Natural Health Products: What do you know about them?
Published: June 19, 2015
The term “natural health products” can be applied to a range of dietary supplements such as vitamins, minerals, herbal remedies, teas, vitamin drinks, and preparations used in complementary and alternative medicine.
Natural health products (NHPs) are used on a regular basis by more than seventy percent of adult Canadian consumers as well as millions of people worldwide. In 2007 more than 30,000 various NHPs marketed were worth more than sixteen billion dollars annually to the North American industry.
The lack of effectiveness of pharmaceutical drugs, side effects, no pharmaceutical drug for a specific condition, and preference for a natural approach to health management are some of the reasons why people use NHPs. “Natural” products are often assumed to be safe, but many health educators and consumers are concerned about the safety and regulation of NHPs.
Regulations for NHPs vary worldwide with European regulations potentially the most rigorous and almost on par with pharmaceutical drug regulations. In North America, regulatory authorities such as Health Canada, and the Federal Department of Agriculture (FDA) in the US, provide mechanisms for regulation, control of marketing and consumer information on NHPs.
In Canada, in response to industry and consumer demand, plans to regulate NHPs in the same way as pharmaceutical drugs were discarded for ashorter, less rigorous and less expensive procedure which provides consumers with supposedly economically accessible products.
Currently, regulations developed by the Natural Health Product Directorate (Health Canada) require that NHPs undergo a pre – market evaluation to establish safety of the product prior to being granted a license to market that NHP. One problem with Canadian regulations is the vast number of products waiting to be approved.
With an overloaded system many products are provided with a conditional go-ahead based on an honor system without completing the full regulation procedure. Many of these products have not been tested and side effects are not known.
NHPs do not usually have significant amounts of rigorous research behind them which identifies efficacy, side effects, or drug interactions. Ideally, rigorous research should identify that use of the NHP provides benefits greater than doing nothing or taking a placebo, and that the benefits of its use out weigh the risk associated with taking it...link to the full article to learn more.
Whitney, E. & Rady Rolfes, S. (2005). Understanding Nutrition. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth
Foster et al., 2005 Natural health products and drug disposition. Annu. Review, Pharmacol Toxicol, 45 203 -226
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