I’ve posted many times about the problems with the multi-billion-dollar supplement industry, and there was a good Op-Ed piece on Live Science yesterday that supported my own opinion: These 5 Supplements Do Nothing For Alzheimer’s, Despite Claims
The article was co-written by two physicians, both geriatric (aging) specialists.
The Latin axiom “caveat emptor,” let the buyer beware, applies to people of all ages. But in our medical practices, we have witnessed the incredible dependence elderly patients have on herbal supplements to help them (in their minds, at least) prevent and manage chronic illness.
When we see patients, we ask them to bring along all their medications and supplements. Too often, we note that these seniors are taking up to 20 pills each day, but only a handful of these pills are actually prescribed drugs. Why are seniors spending so steeply on herbal supplements, often hundreds of dollars each month, despite living on limited budgets? For most, the main reason is fear — not just of becoming ill, but of losing their minds.
Remember that supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. For the most part, the manufacturers do not need to prove that their products work, nor do they need to ensure their products actually contain the herb or vitamin or enzyme you think you are buying.
Related post: The Quack Miranda Warning
According to the article, the worst offenders are:
- Ginko biloba
- Coconut oil
- Coenzyme Q10
- Coral Calcium
Read the original article for links to the research on each supplement, but basically none has reliable scientific evidence supporting its claims to prevent or slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s/dementia.
Bottom line: Save your money.
The authors also make the point that elderly patients are often taking several prescription medications. There is a real risk of harm due to drug interactions when adding supplements, especially if the supplement contains unknown ingredients.
It’s one thing to lure consumers into buying dietary supplements with false promises of preventing or managing illness. It’s quite another to include ingredients in these supplements that aren’t even listed on the labels.
Because seniors often take multiple prescribed medications for chronic conditions, they are most prone to dangerous drug interactions with, and allergies to, these unmentioned ingredients in supplements.
Related post: What’s in your supplement?
Bottom line: Save money and protect your health.