2011 is the Year That Could Change Everything…

Here’s another thought provoking e-mail I recieved this week.

“The crack-down on supplements and alternative medicine is not just a concern for those of us living in the UK and Europe.

Our regular readers will know that come April this year, with new laws and regulations being passed in the European Union (EU), things will change drastically for the supplement and alternative health industry.

Across the pond, in the US, matters aren’t looking any better… I recently stumbled across an article ‘2010: The Year in Preposterous Health Claims’. So did the article expose Big Pharma’s lead role in making bogus health claims? (Avandia immediately springs to mind).

If only! I can’t say I was in the least bit surprised to find the entire article slamming supplements and alternative remedies… once again.

Under the guise of protection

Armed with the tagline “Protecting America’s Consumers,” it is the US Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) job to help ferret out deceptive marketing claims. FTC employees sift through popular magazines in search of bogus ads. They also receive complaints from competitors, consumers and the US Congress all in an effort to stop unethical advertising practices.

Sounds great in theory, but the problem is that government agencies like the US FTC and the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) appear to have a hidden agenda… One that is geared to bringing the alternative health industry to it’s knees… all under the guise of so-called ‘consumer protection’.

Here’s just one of the alleged ‘overblown product health claims’ the FTC and US government put an end to in 2010…

Omega 3 has no brain and vision benefits: In February, the FTC sent a warning letter to 11 different companies selling omega-3 fatty acid supplements, telling them to review their advertising to ensure that any health-related claims (that is, any claim that omega-3 can improve or support brain or vision function, intelligence, cognitive function, learning, mood, memory or attention, among other abilities) are backed by “reliable scientific evidence.”

Perhaps the pen-pushers at the FTC failed to find the 2007 Harvard study, the 2008 French and Israeli Enzymotec studies, the 2008 University of Los Angeles California (UCLA) study or the 2005 University of Arizona study proving all the above benefits of omega- 3.

Neither did they pay any lip service to the fact that the American Heart Association (AHA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) both support the addition of Omega-3 fatty acids to the diet, citing their importance in maintaining good health.

Toward the middle of 2010, the FTC submitted a statement to the US Senate summing up its campaign against spurious health claims by makers of dietary supplements. The agency noted the growing size of the supplement industry — estimated at $25 billion in 2009, according to the Nutrition Business Journal — and detailed its coordination with other agencies like the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (In terms of jurisdiction, the FTC primarily watches advertising, while the FDA concentrates on labelling, but the two often work together… in much the same way that the ASA and the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) work in cahoots.)

Mary Engle, the FTC’s director for advertising practices, explained that the FTC takes various kinds of consumer harm into account. Duped consumers not only blow money on bogus products, but they may also forgo legitimate treatments while suffering under the impression that a supplement is the magic bullet against their problems.

Now, if a misguided statement like the one submitted to the US Senate does not make it clear that supplements are the enemy and government agencies will fight them until they are completely wiped-out, I don’t know what more evidence we need to highlight how our freedom of health choices is under serious threat.

Study proves supplements do work

Last year, I told you about an Australian study, from the University of Western Sydney that showed that herbal preparations and omega-3s are effective treatments against an array of illnesses including osteoarthritis, heart disease and depression.

The findings of the study were published in a report, Cost effectiveness of complementary medicines, and found, amongst other things, that St John’s wort could be used effectively as an alternative treatment for ‘mild’ depression.

The report also shows that arthritis sufferers can hugely benefit from the osteoarthritis herbal blend, Phytodolor — a herbal anti-inflammatory and pain relieving medicine, for osteoarthritis.

Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oils — when used as an adjunctive treatment in people with a history of coronary heart disease — were found to reduce death and morbidity. These findings are consistent with previous international studies that have been conducted in this area.

Best yet, the study also found that these treatments could save Australia more than $220m every year!

This study is clear evidence that most complementary medicines are effective and can lower the high costs of modern healthcare by offering better disease prevention and effective management of chronic conditions… which ultimately, let’s face it, can pay off in more ways than one — keeping people healthy (with effective treatments) and able to work in an already over-stretched healthcare system.

Perhaps all these regulators like the European Commission, European Food Standards Agency (EFSA), the ASA, MHRA, FTC and FDA should stop trying every back-handed trick to stop alternative medicine and natural remedies from finding their rightful place in healthcare and start waking up to their real and proven benefits.

Whilst consumers may think they are being protected by stringent laws and regulations, they will soon find out that when something is a law it doesn’t necessarily make it right… unfortunately when this realisation dawns on us it will probably be too late… ”

Francois Lubbe
UK Editor, Health Sciences Institute.


‘Omega-3 Fatty Acids Protect Against Blindness, Study Says’ published online 24.07.07, science20.com

‘Study Finds Omega-3 Fatty Acids Help Decrease Postpartum Depression’ published online, epax.com/filestore/Postpartumdepressionpressrelease.pdf

Study Shows Omega-3 Fatty Acids Help Children with ADD, published online 31.07.2008, insidershealth.com

Scientists Learn How Food Affects The Brain: Omega 3 Especially Important, published online, 11.07.2008, sciencedaily.com

2010: The Year in Preposterous Health Claims, published online 29.12.10, healthland.time.com

‘Cost effectiveness of complementary medicines’ published by Access Economics Pty Limited for The National Institute of Complementary Medicine, August 2010, nicm.edu.au/images/stories/research/docs/cost_eff ectiveness_cm_ae_2010.pdf

‘Herbs, omega-3s can save millions in healthcare’ by Shane Starling, published online 15.09.10, nutraingredients.com