Another Hatchet Job from Consumer Reports

conrepTheir latest issue,“10 Surprising Dangers of Vitamins & Supplements,” is just more fear-mongering. Action Alert! Consumer Reports (CR) claims to be a trustworthy, unbiased source of information. But where nutritional supplements are concerned, they either think that scare-mongering sells, or they have a deep bias, or both. The lead article in their September issue identifies ten supposed “hazards” of supplements—among them that “supplements are not risk-free.” Does Consumer Reports think its readers are clueless? No consumer product is completely risk-free. It is possible to kill yourself by drinking too much water. But there is a great deal of safety data about supplements because so many of us take them. A recent study sponsored by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics found that 165 million Americans, or about 53 percent of the population, take some sort of nutritional supplement on a daily basis, and the safety record is remarkably good. CR claims that supplements are unsafe—an assumption they base on the supplement Adverse Event Reporting System (AERS). In fact the AERS prove the exact opposite, showing the extremely low number of supplement AERs—especially when compared to AERs from drugs. Consider an old drug that most people consider innocuous, like aspirin. Did you know that between 2004 and 2012, there were 87,600 adverse events submitted to the FDA for aspirin or products containing aspirin? Everything from gastrointestinal hemorrhages, neurological impairment, respiratory problems, cardiac arrhythmias, and even suicidal behaviors have been reported. The risk of internal bleeding has been particularly well documented. Aspirin adverse events are just a tiny part of the drug toxicity problem. Between 2000 and 2010, the government received 3,720,946 adverse event reports for drugs and therapeutic biologic products. CR says one can overdose on vitamins and supplements. Of course. Just as one can overdose on food, and especially on prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications, which are far more dangerous than food or supplements. Every year there are about 56,000 emergency room visits and 26,000 hospitalizations from acetaminophen (Tylenol) overdoses alone, with 458 deaths annually. Yet no national consumer magazine bothers to inform consumers of its dangers. You may recall our coverage of Consumer Reports Health’s 2010 article on twelve “dangerous supplements.” At that time we discussed their shocking lack of impartiality and fairness. This new article is just “same old, same old,” but we wonder how many people understand their deep bias in this area. CR starts from the position that any risk at all is too great, because when “healthy consumers use supplements, there’s rarely, if ever, a powerful life-saving effect.” Please note the weasel words: “powerful” and “life-saving.” Does this mean supplements have to stop a heart attack to be worthwhile? Besides, many thousands of integrative physicians strongly disagree, as do the consumers whose stomachs, brains, prostates, and other vital organs now work thanks to supplements. The CR article says that no supplements have been proven to cure diseases. Since there are tens of thousands of university research articles demonstrating the usefulness of supplements for health, CR must be applying some other litmus test. What they presumably mean is that no supplement has been taken through the FDA approval process at an average cost of $1 billion, which would enable it to make disease claims. As a general rule, supplement companies cannot afford this process because their products are natural and therefore cannot legally be patented. But contrary to what CR implies, a few have indeed been taken through the FDA process. A synthetic form of fish oil, for example, has been approved. Because it is FDA-approved, it can be used in Medicare, Medicaid, and Veterans Administration programs. Not surprisingly, it also costs as much as ten times what natural high quality fish oils cost. Is this what CR wants—to have all supplements be synthetic and cost multiples more? FDA approval turns a supplement into a drug. What happens if a supplement manufacturer says that their product cures disease without FDA approval? According to the law, making any such a claim would also immediately turn the supplement into a drug! So of course only drugs cure disease. That is how the word “drug” is legally defined. On the other hand, if it’s true that supplements do not cure diseases, why is the pharmaceutical industry continually conducting clinical trails on natural ingredients like resveratrol, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and pyridoxamine? Drug companies want to turn these supplements into drugs that will meet FDA’s “one-drug-cures-one-disease” standard. This is not good medicine, and it certainly isn’t the way supplements work. They often require co-factors (for example, calcium must be taken with vitamin K2 as well as vitamin D in order to get into the bones). Nor are they a one-size-fits-all proposition. By the way, neither are drugs. The fact that drugs tested on middle-aged people are given to children and old people is a scandal. Proper dosage is also vital. Too low a dose may mean no effect at all, a major flaw in many studies. Just look at the US government’s Institute of Medicine’s recommendation for vitamin D dosage—it’s far too low, and completely ignores the available scientific research. CR cherry-picks flawed and biased studies to support its theory that popular supplements such as ca
ium, omega-3s, and antioxidants do not prevent cancer and heart problems. The article is also littered with anecdotal, unscientific “evidence,” such as reporters going to an “Hispanic store” to pick “some herbs” or random samples of dietary supplements—without citing which nutritional supplements they were, how they were chosen, and how they were taken.
CR states that some supplements really contain prescription drugs. What they fail to point out is these products are already illegal and FDA has full authority to remove them from the market. CR even features a whole section warning of the danger of choking when taking dietary supplements. Well, yes. People do choke on food and they do choke on prescription pills and over-the-counter medications. By the way, your risk of choking increases if you are taking drugs, especially if they affect your brain or your swallowing reflex or your saliva, which many do. Action Alert! Please write to Consumer Reports immediately and address their inaccurate, biased, and unbalanced reporting. Give them the facts—and tell them that what you really need to be protected from are FDA-approved drugs and vaccines!

