Supplements – Where is the Line Drawn, Exactly?

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Supplements have steadily become a convenient, quick, and, quite literally, an easy to swallow addition to the regular method of acquiring nutrients the old-fashioned way. But for how long can we rely on them until we discover the ugly truth?

Before we dive into the potentially dangerous implications that the supplement industry has become associated with, we first need to understand exactly how and why are supplements allowed on the free market if they indeed hold potentially health-endangering qualities in their chemical composition. And the answer always lies with their manufacturer.

Due to the fact that health supplements are not officially marketed or produced as sustainable medication or valid treatment for any illness, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is therefore not authorized to review, or subsequently recall, a supplement based on its chemical make-up and/or any potentially endangering qualities it might possess for the human body. As such, it can only issue out recommendations, warnings, and public health and safety announcements, with it being up to the supplement’s consumers if they want to follow the professional advice or not.

The only case in which the FDA is allowed to directly intervene is if a dietary supplement becomes associated with a severe health problem. In that scenario, the supplement’s manufacturer is forced to report the incident as an adverse effect, which can result in the product’s shelf-life being terminated on the grounds of false advertising and general misconduct.

Where exactly do supplements transition from helpful to harmful?

At their core, dietary supplements are meant to be exactly what their name suggests – products that supplement your natural intake of minerals, vitamins, and amino-acids through easy ingestion and timely, organic effect. Supplements are NOT meant to miraculously fix any bodily irregularities just through their simple consumption, as they are often advertised, and this is exactly where health-related problems start to surface.

Because of their characterization as ‘non-medication additives’, supplement manufacturers have a lot of room to manoeuvre around being transparent with the wide range of serious side effects their product could have.

Through manipulation of test results, adverse effects can be minimized to mild symptoms such as ‘drowsiness’ and ‘thirstiness’, when in reality the supplement could be the cause of insomnia or severe dehydration. Moreover, by employing targeted marketing strategies, companies can play on people’s drives, insecurities, or appeal directly to their susceptibility to what appears to be an easy and consequence-free answer to their problems.

Through these practices, people are led to believe that, instead of taking a supplement approved by their physician or a dietician, alongside their healthy diet of macro and micro nutrients, they should instead consume a significant number of branded dietary supplements, that will fix any health problem if taken regularly, seeing as they are ‘more efficient than *insert branded medication here*’ or have ‘guaranteed 24-hour effect’.

How and what makes dietary supplements dangerous?

Two stark examples of dietary supplements that can quite easily endanger your health are ones containing Cesium Chloride and Testosterone. The FDA has previously issued numerous warnings regarding the ethicality and safety of supplementary capsules which encompass these two chemical compounds.

Supplements containing Cesium Chloride are generally used as alternative medication to various types of cancer, due to its proven radioactive

nature and purpose in cancer radiotherapy. However, there is no concrete medical proof that attests the ingestion of cesium-filled medication or supplements as a valid alternative to cancer treatment.

Yet extensive studies have shown that it holds severe health consequences for the human body if it is ingested in large quantities. Some of them may include:

  • Low Potassium
  • Cardiac Arrest
  • Asthma 

Testosterone supplements are used for a variety of hormone-related issues, including hypogonadism, certain manifestations of breast cancer, as well as for treating gender dysphoria. While testosterone treatment is known to potentially cause severe side effects such as behavioural shifts or liver toxicity, which are not resulted from over-exposure to the supplement, one side effect that consistently stands out is its preponderance to cause deep-veined blood clots that arise six months after treatment has started.

These are caused due to the treatment’s increase in the number of red blood cells that are being produced, making the blood become thicker, therefore causing it to circulate slower through the veins, which eventually leads to the hazardous presence of the blood clot. Because of this factor, individuals who undergo testosterone treatment require consistent monitoring for the effect it can have on their blood circulation, and they should never appeal to said hormone supplementation without having consulted a knowledgeable physician beforehand.

What are your options if you have suffered a supplement-related injury?

In the case that either you, or a loved one, has been a victim of deceiving or outright harmful advertising used by a manufacturer for their product, you are entitled to receive a number of compensations, especially moral and financial, for suffering the collateral damage of improper research and a marketing strategy lacking completely in morality and ethicality.

In the field of personal injury law, there are a vast number of lawyers and attorneys who have dedicated their educational and professional experience to the legal representation of countless individuals who have been placed in a situation such as this one. A drug injury attorney is able to clarify exactly what side effects are considered reimbursable by law and by FDA-approved claims of adversity, and exactly when are supplement manufacturers in violation of the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) they are obligated to adhere to so as to prove the goodwill and safety of their product.

How do I moderate my supplement intake?

In truth, we all need to watch what we ingest and bring into our bodies, whether that is a supplement, a dietary recommendation, or simply a class of food that we greatly enjoy. It all comes down to how we can moderate our intake of nutrients, and how to know when a supplement approved by a physician becomes the right choice for us.

Seeing as the manufacturer of our over-the counter supplementary product is not even remotely concerned for our health in the long run, it is our responsibility to be concerned for ourselves, as well as for our peers and loved ones. In the end, it’s never about the customer’s well-being and the guarantee of a qualitative product.

The pill or capsule that people are actively using, and are quite possibly being negatively affected by, is just one of the many marketing tools that the supplement industry employs for profit. We therefore have to learn how to treat the supplement as the product we are consuming, not the product consuming us.

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