1) Natural doesn't mean safe
There is a common misconception amongst the public that natural products, herbs, Chinese medicines, botanicals, nutrient supplements, health foods etc. are inherently safe. This couldn't be further from the truth as evidenced by a correlation between increased consumption of these products and increased occurrences of adverse events like hypervitaminosis, allergic reactions, acute kidney failure etc.
2) Arbitrary distinctions between pharmaceutical products and natural products
Another huge misconception is that a clear line in the sand can be drawn between pharmaceutical drugs and natural products in terms of their essential biochemical characteristics and mechanisms of action. At best the distinction is based on regulation....Excluding treatment of deficiency diseases, many nutritional supplements and vitamins are also used in clinical settings e.g magnesium sulphate for treatment of heart arrhythmias and pregnancy seizures, niacin (b3) for cholesterol and even a derivative of Vitamin A used to CURE leukaemia.
3) Pharmaceutical drugs are all synthetic and nutrient supplements are all natural
Molecular genetics and pharmacogenomics have certainly changed the focus on how pharmaceuticals are developed and are ushering in an epoch of targeted drug discovery, development and treatments. However today a significant percentage of our frontline medications are still derived from natural sources such as tree bark, fungi, bacteria, flowers etc. Conversely, a huge percentage of the vitamins, minerals, amino acids, peptides, phytonutrients etc. used in nutrient supplements are manufactured using industrial processes, many of them right here in China and exported globally.
4) The Cookie Cutter Approach: One Size Doesn't Fit All
The most popular nutrient supplements like fish oils are touted as universally safe, efficacious and functional. Looking at some of the popular claims associated with fish oils it seems like a miracle treatment...In truth, however, beyond the arguments cautioning reckless consumption of fish oil due to PUFA's being prone to oxidation and possibly a cause of free radical induced cell membrane damage, fish oils also have the potential to cause a range of adverse reactions in a subset of the population including anxiety, bleeding, immune dysfunction etc.
5) Deregulation impacts product safety, hygiene and efficacy
In comparison to the nutrient supplement and health food industry, one of the most reassuring elements of the pharmaceutical industry's strict approach to regulation is the peace of mind in knowing that the finished products have undergone rigorous quality control processes and several phases of clinical trials to help characterise the range of adverse reactions in the population. As previously mentioned with a large number of companies sourcing vitamins, minerals, amino acids, peptides etc. derived from industrial processes and manufactured here in China a huge shadow is cast over the safety of these products.
Disclaimer: the above is the author's personal opinion and is not the opinion or policy of Chemlinked.