Lazarus Labs Responds to the September 2016 Edition
A few days ago, I went to my mailbox and saw the latest in many years of Consumer Reports lodged in with bills, junk mail, and a reminder to get my teeth cleaned. Nothing new, nothing shocking.
As a trained research based investigator and writer, I have a deep respect for many publications and Consumer Reports is certainly one of them. I also am aware of “tricks of the trade” as we call them that all writers use to produce the results that they want.
When I taught Fundamentals of Writing, I learned to love that lightbulb moment when my college students realized and recognized the real purpose, the true intent of a writer, a speechmaker, a politician, or an advertisement. These men and women, young and old alike, were often so excited to see through the fog of rhetoric, finally, that they would actually thank me. Not thank me for teaching them, of course, but thank me for showing them how to avoid being taken advantage of and to be better consumers, voters, and financially wise healthy citizens.
And let’s face it. That is what we all want. No one wants to be a chump. No one wants their money wasted, their livelihood taken advantage of, or their welfare jeopardized because they were snookered into believing a snake charmer. Or a confusing and slick used car salesman. Or a polished and verbose politician. And we all have fallen for it. Just like research and information provides answers, understanding the method in delivering research is important in differentiating between partial truth and complete truth, fact or fiction, and opinions and suggestions.
At first glance, Consumer Reports’ September 2016 cover story, “Supplements: A Complete Guide To Safety” seems to be just what it says: complete, and an attack and an appreciated warning.
Author Jeneen Interlandi begins with a catastrophic story about the death of an 8 day old premature boy. A “mournful investigation” is launched over the “rare fungus” from a contaminated probiotic supplement administered into this “premature baby’s tiny body” who was just “barely the size of a butternut squash.” The FDA tested unopened hospital containers of the drug and “discovered the same fungus that had infected his intestines” and as a result, “certain lots of the product...were recalled from pharmacies and drugstores.”
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, this is every person’s worst nightmare. Especially parents. Every mother and father has empathized with stories like this, that human interest headline that while atypical and unusual, causes parents to freeze in our tracks while we take the tragic details all in.
No one could even begin to argue that this tragedy is anything but that. Yet, from a writing standpoint, it is critical to understand what has just happened.
This seemingly research based “complete guide” has just tugged at our heartstrings in one of the most effective methods possible: appealing to our emotional state in a way that we feel that we cannot allow this to happen. Sometimes it is called an “emotional call to action.” A perfect example? Those sob inducing dog shelter commercials with the sad music and the sad dog faces.
By painting such a tragic emotional story at the very beginning of the piece, you are immediately pulled in, but you are pulled in with a very effective volatile method: your anguish. And no one has to tell you that it is difficult to reason with that level of emotion. And that is the point.
Almost the entire first page is consumed with this emotional story. We read and immediately think “I will never buy this again. I will never think about this the same away again. That poor family.” And your emotions alone are driving your decisions.
But if you can reign that in, recognize this horrific tragedy as a tactic in persuasion, and pull the emotion out for a moment, you can sift through the sentiments and recognize the facts (as directly referenced from the article itself):
Doctors at the NICU at Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut followed the “standards of care for treating infants…[and] gave him a daily probiotic.” One child in the hospital was affected. As a result, “certain lots of the product were recalled from pharmacies and drugstores” but after a “thorough investigation in cooperation with the Federal Drug Administration and the Center for Disease Control, [the FDA] found no contaminants at any point in its own supply chain.” The “only contaminated samples found were those delivered to the FDA by the Yale-New Haven Hospital pharmacy.”It is also worth mentioning that twelve pages later, tucked in the middle of label explanations and attorney general reports, we are finally made aware that this lawsuit has gone nowhere.
So, what is this article really about?
Exactly. What is it? Now that we have removed the emotional appeal out of the argument, let’s examine at the logic and the believability, the other two factors that writers use to form arguments and sway opinion. The purpose of the article seems to be to inform the readers that vitamins, minerals, supplements, and nonprescription medication can be dangerous, can be under-regulated, and aren’t always necessary.
