Millions of Americans go to the drugstore to buy over-the-counter dietary supplements to maintain a healthy lifestyle. People buy these products without a second thought on what the pills contain and their effects because supplements are supposedly beneficial. However, reported adverse reactions to these concoctions rising. According to the FDA, the Federal Drug Administration, a dietary supplement is defined as, “…a product intended for ingestion that contains a ‘dietary ingredient’ intended to add further nutritional value to the diet” (2015). These items include herbs, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and concentrates. Previously, these supplements were required to be inspected by the FDA, America’s Federal Drug Administration, before being sold to consumers for safety concerns. Recently, this precaution was eliminated. In the Administrative Law Review, Lauren J. Sloane writes about the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 that Congress passed. This act redefined the word dietary supplements, classifying them as a food (Sloane, 1999). This means that a drug does not need the FDA’s approval before being sold. To what extent does this new act impact the American public? These unregulated dietary supplements are being administered to the public having been proven to sometimes contain health risks, long-term illnesses, or no benefits.
All of these health issues from unregulated dietary supplements, including increased risk of cancer and death, impact the future population of America. According to the U.S News Ebook, How to Live to 100, “…Vitamin E increased the chance of prostate cancer…and selenium seemed to do the same to diabetes risk.” They also wrote about recent research on multivitamins, “Over the 22-year course of the Iowa Women’s Health Study, supplemental vitamin B6, folic acid, iron, magnesium, and zinc were associated with a slightly higher risk of premature death, copper to an 18 percent increased risk” (2012). Not only did the extra minerals not accomplish their desired task, they actually caused more health detriments – increasing the user’s chance of death, diabetes, and cancer- this raises serious concern. The study shows the future effects of dietary supplements. If people start using these vitamins today, in the long-term, they might develop these health issues. The more people in a country with these issues, the higher health care rates rise.
The case of the Baltimore Oriole’s pitcher serves as a precursor for the future. An ignored drug, like ephedra, put into mass production, can cause another health scare. Once a dietary supplement is sold, it is almost impossible to stop the spread. Therefore, if Americans start taking a certain drug now, that is found to be harmful years later, it will be too late to undo all of the damage from the dietary supplement.
Unregulated dietary supplements are considered an essential part of every-day life nowadays for Americans concerned about their health. Unfortunately, the producers can claim that their product will help with people’s health desires without it being tested or proven to do so. This makes new, controversial drugs become trends before people can tell if they cause health risks in the future. The end goal is to have the FDA regulate all dietary supplements and have more information on labels. However, this is a long process. Fortunately, the consumer can take action right now. According to Harvard Health Publishing, one viable solution to stop the production of harmful supplements is to contact your local representative to fight for clinical studies (performed by the FDA instead of the producer) on all new supplement ingredients (2012). Finally, anytime that you know or experience an adverse effect from an unregulated dietary supplement, “Stop using the product, contact your healthcare provider, contact a consumer complaint coordinator, and file a safety report through the Safety Reporting Portal” (2017). The FDA should begin strict regulation on unregulated supplements before they cause more deaths, cancer, and other adverse effects.
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