Are you using bogus supplements?

I consider nutritional supplements an important, many times a critical,part of a coronary plaque control program.

But use the wrong brand or use it in the wrong way, and you can obtain no benefit. Occasionally, you can even suffer adverse effects.

Take coenzyme Q10, for instance. (Track Your Plaque Members: A full, in-depth Special Report on coenzyme Q10 will be on the website in the next couple of weeks.) Take the wrong brand to minimize the likelihood of statin-related muscle aches, and you may find taking Lipitor, Zocor, Crestor, etc. intolerable or impossible. However, take a 100 mg preparation from a trusted manufacturer in an oil-based capsule, and you are far more likely to avoid the inevitable muscle aches. (Though, of course, consult with your doctor, for all it's worth, if you develop muscle aches on any of these prescription agents.)

Unfortunately, you and I often don't truly know for a fact if a bottle from the shelf of a health food store or drugstore is accurately labeled, pure, free of contaminants, and efficacious.

One really great service for people serious about supplements is the website. They are a membership website (with dues very reasonable) started by a physician interested in ensuring supplement quality. Consumer Lab tests nutritional supplements to determine whether it 1) contains what the label claims, and 2) is free of contamination. (I have no reason to pitch this or any other site; it's just a great service.) They recently found a supplement with Dr. Andrew Weil's name on it to have excess quantities of lead!

What Consumer Lab does not do is determine efficacy. In other words, they do a responsible job of reporting on what clinical studies have been performed to support the use of a specific supplement. However, true claims of efficacy of supplement X to treat symptom or disease Y can only come with FDA approval. Supplements rarely will be put through the financial rigors of this process.

If you're not a serious supplement user, but just need a reliable source, we've had good experiences with:

--GNC--the national chain
--Vitamin Shoppe--also a national chain or great and low-priced source, but they do charge a $75 annual membership that comes with a subscription to their magazine, Life Extension (which I frequently write for) and several free supplements that you may or may not need. Again, I'm not pitching them; they are simply a good source.
--Solgar--a major manufacturer
--Vitamin World
--Nature's Bounty

There are many others, as well. Unfortunately, it's only the occasional manufacturer or distributor that permits unnacceptable contamination with lead or other poisons, or inaccurately labels their supplement (e.g., contains 1000 mg of glucosamine when it really contains 200 mg). I have not come across any manufacturer/distributor who has systemtically marketed uniformly bad products.