So is taking a shower. So is eating raw unclean vegetables. So is jogging. So is eating too much. And the list goes on.
According to Integrated Family Community Services, You are more likely to be killed by cooking, texting while driving, working, eating while driving, or staring at the screen (due to an increased rate of stroke or heart attack) than any other activities you do during the day.
No real surprises.
The Data and the Danger
According to the article, “A 2013 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that from 2008 through 2011, the FDA received 6,307 reports of health problems from dietary supplements.”
Yikes. That seems high. Roughly six thousand over four years. But here’s some integral research that Consumer Reports fails to mention.
According to WebMD and the Center for Disease Control, “More than one-half of U.S adults take dietary supplements...Dietary supplement use has increased in adults over age 20 since 1994, and we have over one-half of Americans taking one or more supplements a day,” says study researcher Jaime Gahche, MPH, a nutrition epidemiologist at the National Center for Health Statistics in Bethesda, Md ( www.webmd.com/diet/news ).
With 318 million people in the US, that is 159 million people. If you look at the data Consumer Reports itself includes, that means 1,576 people per year (we took the 6307 number and divided it over the four years referenced) report some form of health problems due to supplements.
Based on these numbers alone, that is .00000991% of the people who take supplements reported any health problems, much less serious ones.
That is less than one thousandth of one percent.
And just as a reference point, according to the National Safety Council, your odds of dying by a legal execution, a lighting strike, a hot substance, a sharp object, or choking are much more than quadruple that (www.NationalSafetyCouncil.org) .
If we assume as Consumer Reports does that underreporting probably does exist, even they acknowledges that “a true tally [“due to underreporting] would still probably be minuscule relative to the amount of supplements bought and consumed.
The Notion that We Can Get Our Nutrients Somewhere Else
We at Lazarus Labs believe in the importance of exercise, eating right, getting enough sleep, and ultimately doing all that you can to take care of your mind, body, and soul. Just look at our history, our core values, our website, and our blogs.
No one in our labs would ever deny the recommendation that when possible, get nutrients from the foods that you eat, if you can.
But while the data indicates that the “vast majority of us can get all the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients we need from food” what has to be frequently assessed is how often do you eat what is it that you need.
While “a large orange provides all the vitamin C the average person requires each day, and a carrot has more than a day’s worth of vitamin A,” I don’t eat them everyday.
Time Magazine itemized how much and which foods we should eat if we want to stop taking supplements and they reveal that “just one serving of kale has 150 mg of calcium which is slightly over 10% of the recommended daily amount.” 10% for one serving? So, ten servings is my recommended daily amount.
How often do you eat one large orange and one carrot a day? How about ten servings of kale a day? I like oranges and I like carrots. I even like kale. And I do eat them. But I would hesitate to give you a number of days in my life that I have eaten all three in the same day. Definitely a few.
Let’s be real: A very few. And never ten servings of kale. And that’s just three of the many nutrients that we should try to consume everyday.
And in case you don’t know how your body works, you can’t stockpile your orange, carrot, and kale consumption and distribute the daily rations when you see fit like a vending machine.
So, If I need this nutrient everyday, and don’t eat enough of this nutrient everyday, a vitamin or a supplement seems the perfect, easy, affordable, and practical solution.
Even Harvard posed the same concerns: “Many of us doubt whether we can get all the nutrients we need from food alone. For one thing, the ‘percent daily values’ featured on food labels are based on a 2,000-calories-a-day diet. Many of us can't eat that much without gaining weight. What if your energy needs are closer to 1,500 calories a day? What if you're dieting? Can you eat enough to take in the recommended micronutrients without falling back on a multivitamin?”(http://www.health.harvard.edu)
Their answer: “Getting [nutrients] through diet requires planning, patience, and knowledge about the foods that will help you meet your daily requirements. All in all, if you avoid saturated and trans fat, take a daily 1,000 IU vitamin D supplement, and eat a balanced diet — one that contains a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nonfat dairy products — you probably don't need a multivitamin on your plate” (http://www.health.harvard.edu).
