Are supplements safe? These doctors say, “That depends…”

A recent article in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) showed shocking things were found when many off the shelf vitamins and supplements were analyzed. Almost 800 products were found to contain prescription medications or illicit ingredients. Scary stuff!

As physicians we often have people asking us “Are supplements safe? Should I be taking vitamins? Which ones?” The questions can go on and on. So much so that when we speak publicly about our book (The Vitamin Solution: Two Doctors Clear the Confusion About Vitamins and your Health), we could spend over an hour answering questions. Turns out there is just so much to ask about vitamins and supplements!

But, back to the question at hand… are they safe? We are the co-founders of Vous Vitamin, a vitamin manufacturer, so of course we are not going to just say “NO. Never take vitamins and supplements.” However, you may be surprised to hear what we– as vitamin company owners– do have to say about the supplement industry.  What we say is “BE CAREFUL”. Vitamins are a tricky business. As this JAMA study showed, the bottles do not always contain what is listed on the label. In fact much of the time certain types of products contain prescription drugs or illicit substances. It is not uncommon for supplements labeled to promote “weight loss” or “energy” to contain dangerous stimulants.  Likewise many supplements that boast improving sexual function contain illicit ingredients that are found in prescription medications for erectile disfunction. Similarly, we see supplements touted for helping cholesterol, contain substances that are identical to the statin drugs we prescribe for cholesterol and cardiac issues. To be sure, all of these medications have their uses– and when produced under properly regulated conditions and prescribed in a medical setting they can be very helpful. However, finding these medications in off the shelf products, in unknown quantities, from unknown sources, is down right dangerous.

Clearly, the supplement industry has its short comings and there is much to improve upon in terms of safety and regulation.  That being said, there is a safe and proper way to buy and take supplements. Cutting through all of the conflicting information one gets from advertising, media, friends and illegitimate sources can be difficult. It’s hard to know what is both safe and useful to take. But that is why we are here!

As two physicians, we hear these questions and concerns from our patients all the time. We realized that the answer is not the same for everyone. While most of us can benefit from some vitamins to improve health and wellness, we do not all necessarily need the same things. In addition, it is hard to know which products are safe and free of unwanted ingredients.  For this reason, we created Vous Vitamin® personalized multivitamins. We created an online system by which you can take a personalized vitamin quiz to get exactly what you need and get a product that is made under the highest quality standards, bearing Good Manufacturing Practice seal of approval. This is in fact one good way to ensure product safety. GMP or USP seals show that the producer of the product is adhering to standards of safety in manufacturing. At Vous Vitamin® we also went the extra mile to obtain FDA registration.

There is a very valid role for vitamins in many health conditions and preventive medicine– bone health, migraine, thinning hair, low energy, muscle aches and insomnia to name a few. Getting the right amounts and components of a multivitamin is key.  Taking too much or too little of something can have negative consequences just as taking a poor quality product. Leave figuring out the vitamins to the experts and enjoy the benefits of better health.


Romy Block specializes in Endocrinology and Metabolism and is mother to three active adolescent boys. Arielle Levitan is a Doctor of Internal Medicine with a special interest in Preventive Medicine and Women’s Health.  She is a mother of three teen agers. As professional women with active family lives, they recognize that people often neglect their own health needs and are uncertain about what vitamins to take. Each person is different in her diet, exercise and health history, and will benefit from different nutrients.  After years of advising their patients about the proper vitamins to take,  Drs. Block and Levitan created Vous Vitamin® to provide people everywhere with quality vitamins that are suited to their individual needs. They are authors of the award winning The Vitamin Solution: Two Doctors Clear Confusion About Vitamins and Your Health (She Writes Press, 2015). Take your vitamin survey now to get exactly the right vitamins for your needs.

The statements made in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products offered by Vous Vitamin® are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

 

 

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