) of nutrient-supplements to non-therapeutic low-dose levels.
This is being done on the alleged grounds of “safety”, when in comparison to prescribed medications, they have an outstanding safety record already.

My MEP has also communicated to me personally, that the lobbying efforts by the pharmaceutical companies within the EU (and elsewhere) are extremely influential and powerful in having his fellow MEP’s to act and vote in their favour.
http://www.aefjn.org/index.php/358/articles/id-1the-influence-of-pharmaceutical-corporations-in-health-policies.html
http://healthandpharma.awardspace.com/Week%201%20Readings/Abrahamson%20The%20Pharma%20Industry.pdf

In addition, a friend of mine who was a long-standing senior manager in my local Primary Care Trust, has openly admitted that the drug companies possess a great deal of power and influence in health matters and Medicine generally, so they are unlikely to endorse or support therapies that act as competition to their wares.
http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/apr/05/drug-companies-pay-doctors-40m

The Labour Party, although in power for 13 years or so under Tony Blair, actually endorsed the status quo in medicine of pharmaceutical influence, so whichever political party has been in power, it makes little if any difference to established medicine and how disease and health are treated.

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Matthew

It would be nice if Lisa Barber made some responses.

Is there going to be a sequel Lisa?

Do drugs really work? Are drugs really worth the money?

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