Filed under: Diet
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently filed a complaint against POM Wonderful products due to deceptive advertising. POM Wonderful has claimed that its products will reduce (or treat) heart disease, prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction. The FTC says that these claims are not supported by scientific research.
So, what’s a health claim and what’s considered acceptable advertising as such?
A health claim statement has to have a food substance, food, or dietary ingredient, and a health condition or disease. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved certain health claims that, based on scientific evidence, show a link between a food or supplement and a health condition or disease. Health claims cannot state that a food product or supplement can treat or cure a disease. It may claim to minimize a disease risk; for example, a product advertised as low sodium can state the approved claim that “diets low in sodium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure, a disease associated with many factors.”
Health claims shouldn’t be confused with structure/function claims. These claims do not have to be approved and reviewed by the FDA, yet they must be truthful in stating that a substance maintains structures and/or functions of the body. We see these claims on many fiber-rich products, like “fiber maintains bowel regularity,” or a dairy product stating that “calcium builds strong bones.” Unlike health claims, structure/function claims cannot be linked to a health-related condition or disease. Also, an important point to keep in mind: if a dietary supplement label makes a structure/function claim, it must also state this disclaimer: “This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”
There are also nutrient content claims. These describe the amount of a nutrient in a product. Descriptions such as free, low, high, and rich in are used, or other terms that describe the nutrient content to that of the content in another product, such as reduced, lite, less, or more.
Manufacturing companies want consumers to buy their products. We, as consumers, must be savvy as we try to choose products that are healthy for our families and us. False health claims are used on food products as well as dietary supplements. They claim to help us lose weight, cure diseases, and prevent memory loss. The FDA has not approved claims that focus on the treatment of diseases. They have, however, set forth regulations to authorize health claims after the scientific evidence has been presented and reviewed.
Wandering down the aisle of a store looking for a dietary supplement can be overwhelming and intimidating. There are so many to choose from, and we often have to make our choices based on advertising claims and rely on the manufacturers for ingredient information. Does the supplement actually have the ingredients claimed on the label? Will it have the reported effect on our health?
The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database is the “scientific gold standard” for evidence-based information on dietary supplements and natural medicines, including drug interactions, effectiveness, safety and use, and more. HPRC has partnered with Natural Medicines Database to allow healthcare providers, Warfighters, and military families to search this comprehensive database in order to make informed decisions about dietary supplement use. The Natural Medicines Database also has “Natural MedWATCH,” which allows users to report an adverse event associated with the use of dietary supplements or natural medicines so that they can then forward the report on to the appropriate regulatory agency.
By going to the HPRC homepage, users can access any of the three database choices provided: Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database for Health Professionals, Consumers, or Natural MedWATCH. After choosing one of the sites, first-time users should sign up for an account, which is done with an active DoD email address. Once inside this vast database, a user can search for an individual natural medicine ingredient of interest or a brand name product.
The professional version of the database includes:
- Evidence-based monographs available for individual natural ingredients.
- Scientific names of ingredients
- Information on safety, effectiveness, mechanism of action, adverse reactions, interactions, and dosage/administration (which are not necessarily recommended or safe doses) of ingredients
- Patient handouts
- Brand-name product searches by ingredient
- “Natural Product Effectiveness Checker” for medical conditions
- “Natural Product Drug Interaction Checker” for a list of drugs/natural products interactions
- Comprehensive information on brand-name products, including ingredient lists and summary reports on effectiveness, interactions, and adverse effects.
- Up-to-date information for over 60,000 brand name products
The consumer version, for military families and Warfighters, contains the same research-based information on herbal remedies, dietary supplements and other natural products, but in an easier-to-understand version. An important point consumers should be aware of is that it may be necessary to research each individual ingredient in a product before making a decision to use it for health benefits.
So, if you want to find credible, evidence-based information on dietary supplements and/or natural products, search the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. Evaluating natural health products can be daunting and there is no other comprehensive, reliable site like it to guide you in making your decision.
The Simple 7™ is an easy way to figure out how to achieve good health. This online resource, provided by the American Heart Association, lists seven steps that are crucial to our health. We list their steps for you below:
- Don’t smoke.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Engage in physical activity.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Manage your blood pressure.
- Take charge of your cholesterol.
- Keep your blood glucose at healthy levels.
With Life’s Simple 7™, you'll find out where you stand, how you're doing, and also get you your own personal heart score and health plan.
Instead of asking your friends to bring their usual comfort foods to dinner at your house, suggest that everyone bring a healthy option instead. Place caloric restrictions or assign different people to fruit, vegetable, or meat dishes. This will help get everyone involved in healthier eating habits.
When you choose a multivitamin or supplement from the store, have you ever wondered how to choose? Or if there’s any regulation to ensure the one you choose is safe, and that you’re getting what you’re paying for? Regulation is perhaps the least understood aspect of the dietary supplement industry. We, here at HPRC, hope we can shed some light on the matter. Look for the quickest way to ensure quality and safety in your supplements at the end of the article.
Dietary supplements are regulated, but not as strictly as many might want. Oversight of dietary supplements began with the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA). Since supplements are intended to supplement one’s diet, they are regulated the way food is, and not as drugs are. Under DSHEA, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates dietary supplements by holding manufacturers accountable in five important areas: Manufacturers are required to ensure that the supplement is safe; make truthful claims; abide by current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs); submit to FDA all reports of serious adverse events, and notify FDA before it markets a supplement containing a “new dietary ingredient” (NDI).
