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Sweden: A Cautionary (Supplement) Tale

Sweden: A Cautionary (Supplement) Tale
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Sweden’s supplement restrictions show why mandatory registration for supplements in the US is such a disastrous idea. Action Alert!

For a while now, ANH-USA has been reporting on Senator Durbin’s (D-IL) efforts to limit access to dietary supplements. We’ve said that this legislation brings us closer to a European-style system in which high-dose supplements are effectively banned. This isn’t an exaggeration, as Sen. Durbin, the original architect of these supplement restrictions, and his allies may want you to believe. Just last month, Sweden moved to change its vitamin D and iodine limits; before that, Sweden started a process to adopt the supplement limits set by European Union (EU) regulators. The point is, once we start moving down this road, it will become more and more difficult to prevent similar restrictions in the US.

It may not seem all that scary that a country across the Atlantic Ocean is preparing to set limits on vitamin D and iodine. Maybe you don’t even use those supplements. But the point is that this is the blueprint for US regulators if Sen. Durbin’s mandatory product registration for supplements passes. Restrictions may start on supplements you don’t care about, but the ones you do care about will be next.

Last month, Swedish authorities released a proposal to limit vitamin D dosages to 4,000 IU (100 mcg) and iodine doses in supplements to 200 mcg. For vitamin D, a 4,000 IU limit may not seem all that bad, but the problem is that it limits the tools available to patients and integrative doctors unnecessarily. For example, for significant vitamin D deficiency, doctors may advise patients to take a mega-dose of 50,000 IU vitamin D once a week for six to eight weeks. Vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency is also more common than you might think. About 40 percent of the US population is vitamin D deficient; 95 percent of Americans don’t meet the government’s benchmarks for adequate vitamin D intake. Integrative medicine experts often recommend taking 5,000 to 8,000 IU vitamin D during the winter months.

Such restrictions will make it harder for Swedes to deal with vitamin D insufficiency and deficiency, which are linked to a host of negative health outcomes including: heart disease, diabetes, infections and immune disorders, cancer, multiple sclerosis, and more. Deficiency also means we are not reaping the health benefits of the sunshine vitamin, which include: maintaining bone health, supporting immune, brain, and nervous system health, regulating insulin levels, supporting lung and cardiovascular health, and more. It isn’t hard to see why so much evidence links poor vitamin D status to negative COVID outcomes.

A 200 microgram limit on iodine is also absurd. When iodine intake falls below a certain level, hypothyroidism occurs; about ten million Americans are hypothyroid, and about 10 percent of women have some degree of thyroid hormone deficiency. When a patient is low in iodine, integrative doctors will start them on 25 milligrams a day—which is 25,000 micrograms!—and potentially more if the patient has an endocrine disease. Higher doses of iodine have other clinical uses, such as for cyclic mastalgia (breast pain).

But the vitamin D and iodine limits are the just the tip of the iceberg in Sweden’s march toward supplement restrictions. In 2018, Sweden proposed using the “tolerable upper limits” (ULs) for vitamins and minerals created by the European Food Safety Authority (the EU equivalent of the FDA) as legally-binding maximum permitted levels. We’ve demonstrated some of the consequences of these absurd limits in recent coverage, such as restrictions on vitamin D, magnesium, and vitamin B6.

If you think that this can’t happen in the US, think again. The framework is already in place for US regulators to do exactly what Sweden is doing in restricting the amount of nutrients supplements can deliver to you based on ULs. US authorities developed ULs for a variety of vitamins and minerals years ago. In fact, a previous version of Sen. Durbin’s bill included an additional section calling on the Department of Health and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) to create a list of supplement ingredients that could cause “potentially serious adverse events.” NASEM is the very body that created ULs for nutrients in the US. It seems obvious, then, that Sen. Durbin intends for his bill to be used to eliminate high-dose supplements; this second section was omitted in the current bill, but we believe his intent and long-term plan is the same. In fact, the new version of the bill specifically requires companies to submit the amount per serving of ingredients and the percent of the daily value of each ingredient.

All of the pieces are falling into place to eliminate the supplements that compete with drug companies. This isn’t just speculation. In 2018, at the request of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, NASEM convened a workshop to look at how to standardize supplement dosages across the world. The big players, like the pharmaceutical giants and the supplement companies they own, want global harmonization because it makes it easier to do business. These discussions are being had, hidden behind layer upon layer of bureaucracy. This is a very real threat.

We cannot let Sen. Durbin and his allies succeed.

Action Alert! Write to your representative and urge them to sign on to a Congressional letter opposing the inclusion of this terrible supplement proposal in the reauthorization of the Prescription Drug User Fee Act. Please send your message immediately.

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