How Safe Are Supplements and Natural Medicine?
If you listen to the FDA and mainstream media reports, you might think that nutritional supplements are incredibly dangerous, and natural medicine in general, a menace to society. Critics of “alternative” healthcare say that nutritional supplements should be heavily regulated in order “to save lives.”
But if you look beyond the government scare tactics and focus on real statistics from such organizations as the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), you would realize that these beliefs couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Just how many deaths are caused each year by nutritional supplements? Well, according to the most recent statistics available, the number is exactly ZERO.
According to an annual report based on statistics from the U.S. National Poison Data System and published in the Journal of Clinical Toxicology, not a single death was attributed to vitamin, mineral, amino acid or herbal supplement use in the U.S. in 2008 or 2009, the most recent years for which data is available. (You can download any Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers from 1983-2009 free of charge here.)
On the other hand, how many Americans die each year as a result of taking FDA-approved over-the-counter or prescription drugs? Estimates vary widely, but according to a number of highly regarded experts, the number is at least 106,000. That’s right, 106,000 or more Americans die each year as a result of correctly taking drugs that have been correctly prescribed by a physician. Just for context, this is almost three times the amount of people who die in car crashes each year.
In addition to the shocking number of deaths caused by pharmaceutical drugs, consider these alarming numbers published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1998: 7,000 deaths due to medication errors in hospitals, 12,000 deaths due to unnecessary surgery, 80,000 deaths due to infections acquired in hospitals and 20,000 deaths due to “other” hospital errors, for a grand total of 225,000 deaths each year due to conventional medical treatments.
Keep in mind that these statistics were published in 1998. Since then, use of pharmaceutical drugs has increased dramatically in the U.S. These statistics also do not take into account the unknown number of drug deaths that go unreported or misreported each year, and they do not reflect the number of serious and often life-altering side effects suffered each year by pharmaceutical drug users. A study released in 2007 showed that reports of serious adverse drug events more than doubled between 1998 and 2005, and these disturbing numbers continue to grow, as physicians write more and more prescriptions.
Here’s another way to look at it. Many people are terrified of flying, while at the same time feel safe in a hospital. But just last month, WHO released a report suggesting that going in to a hospital is far more hazardous than flying in an airplane. Your risk of being subjected to a hospital error is about 1 in 10, and your risk of dying due to such an error is about 1 in 300. In comparison, the risk of dying in a plane crash is a mere 1 in 10 million.
Each year in the United States, 1.7 million infections are acquired in hospital, leading to 100,000 deaths, a far higher rate than in Europe where 4.5 million infections cause 37,000 deaths, according to WHO.
So if hospital visits and pharmaceutical drugs are killing hundreds of thousands of Americans each year and nutritional supplements are killing zero people each year, why do many politicians, the FDA and the mainstream media seem to be set on trying to scare everyone into thinking that supplements are dangerous and in need of more regulation?
I can only speculate as to the reasons behind the government’s anti-supplement crusade, but we all know that conflicts of interest are abound in the government agencies that are supposed to look out for our health. And in general we are dealing with a dysfunctional system where special interest groups and money carry a lot of weight. As for mainstream media, I just think negative stories about supplements and scare tactics are what sell for them, regardless of the facts.
The good news is that more and more, Americans seem to be taking their heath into their own hands and hopefully, shifting the current medical paradigm. Dietary supplement sales have been steadily increasing year after year, as more people realize that there is an alternative to dangerous pharmaceutical drugs and the “sickcare” system.
What are your thoughts? Why does the government seem to be waging a war against natural medicine? Please leave a comment below.
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Article updated on: August 8th, 2011