What consumers should know is that manufacturers cannot sell unsafe, ineffective supplements; they have to document that their product will not harm anyone, and provide convincing evidence that the product does what it claims. To further ensure safety and effectiveness, the FDA closely regulates supplement labels for accuracy and honesty. All information on the label must be truthful and conform to all FDA standards. It has to list the sources of all components, and the amount of key nutrients and ingredients. Manufacturers are also required to report to the FDA before marketing supplements containing new dietary ingredients, which must have data supporting safety of the ingredient. The FDA also regulates manufacturing standards using the current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP) to ensure product quality and safety. Violation of cGMP is a violation of the law. Lastly, the FDA requires manufacturers to report on serious adverse events that may occur from consumers using their products.
Despite this oversight, there’s a misconception that dietary supplements are not regulated. This could be because supplements don’t require pre-market approval, and the post-market responsibility of FDA simply ensures compliance with the regulations listed above. The downside of this is that some unsafe and contaminated products end up on the market. Once there, the FDA has to prove that the product is unsafe (or show that the information on its label is untruthful or misleading), before it can be removed from the market. Also, although supplement labels are highly regulated, the content of separate brochures and fliers is not subject to FDA rules.
Enforcing regulations take time and resources. Since the cGMP rule went into effect in June 2008, the FDA has conducted approximately 55 inspections for compliance with the new regulations – and in light of the thousands of companies manufacturing supplements, there’s some dissatisfaction with the progress of the FDA.
So how can you protect yourself, as a consumer, from ineffective or even potentially unsafe supplements? There’s a simple answer: When purchasing dietary supplements, choose products approved by independent organizations that offer certification or verification. Look for supplements whose labels display a seal from the United States Pharmacopeia (USP), the non-profit NSF International, or the Natural Products Association (NPA). Since these verifications are voluntary and are performed at the company’s expense, you can be certain that approved products have little or no contaminants, that the ingredients are present in the labeled amounts, and the labels are accurate.
By G. A. Volb | Army News Service
May 24, 2010
As Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. stresses the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program, the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy finds itself at the tip of the spear in offering health and fitness insight to its enlisted members.
Senior Army leadership not only wants a broadly-skilled NCO treading the battlefields of tomorrow, but one that is both physically and spiritually fit. The former is a product of fitness regimens designed to enhance Soldier's ability to withstand the stresses and challenges of today's real - world operations tempo – and diet, not surprisingly, is a major piece to the puzzle.
Dietician Mrs. Jennifer Eiland, left, discusses possible changes Master Sgt. Anthony Jones may want to consider regarding his diet to help better his overall fitness. Jones, a Philadelphia, Pa., native lost nine pounds in just over a month following his initial meetings with Eiland. "I just used a few common sense diet and lifestyle changes that Jennifer suggested," the 44-year-old Jones said. (Photo Credit: G.A. Volb)"The food choices you make and when you eat have a direct impact on your energy level, ability to concentrate, overall feeling of well-being and gut function," said Jennifer Eiland, a dietician and part of the Army Physical Fitness Research Institute's staff at their USASMA annex. "It also affects your ability to complete an exercise session."
Casey, it should be noted, is so big on Soldier fitness that he's made the CSF Program, established in 2009, a priority as the Army tries to focus on the five dimensions of strength: Physical, Emotional, Social, Spiritual and Family.
The general's intent is to increase the strength, resilience and enhance performance of all Soldiers, family members, and Department of the Army civilians. None of it is possible if the old quip, "You are what you eat" makes sense and everyone is shoveling junk food down their necks.
"Diet is extremely important to realizing health and fitness goals," said the 25-year dietitian from Roy, Utah. "It influences almost three-quarters of the results of our health assessments. It can also influence a person's aerobic capacity; heavier participants typically have lower V02 or lung efficiency as a result. Mood and alertness are also affected by diet."
She stressed that eating a diet full of sugar, salt and fat lowers one's energy level and ability to concentrate, which in turn, can negatively affect school work and a Soldier's performance.
"It affects chronic disease risk on a number of levels as well," she offered. "Obesity increases the odds of contracting cancer, diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. Excessive sodium intake can increase blood pressure in over two-thirds of the population and risk of stroke and heart attacks according to the latest from the American Heart Association and Centers for Disease Control."
In a recent letter to the troops, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth Preston emphasized the need for Soldiers to work on all five areas stressed by the CSF Program; most of which can be affected by diet.
"We want CSF activities to become a part of our daily lives, just as we do physical training every day to build and strengthen the physical dimensions of CSF," said Preston in his letter. "We want the members of our team to do more than just cope with adversity; we want them to grow from their life experiences."
"Reflecting on the past eight years of war and our deployment experience in Afghanistan and Iraq, we can now begin to understand the individual health and resilience problems associated with our deployment tempo," he said.
An unhealthy Soldier is less effective," said Eiland. "A sergeant major's overall health, including how he or she eats, influences their ability as leaders ... and the influence they have on the health choices of their young Soldiers."
Eiland pointed out that a prominent group of retired military leaders want junk food taken out of America's schools because the obesity epidemic, especially in young people, is limiting the number of people who can be recruited into the military, making obesity a national security issue.
On a positive note, she added that many Soldiers have a sincere interest in improving their eating habits.
"A good majority tend to eat more meat and fewer fruits and vegetables than is considered optimal for good health," said Eiland. "Including more whole grains and less processed foods is also an area I frequently discuss with Soldiers. Sugary beverages seem to be a favorite as is eating fast food and microwave meals given their busy schedules. However, if dietary changes are presented in a practical and doable way to them, most will make changes."
The major challenges, according to the dietitian, are getting organized and planning ahead.
"Enlisting uncooperative family members, finding time to cook their own meals and changing an old mindset are also challenges," she said.