Natural Products Association Responds to Misinformed and Misleading Articles

November 9, 2007 Natural Products Association Responds to Misinformed and Misleading Articles in New York Times, Reader’s Digest Association Counters Negative Conclusions and Substantiates Safe and Effective Use of Supplements Recent articles in both the Reader’s Digest and New York Times unfairly and inaccurately depicted dietary supplements as either unregulated or unsafe. The Natural Products Association contacted both publications to set the record straight. In an article titled “the Vitamin Hoax — 10 Not to Take,” the November issue of Reader’s Digest took aim at the use of supplements as part of living a healthy lifestyle. The Natural Products Association’s executive director and CEO, David Seckman, in a letter to Reader’s Digest corrected many of the errors and underlying assumptions in the article. “While the story was full of inaccuracies, the cover was especially troubling because it may lead people who are safely and beneficially taking vitamins to stop, actually putting their health at greater risk,” Seckman said. “Proper nutrition continues to be a huge health challenge for America, with one of every four Americans (over 75 million, including children), not getting the recommended daily allowance of nutrition in their daily diets. Likewise, only 23 percent of Americans get the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables per day that they need. Sure, we all wish we could eat pyramid-perfect diets, but the reality is far different, and that’s where nutritional supplements play a very important role.” In challenging recent claims that antioxidant vitamins increase mortality, Seckman cited the fact that more than 160 million people in North America and Europe take antioxidants. “If a true mortality risk had become apparent in any of these clinical studies, those studies would have been halted,” Seckman said. “They were not. On the contrary, surveys show repeatedly that in general, people who use dietary supplements are healthier than those who don’t.” Additionally, Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs for the Natural Products Association, responded to a piece in the New York Times about the suspension of professional baseball player Mike Cameron that contained numerous inaccuracies about oversight and regulation in the natural products industry and fed into the misconception, fueled by athletes caught breaking the rules, that supplements are unregulated and contain banned substances. “For too long now, the dietary supplement industry has been the convenient scapegoat, No. 1 on the excuse list of a number of professional athletes who get caught taking banned substances, to the extent it is blatant,” said Fabricant. “Mr. Cameron’s confession is the latest, but follows a similar refrain: blame ‘tainted supplements’ in the abstract, but withhold the specific name of the product, manufacturer, label, or where the supplement was purchased. The bottom line here is that dietary supplements are regulated by the federal government and they are not permitted to contain banned substances, period.” Fabricant also had strong words regarding a Cornell University nutrition professor quoted in the article who claimed supplements were “unregulated” and contamination was common. “That is not only absurd, it is especially astonishing coming from an academic who should know better,” said Fabricant, and went on to cite specific examples. Editor’s Note: Since both letters are submitted to be published, the Natural Products Association cannot print them in their entirety pending notification by the publications. Updates will be posted on the NPA website when they are available to view and members will be notified. In the meantime, to get the facts about dietary supplements, including scientific citations and regulatory authority, go to www.NaturalProductsAssoc.org/supplementfacts.