Don't Trust the Labels: Be an Informed Consumer Uses the argument that nutritional supplements should undergo testing by the FDA, like any other drug, before they are put on the market.

Essay by hotlittlenumberCollege, UndergraduateA+, December 2003

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Don't Trust the Labels:

Be an Informed Consumer

Back in the 1800s, snake oil salesmen stood on street corners and peddled their medications and ointments, made from a wide array of impractical, and sometimes toxic, substances. People bought them, believing them to be miracle cures for ailments such as arthritis and meningitis. People bought into the hype without realizing that there was no basis to the "amazing" claims made by these charlatans. Times have not changed. According to Amanda Spake, nearly half of all Americans take, or have taken, some type of "performance enhancing" dietary supplement. American consumers spent nearly 31 billion dollars in 1999 on dietary supplements. "The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has over 2,900 adverse event reports about ephedrine, ginkgo, St John's wort, ginseng, and thousands of other supplements; these include 104 deaths. For every adverse event in its files, the FDA estimates that 100 more go unreported."


As the Wizard of Oz once said, "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain." Unfortunately, many people do just that. They focus on television and magazine testimonials and they ignore, or just don't seek out, any type of rebuttal to the product's claims. If a person is willing to put stock in testimonials, they might want to start by reading the stories of the people shown below.

Sara Sullivan's heart was racing so fast that she thought she was going to die. She had been taking ephedra based diet pills. Even though the product label warned against use of the product by people with cardiac conditions, Sara's physician had given her permission to use the product because Sara's heart condition had been surgically corrected and she had remained symptom free for the last five years. The ephedra caused a recurrence which has sent her back to...