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  1. It is were not for supplements, including a multi vitamin/mineral, I would not be here. I am living proof that supplements work …and not all of these supplements I take are from food sources, some are synthesized.
    Let me explain … I was a heavy smoker for over 40 years before I finally quit. I should be dead and at the very least wearing an oxygen tank but I am not dead and don’t need oxygen. My diet has not always been optimal either. If it had not been for supplements, I would be dead. If supplements kill, I should have been dead a long time ago. I will trust supplements any day before toxic drugs. When I get sick (rarely), I sometimes go to my doctor to see what the problem is, then I find out more about it and then I head for the health store or my friendly mlm distributor both of which know more than my doctor does about supplements.

  2. I am very disappointed in your reporting on herbs and supplements. I, among many other people that I know, use supplements and herbs and have had success with them. At the same time I have had terrible experiences with some drugs approved by the FDA: simvastatin for one.
    I used to consider you a reliable source of information. No longer is that the case.

  3. I didn’t read the consumer reports article. Did they make a distinction between whole food supplements and synthetic supplements which are often GE? Among these there would in many cases be a distinction in safety and or benefits. Heidi

  4. Dear Consumer Reports,
    Your lead article in the September issue is like a politician accusing another politician of taking kick-backs. The damage is done, no matter how faultless the victim is. So congratulations, your pharmaceutical advertisers love you, and some of your readership probably even believe you. But all the scientific research aside that prove “Despite mainstream medical establishments and media outlets portraying multivitamin supplements as worthless and oftentimes toxic, vitamins hav
    e led to 0 deaths over the past 27 years. In contrast, pharmaceutical drugs were responsible for 3 million deaths, topping the death toll from traffic-related incidents. In 2009, pharmaceuticals were responsible for the death of 37,485 people nationwide.
    The statistics come from the Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System (NPDS)…”, I have taken supplements for 44 years with beneficial results. My kids and their kids for a their whole lives, with good results. The only adverse reaction I ever experienced came form drugs: my dentist prescribed drugs that interacted and gave me a migraine.
    Consumer Reports obviously does not work for the consumer, but for Big Pharma. Next I expect you’ll be touting GMO’s. Wishing you all the Karma you so richly deserve,

  5. Great article!
    My impression is that most, if not all, anti-supplement “reports” about supplement risks are accounts of fear-mongering. Hype is the common denominator, rather than facts.
    I’ve written an article (“Scaremongering About Vitamin Side Effects: How Supplement Truths Get Distorted”) on a case study of scaremongering over supplement dangers (someone who wrote an entire book on the dangers of vitamins) at
    Similar to the author(s) of this Consumer Report, that author uses data manipulatively to mislead, deceive, and ultimately doing a disservice to people.
    Politics is often involved in the nefarious activity.

  6. Just accept that Consumer Reports needs to stick testing appliances and cars because whoever is their health consultant knows zilch about health, diet and especially supplements. As a health consultant, they continue to insult our intelligence and RCT reports confirming the necessity for supplements, especially the best in supplementation, which is Shaklee whatt I recommend to my clients. They should be ashamed of their ignorance in trying to sell a “health report” to people when most of it is erroneous, if not downright BAD!

