Dietary Supplement -- Newsletter Provides Authoritative Coverage
Of Supplement Issues
by Peter Golden, Publisher
and wellness newsletters are a staple in the reading habits of millions
of Americans. For those interested in prevention, maintenance and
longevity, an authoritative newsletter is an invaluable resource,
indeed a guiding light through the murky precincts of conflicting
regimens and wildly hyperbolic claims.
perhaps most, newsletters serve as nothing more than thinly cloaked
promotions for the products and services peddled by their publishers.
More than a few newsletters of the latter variety have achieved
high visibility, with others rising and falling with the fortunes
of the health pundits they promote. Which is why we were pleasantly
surprised when a recent morning's mail brought a new entry in the
newsletter sweepstakes, this one in the form of a publication called
The Dietary Supplement (TDS).
an impartial look at supplement pros and cons
and published by Paul R. Thomas, a nutrition educator and Registered
Dietitian, TDS is a rare and wonderful thing: an even handed,
impartial, clearly written presentation of the pros and cons of
various supplements. Authoritative features are accompanied by current
news in such vital areas as quality and regulation.
$28, which we sent off immediately after looking over a copy, one
receives four, 16-page newsletters annually, which at less than
fifty cents a page on an annualized basis are more than worth the
price for solid information and the peace of mind that comes with
in a voice of clarity and reason
else distinguishes this latest offering in the newsletter sweepstakes
from hundreds of others in the same "space" (to borrow a word from
the Internet crowd)? In a word, the answer is "voice." As schooled
writers and wise readers know, the author's voice is a reasonable
proxy for his or her style and intelligence. Thomas's voice is one
of calm reason and strong intellect, letting the facts speak for
themselves. Supplements are judged on their merits, with most articles
accompanied by a comforting quotient of research notes.
the most recent issue (July-September 2000, although the winter
issue should be available by the time you read this) and you'll
find an exhaustive, twelve-page overview of glucosamine and chondroitin
(G&C), starting on the front page. Flip to the last page of the
article and you'll find more of the research we mentioned a moment
ago. But don't be put off by the exhaustive references: as noted
earlier, Thomas's style is lucid and easily accessible. If, however,
ten pages of close reading is too heavy a burden, you're in for
a pleasant surprise.
to read sidebars and charts
any good teacher, Thomas provides easy-to-read sidebars and information
charts that considerably lighten the reading burden. TDS
callouts come in an attractive shade of blue, a convention that
quickly assists those who read for meaning in quick time. One need
only read as far as page two in the G&C article before the first
sidebar appears (a concise overview of how both substances interact
in osteoarthritic joints). On a facing page, a helpful illustration
of a human joint appears, followed only one page later by an overview
of "Other Ingredients Claimed to Support Joint Health," including
the controversial supplement SAMe, which TDS notes is both
expensive and laden with a variety of side effects and cautions.
plentiful assortment of readily accessible information, it should
be remembered, is simply an accompaniment to the main body of the
article, which at this point is running to six pages. But author/
publisher Thomas is only just getting into gear. Noting the high
expense of these products, he provides a capsule summary of "Approved
G&C," relying for much of his testing information on ConsumerLab.com,
a private testing organization that is rapidly rewriting the book
on supplement quality by putting an ever-widening group of popular
supplements through potency and quality trials and then publishing
the results to its website.
crowning achievement of the article, which by now appears to be
authoritative, is a double-page matrix of G&C product comparisons,
including cost, label and/or insert information and pertinent comments.
Two other articles in the issue are noteworthy for those with an
interest in dietary guidelines for supplements and RDAs for antioxidants.
wealth of information for the intelligent reader
for the "intelligent reader," TDS strives to be both impartial
and thorough. As an alternative to plowing through scientific journals
or reading research, we think it can't be beat. Athletes, trainers
and coaches, people suffering from chronic illness, physicians and
other health providers can all benefit from TDS. If you can't
afford it or just want to see others in your community share the
wealth of information in its articles and news briefs, recommend
it to your librarian as a good candidate for the subscription shelves.
could go on, but we think we've made our point: TDS is fresh,
vastly informative and, not to gild the lily, a real page turner
for those who take supplementation seriously. How many supplement-related
publications do you know of, for instance, that have the courage
and integrity to print anti-supplementation news briefs without
prejudice or comment?
to get a quick, no cost look at TDS? Turn your Web browser
where you'll find the premier issue in its entirety. We were so
enthusiastic after doing so we e-mailed editor Paul Thomas and asked
him to put on his visionary's cap and prognosticate a bit on the
"future of dietary supplements."
to the future
response, in part, follows, accompanied (in parenthesis) by a few
comments of our own:
sales will continue to climb, perhaps not at the double-digit
growth of previous years, but climb nonetheless.
a Republican administration and continuing Republican control
of key Congressional committee seats, DSHEA
will not be cut back, and to the contrary, may very well be
expanded. (Here, Thomas refers to a key piece of federal legislation,
the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, that while
useful to some and beloved by none, nevertheless provides the
best approximation available for an open, competitive market
environment for dietary supplements.)
claims for supplements will continue to be a controversial issue.
The FDA and FTC will continue to be pushed aside and claims
will become more bold and prevalent as they become more protected
under the free-speech
rights of sellers. (We think the claims issue needs revisiting,
especially with regard to supportive, wide-ranging research
as a means of further legitimizing supplementation.)
or more traditional medical/nutritional groups, like the American
Dietetic Association or the AMA, will endorse supplement use
for specific applications. One [of the organizations] will actually
admit that taking a basic one-a-day multiple is probably a good
idea for most Americans as a cheap form of dietary insurance.
percentage of the American population that takes supplements
on a regular or semi-regular basis will remain on the increase.
Most users will continue to be confused about supplements, wondering
if they're taking the right supplements in the right dosages.
But they will want to make up -- at least in part -- for the
fact that they're not eating or living as well as they know
they should because of time constraints and the stresses of
budgets of the NIH (National Institutes of Health) and especially
NCCAM (National Center for
Complementary and Alternative Medicine) will continue to grow
in the area of high-quality research on supplements. Even the
Office of Dietary Supplements may come under the bailiwick of
NCCAM rather than remaining a separate unit in the NIH Director's
Thomas is notably reticent to speculate within the pages of his
own publication, his reportage, as the English say, is "spot on"
and from our perspective eminently worthy of commendation. His claim
of editorial independence is entirely confirmed in our opinion.
We think $28 is a modest sum to devote to such useful information.
(Entirely devoid of advertising, the publication is supported exclusively
by subscribers.) We look forward to seeing The Dietary Supplement
quickly assume its rightful place as an opinion leader among the
handful of newsletters that earn their keep and then some.
New York Times has already reported on Thomas's work and
we expect an ever-widening circle of national media will give note
to this talented editor and his exceptional quarterly. The first
number of our new subscription came in the mail the other day; it's
right on top of our reading pile!