Probiotics are poorly regulated, just like other supplements

Probiotics are as likely to surprise you with their contents as they are to fulfill their marketing promises.

Via the NYT:

Probiotics have the potential to improve health, including by displacing potentially harmful bugs. The trouble is that the proven benefits involve a very small number of conditions, and probiotics are regulated less tightly than drugs. They don’t need to be proved effective to be marketed, and the quality control can be lax.

In a recent article in JAMA Internal Medicine, Pieter Cohen, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, urges us to consider the harms as well as the benefits. Among immune-compromised individuals, for instance, probiotics can lead to infections.

Consumers can’t always count on what they’re getting. From 2016 to 2017, the Food and Drug Administration inspected more than 650 facilities that produce dietary supplements, and determined that more than 50 percent of them had violations. These included issues with the purity, strength and even the identity of the promised product.

I have more confidence in my dog's veterinarian supplied supplements than I do in my OTC ones. Read the rest

Glucosamine no better than placebo for lower back pain

A Norwegian study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that glucosamine has no effect on relieving lower back pain. Six million Americans take glucosamine supplements.

For six months, he and his colleagues gave 250 adults with chronic lower back pain and degenerative osteoarthritis either 2,500 mg daily of glucosamine sulfate or a placebo. At the six-month and one-year marks, there weren't any significant differences among patients in the two groups. Both groups did seem to be helped by the placebo effect, which is common in pain patients, in which people apparently feel better simply because they are receiving treatment.

Glucosamine No Remedy for Lower Back Pain, Says Study

(via Consumerist)

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Which supplements really work? An interactive guide to evidence

BoingBoing isn't the only place trying out new design ideas today. Information is Beautiful has given us an exclusive preview of a new interactive infographic, designed to make it easy for anybody to parse the data on dietary supplements.

Each bubble represents a specific use—or group of uses—for a dietary supplement. The bigger the bubble, the more popular the supplement is, as measured in Google hits. The higher on the chart, the more solid the evidence supporting that particular supplement for that particular use.

David from IiB reviewed nearly 1000 studies to put this baby together, using studies with large numbers of subjects or meta analysis of multiple studies whenever possible. You can read more about the methodology on the site. Great work!

Still image version also available. Read the rest