Dietary Supplements—A Poorly Regulated Danger

In a CNN Opinion piece, David S. Seres, MD, emphasizes the need for scientific evaluation of

dietary supplements. In addition to vitamins and herbs, says Dr. Seres, supplements can include hormones and other pharmacologically active ingredients that can alter the efficacy and safety of medications and affect the body's physiologic functions.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the passage of one of the most skillful pieces of legislation ever to undermine the health of Americans: The Dietary Supplement Health and Educational Act of 1994. The result was to remove from regulation by the Food and Drug Administration any substances labeled as a dietary supplement.

Supplement companies claim that FDA regulation would unfairly deprive the public of access to potentially beneficial substances. Dr. Seres says the companies cite inappropriate data to support their claims and dismiss any evidence to the contrary. Yet most people—scientists and nonscientists alike—are unaware of the weaknesses in the scientific data on supplements.

It is time, says Dr. Seres, to reassess the regulation of dietary supplements, consider our priorities in how funding is granted for nutrition research, reeducate nutrition experts as well as the public, and be honest about our inability to offer definitive, safe, and effective nutritional recommendations.

Dr. Seres is an associate professor of medicine at the Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University Medical Center. He is also a Public Voice Fellow with the Op-Ed Project. Read the full CNN Opinion piece here.