  7. I never listen to these squalls anyway.. Actual consumers give me more information, less lies.

  8. I trust Vitamins and Supplements far more than I trust drugs. All drugs have side effects and people take more drugs just to combat the side effects of other drugs. If you do your homework and study about vitamins and supplements you learn how to use them and what works for you. You can’t just start taking all kinds of things and hope that you somehow will get immediate results. It dosen’t work that way. The article by Consumer Reports was very mis-leading and in other ways inaccurate. The Government needs to stay out of the supplement and vitamin business and let consumers decide what is best for themselves. This is another example of our Government telling us what is good for us and that we are not smart enough to figure things out for ourselves. More and More big Government. Something the current Administration dearly loves. We must put a stop to it.

  9. For the most part, a supplement isn’t taken to cure anything, it is taken to prevent disease, nothing wrong with that!

  10. Dear CR,
    I used to be a subscriber to your publications, where your articles “had been” predicated upon objectivity and independence, but in the not too distant past, your bias in your reporting obviously has clouded your former core principles to CR’s detriment. Your article on supplements is totally irresponsible!! There is overwhelming evidence conducted by research around our planet in various countries that show an overall advantage to many supplements.
    Has CR now forged some alliance with the drug industry in your dual quest to attack the supplement industry? How disgusting (to say the least)!! It is like your company is an ostrich with its head in the sand on this issue!
    Yours Truly,
    Your former customer

  11. Sadly, I can’t add my message to any of the issues listed.
    The suggested forms seem to make it compulsory to list all details from sex to email, house address, postal code country etc.
    I’m frankly just too tired of everyone having my details and simply froze at the default
    response, `No.’ years ago.
    I’m so extremely tired of spam and all the associated related problems born of everyone having all of my info and none of my permissions.
    Not to mention the act of publicly becoming a government target.
    In a different era, it didn’t matter, but today it’s a real possibility a house will be raided
    and dogs and sometimes people get shot by well meaning swat teams bent on shutting down gardening or milk or whatever they call a law these days.
    Wish it weren’t so. Best of luck getting the hoped for response however.

  12. The only hatchet job is your hysterical review of the Consumer Reports report. You seem to be basing it on your review of the headline, if you read the longer summary they make some very reasonable points that most people would know already, but some they may not (e.g., that some supplements contain prescription drugs).

  13. I lost all confidence in Consumer Reports back in the 70s. I purchased an expensive and highly rated (by CR) “state of the art” tape deck. It was nothing but one problem after another. Then they jumped onto the dogpile of unintended acceleration with Audi, thereby destroying Audi’s market in the US. Ten years of intense testing by several international safety groups failed to replicate the problem, totally vindicating Audi and placing the blame directly on the operator of the vehicle, but the damage was already done. How these hacks have managed to prosper is beyond me. I have a sneaking suspicion that money changes hands for a CR report.

  14. Thank You! so tired of the big drug companies slamming the vitamin & supplements that are all natural and far less dangerous when taken correctly Prescription drugs…

  15. I smell PAYOFF by BigPharma..
    Supplements are NATURAL for Gods sake…R U KIDDING ME???
    I was on 13 meds last year and when my doctor tried to give me another I said ENOUGH!
    I have Fibromyalgia so if you know what it is, imagine a pill for every symptom..well Im down to 3 meds and only 2 are for the Fibro and take supplements instead..
    For my depression I take fish oil during the day and a zinc and magnesium at night
    for my arthritis..Ive taken ginger root
    high cholesterol… niacin and plant sterols and psyllium (metamucil type things grab it and flush it from your system)
    IBS..magnesium, senna, and psyllium
    I am NOT a doctor and these are MY personal experiences..
    I was taking Crestor for over 10 years and did you know it causes muscle pain and destroys them? MY Dr KNEW this and that it only helps <1% of people and I was in agony for NOTHING. As soon as I stopped it, I felt so much better..Thats what started my screw you to big pharma..

