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Saving Lives—and Money—with Supplements

Saving Lives—and Money—with Supplements
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A new report details the incredible savings, both in terms of human lives and economic costs, from embracing commonsense preventative medicine with supplements. Action Alert!

The report, “Supplements to Savings,” was produced by the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a trade group for the supplement industry. It is a serious attempt to quantify how much can be saved if at-risk populations for certain chronic diseases utilized common dietary supplements. The results? If more people, especially those at risk for certain chronic ailments like heart disease, used certain dietary supplements, hundreds of billions of dollars could be saved and millions of medical incidents could be avoided. Unfortunately, powerful forces in our government are trying to take us in the opposite direction by making it more difficult for Americans to get the supplements they need.

Chronic disease is crippling our country. Six in ten adults have a chronic disease, and four in ten have two or more. Ninety percent of annual healthcare expenditures are for people with chronic and mental health conditions. If we have any hope of curbing this damage, we need preventive approaches to healthcare that include sensible supplementation with proven nutrients, which most Americans do not get enough of.

The report looks at coronary artery disease (CAD), osteoporosis, age-related macular degeneration, cognitive decline, irritable bowel syndrome, and childhood development disorders. Key supplements that help with each condition were examined, leading to estimates about how supplementation could affect incidence of that disease and healthcare costs.

Take coronary artery disease, for example. A review of the medical literature shows that supplementing with preventive levels of fish oil leads to a risk reduction of 10 percent for CAD events. If people at risk for CAD events supplement with fish oil, the report estimates that 174,811 CAD events could be avoided, saving $5.63 billion. The clinical literature indicates that the relative risk reduction of a CAD event with the use of magnesium supplements is 5.34 percent. This means that magnesium supplementation could prevent 93,349 CAD events resulting in $3 billion in healthcare savings. Vitamin K2 was found to reduce the risk for CAD events by 15.7 percent, meaning an estimated 274,933 CAD events could be avoided, resulting in $8.86 billion in savings.

Supplementing with vitamin D and calcium at preventive levels was found to reduce the risk of osteoporotic fractures by 14 percent, meaning 335,518 fractures can be avoided with these supplements, along with $17 billion in cost savings.

Our current health system does not incentivize taking advantage of these strategies for reducing disease incidence. Remember, the FDA relies heavily on financial support from the drug industry: the agency receives 45% of its operating budget directly from drug companies in the form of “user fees” (used for the approval of new drugs, biologics and devices), but 65% of the funding for human drug regulatory activities are derived from user fees. This is one of the reasons the FDA makes it so difficult for Americans to learn about the scientifically-proven benefits of supplements like magnesium for heart health. They don’t want you taking affordable supplements to stay healthy; drug companies make money by selling us expensive pills you need to take for years to treat the symptoms, rather than the cause, of chronic diseases.

Then, of course, there are the lawmakers like Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) who want to enact policies that will restrict supplement choices and access as we’ve been explaining in recent coverage. Sen. Durbin’s legislation takes us one step closer to European-style restrictions on supplements that severely restrict the nutrients that supplements can contain.

Why does this matter? To take one example: the report stated that the level of magnesium needed to prevent CAD events was about 400 mg/day. Germany has restricted the amount of magnesium in supplements to 250mg. This is just a taste of the kinds of restrictions that will come our way if Sen. Durbin and his allies get their way. We can’t let it happen.

Action Alert! Write to Congress and tell them to oppose mandatory product registration for supplements. Please send your message immediately.

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