So again, if I am doing all of that, I can eat my ten servings of kale a day and pat myself on the back, burp up some kale, and be proud.
But if I am not, I should get those nutrients from a supplement.
And we are not the only ones that think so. Even Consumer Reports admits, “According to a Gallup Survey of physicians, “94% recommended vitamins or minerals and 45% recommended herbal supplements.”
So, to be clear, we all should eat healthy, exercise, and take care of our mind, body, and soul. Period. Naturally if we can. With fresh foods and fresh air and fresh thoughts. But, if the day arises in which that is not possible, or we need some assistance, thankfully credible reputable organizations like Lazarus Labs and many more exist.
Another purpose of the article was to recommend to consumers to beware of bogus companies and be aware that supplemental companies do not have the same rigid guidelines as prescriptions.
We agree. In fact, part of our appeal to so many of our customers is our affordability because we are not prescription based and we do not require expensive medical evaluations so that you can purchase our regulated, tested, and monitored products.
As Consumer Reports admits, the Dietary Supplemental Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994 requires that all supplemental companies “must submit extensive clinical data to the FDA proving that it is both safe and effective for its intended use. Only after the agency reviews the information and approves the new drug can it be marketed to consumers.”
We also want our loyal customers to know that, again as Consumer Reports notes,
“Under DSHEA, dietary supplements are held to a different standard.” Pieter Cohen, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School (who has studied supplements extensively) [and] “they’re regulated based on the premise that they’re 100% safe.”
Consumer Reports also reminds its readers that all supplemental companies are “prohibited from claiming that a supplement can cure a specific disease.”
And we never have, and we never will. Like you, we are wise enough to know that the rainbow of the world produces many variations of beauty. Not all of us shine exactly the same way or benefit from the same spectrums in the same light.
What Happens When the FDA Inspects Lazarus Labs
We look forward to our frequent FDA inspections at Lazarus Labs. We don’t necessarily bust out the old photo albums, pat them on the head, and tell them how much they have grown, but we are extremely proud of the quality, science, testing, and ethics that go into our products.
Our labs “are held to the FDA’s Current Good Manufacturing Practices,” (CCGMP) because, according to the FDA ( www.fda.gov/CCMP), “it is important that drugs are manufactured under conditions and practices required by the CGMP regulations” and this process is done through inspections of the facilities.
The FDA site also explains that the “Inspections follow a standard approach and are conducted by highly trained FDA staff” and this verification requires that the “drugs [supplements and vitamins] are manufactured under conditions and practices required by the CGMP regulations assuring that quality is built into the design and manufacturing process at every step.”
Details that the FDA looks for to assure the safety and efficacy of drug products during these inspections include “facilities that are in good condition, equipment that is properly maintained and calibrated, employees who are qualified and fully trained, and processes that are reliable and reproducible, are a few examples of how CGMP requirements help.”
Regardless of the day, most of us have been given many gifts.
We have choices to offer us diversity, guidelines to provide safety,
voices that are allowed to speak,
And uncensored words that provide entertainment, knowledge, and opinion.
What is one to do with all of these presents? The wisest decision is to gather up all of these gifts and sift through to discover what is really under that wrapping paper and what is truly best for you and your family. What choices are best for you? What guidelines have been followed that provide you peace of mind and assurances? What voice best represents your thoughts? And which words are just opinion, what words are intended to persuade, and what words are facts?
In 2004, our CEO Arley Vest founded Lazarus Labs on a set of business values that include honesty, integrity, and research-based credibility. With over 50 years experience in health and wellness, Mr. Vest has spent the last 12 years building a line of products that not only help people achieve their goals but do so in a safe and pharmacological manner.
As a thought leader in the health and wellness industry, Mr. Vest and our team at Lazarus Labs spend a lot of time curating content that drives home the reality that not all products are equal in the health supplement space. It is also a part of our DNA to provide content and ideas that help people who are struggling with weight, looking for a better multivitamin or suffer from a vitamin or mineral deficiency know there are other options.
Diet, exercise and overall health and wellness are our business. It is with great passion that we come to work every day. Arley wouldn't have it any other way.