  16. I am a subscriber to Consumer Reports and was sorry to see you becoming a shill for the drug companies.

  17. Consumer Reports needs to stick to dishwashers, dryers, laundry soap, etc etc. I don’t trust them for medicines, nor do I trust them for cars. They long ago lost me (along with most automotive media) when all they could do was slam slam slam domestic production of our vehicles here and lavishily shower praise on toyota, honda, etc.
    A country that does not respect it’s domestic output is a country doomed to failure.
    Ford Explorer Firestone Tire Fiasco? They (and the rest of the media) could *NEVER* shut up just how “horrible” Ford products are, deadly to your family, etc etc. Stay away if you want to survive!
    Toyota Sudden Acceleration? “While we are disappointed in toyota, we still feel they are a good value and will watch them closely to make amends”
    Nice bias there folks. I’ll never own a toyota product for the media lap dogs they have shouting their praises…

  18. Frankly, I don’t think Supplements are really healthy.
    It’s the ACTUAL food, the raw product from Nature that one should eat.
    And there’s the nonsense from the “Health” Lawgivers, that insist tht, People should take greens, yellows , reds, of whatever vegetables daily, a cdertain amount of them, and zinc, and potassium, etc, daily. And walk miles a day, or exercise certain minutes a day.
    That doesn’t even make sense. It’s outdated.. And it’s so noticable, since today, they will tell you one thing, and tomorrow it’ll be a turnaround. Just like they did with coffee and wine, et al.
    I say, eat and drink the natural products as, and when want them, daily

  19. I must agree that this publication can not be trusted when it comes to large scale health issues. Only recently, CR began to address the cell phone problem, but still is mum on the adverse effects of CFL’s. They should stick to testing products.

  20. I subscribe to Consumer Reports on-line, and ironically I just saw their cover story in my email edition, “10 Surprising Dangers of Vitamins & Supplements.” I didn’t bother to read it because it’s ridiculous, and from past editions of their health e-newsletters I know that they are very biased against natural supplements. I just followed the “take action” link here and let them know that I’m a paid subscriber to CR and that I strongly disagree. It’s disheartening to see such bias in what is supposed to be an unbiased publication.

  21. To corrupt Consumer Reports, the rich and powerful are really upping the pressure to reduce world population. We are the target as well as paying for it with both our wealth and health.
    The Illuminati is a historical plan to form a one world government directed by the rich and powerful.
    Research the; central characters, Rockefeller’s, the Rothschild’s. the English Crown, the Catholic Church, the Masons and our presidents who are or have been members including Obama.

  22. I really really am disenchanted with biased reports on anything. You have to consider that the NWO wants Codex Alementarius which is basically a ban on anything that is cheap and/or can contribute to better health. So corporations, pretty much all are in sinc with this. The problem rests with all the drugs the FDA approves then later you see class action suits forming for many of these ie: Avandia a diabetic drug that has killed thousands. Did they mention that? No is not the AGENDA and that being to kill supplements or make them weak and expensive with a doctors prescription. Look up the numbers dead from Vioxx that will shock you for sure. We must not fall prey to thier partial truths and outright lies.

  23. I just received your September issue about “10 Surprising Dangers of Vitamins and Supplements” and I have to tell you that that what your represented about this industry is inaccurate, biased and unbalanced.

  24. I have found your publication, since 1984, to be of value quite often, however, the times that it did not do a good job or did a skewed report and passed it off as honest work is the reason I have purchased only 5 issues since 1984.
    Your article on supplements and the way it was slanted, is further reaason I ignore the publication.
    I can only hope that it is done out of ignorance.

  25. After reading the information in Consumer Reports, I am now wondering if their comments on anything they report on is true. I have canceled my subscription. Why should I pay for crap?

  26. I too was shocked at this article and no longer totally trusted CR after it was published.

  27. RE : Canadian produce in stores, grocery chains, markets in B. C & Alberta
    Pls provide the other numbers on fruits/veges, ie. starting with 3, 7, etc.
    Which are the GMOs, not fit for human consumption, etc.
    Please provide, Ms. Ray. Would appreciate it very much.

  28. I completely agree with you that Consumer Reports has printed a very biased report not based on scientific studies. My subscription is about to run out and I will not be renewing. I plan to send them a note with cancel on the renewal and tell them exactly why I am cancelling! Thank you for all your hard work.

