It's a new year, and with a new president poised to take office, change is afoot. During this time of fresh energy, one established industry I plan to keep an eye on involves dietary supplements (think vitamins, minerals, and herbs).
The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), established in 1994, provides a regulatory framework and requires ongoing research to ensure the quality and safe production of supplements. Under DSHEA, supplement companies can't make disease or FDA-approved health claims; they can only make “structure and function” claims. For example, a probiotics label may say the product supports digestive health; it can't say it reduces colon-cancer risk. This, in a nutshell, is the difference between FDA-approved drugs and dietary supplements. Supplements are considered complementary therapies that work to support and maintain optimal health; drugs are products that work to prevent, diagnose, treat, or mitigate a disease.
Distinguishing between treating a disease versus promoting health can be tricky at times. For instance, GlaxoSmithKline, which makes a weight loss drug, is pushing the FDA to treat any weight loss claims made by supplement companies as disease claims. If it succeeds, dietary supplements could no longer claim to aid or support weight loss. Additional legislation could limit access to other dietary supplements, as well.
Although some companies do push boundaries on the claims they make (and we as consumers need to be vigilant in our choices), many reputable manufacturers produce high-quality, effective, and research-backed products. Obviously, the fight between drug and supplement companies is political. But I am hopeful that our new administration will be more proactive on the preventive health front by supporting organics, healthy eating, exercise, and supplements.
Preventive health could address other trends on the horizon. We've hit a 15-year record high for people eating at home; clearly, people are concerned about their health and money. This month's Family column, “Eat Well, Spend Less,” offers ideas for how to make your food dollars stretch further. And check out this month's recipes, or go to deliciouslivingmag.com for hundreds more. Happy New Year!