  29. Unfortunately the main stream media actually believes some of the agenda they try to sell us. Why aren’t they looking at the defects and deficiencies in our everyday “food” ? Start with chlorine bleached flour and the vitamin replacements added back into it. Then compare the feedlot corn-fed animals with the natural range, grass-fed livestock products offered in markets. Next, perhaps, a full review of our “sweetners”, whether High Fructose Corn Syrup, aspartame, and the steady stream of other harmful things contaminating our ice cream, candy and gum, our pleasure foods Then investigate the corruption of our foodstocks by experimental lab creations we call GMO products. But no, they’d rather attack our remaining survival resources, our ordinary but life-sustaining supplements. There is an abundance of toxic items in our foods; let’s not allow ourselves to be distracted by clever sideshows, even those from CR.

  30. CR is a complete fraud, and always has been. They say only what they have been paid to say. They work hard to keep people from finding this out, but i have inside knowledge from way back.

  31. Another case of a heretofore reputable company shilling for the man. I don’t feel I will ever be able to trust CR pertaining to ANY of their reports henceforth. I just don’t understand how a reputable company with years of respect could allow cancer cells to infect their premises. Count me out. I will likely not view their opinions again.

  32. I had a mild heart attack in late 2001. I came home with piles of drugs to take for my various health issues. I started reading up on natural/nutritional approaches to my health issues and tried to talk to my doctor or his physicians’ assistant about what I was learning and was totally dismissed. I went to another doctor. That doctor sent me a certified letter giving me 30 days to find another doctor because I didn’t want to take these drugs. I believed they were doing more harm than good. I went back to that other doctor and he too sent me a certified letter giving me 30 days to find another doctor. The third doctor was not much better. I take supplements. They work for me when I take them. Grass fed, free range, wild caught and produce correctly grown (organic) are beyond our budget. We are elder. We take a whole food multi vitamin and some other supplements. Consumer’s Rejports is a very expensive useless magazine. I have looked to see what they say but it’s always been mostly disappointing.

  33. How can Consumer Reports deny the existence of valid scientific studies showing the effectiveness of supplements? There have been thousands, with the results published online. Either their “reporters” can’t find the forest because of all the trees, or they have been instructed to write articles biased in favor of prescription drugs over natural supplements. Also ignored is the fact that in most other countries in the world (including those in Europe and Asia) medical doctors commonly prescribe supplements to treat health conditions. There are also many MD’s in the United States who do so. Consumer Reports is nothing more than a propaganda rag for the pharmaceutical industry, and as far as I am concerned CR has zero credibility with regard to health advice.

    1. I was really interested in this article when I first saw the headlines. Couldn’t believe what they reported and decided Big Pharma must be in their pockets. Shame on you CR!

  34. I could tell that this was a bogus article (Consumer Reports) off the bat, because doctors don’t recommend supplements in the first place! This is in regards to the large photograph with captions, where the doctor and his patient are shown, saying that the patient suffered a heart attack because of supplements. I know this because previous doctors of mine said that vitamins aren’t necessary, and when I ask what food should I eat, or what supplement I should take to cure my ailment, they say, “Nothing.” I have to research and discover the truth on my own, no thanks to mainstream doctors.
    Ever since my husband has taken supplements (antioxidants, vitamins, minerals), his skin has looked so youthful and his bloodwork from yearly physicals is normal to impeccable…he consumes meat and also dairy and sugar (not me!) I also take vitamins and minerals, and my bloodwork just last month was unbelievably great! I accredit this to a whole foods, near-vegan diet with no refined sugar or carbs–but also my vitamin and mineral regimen. We both haven’t been sick in over 2 years!
    Most Americans are deficient in selenium, zinc, magnesium, as well as most vitamins–which are readily available in most reputable multivitamin/multimineral supplements. The CR article is downright dangerous and ignorant. Most American diets are high in fat, sugar, calories and deficient in nutrients, our farmland soil is overworked and devoid of minerals, hardly anyone is eating the required amount of fruits and vegetables anyway…that is why everyone is sick all the time. Vitamin and mineral supplements can at least help most Americans meet their nutrient requirements so that they can PREVENT diseases!

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