Are natural health products helpful or harmful? While the overall effectiveness of natural health treatments remains the subject of some debate, some recent studies have given ammunition to those arguing that their benefits can often be proven by science.
Are natural health products helpful or harmful? As recently as a decade or so ago, there were still many who argued that alternative medicine and natural health was subpar, risky, and filled with questionable practices. While the overall effectiveness of natural health treatments remains the subject of some debate, some recent studies have given ammunition to those arguing that their benefits can often be proven by science. Despite this, differences in opinion amongst health practitioners and other experts remains the norm, and the arguments either way don’t seem likely to end any time soon.
Take, for example, the widely publicized 2007 study published in the JAMA and Archives Journals and reported in Science Daily magazine which concluded that antioxidant supplements, including beta carotene, vitamins A and E, and vitamin C, may contribute to mortality. The Science Daily article is entitled, Use Of Some Antioxidant Supplements May Increase Mortality Risk. On its publication, some other experts called into question the study’s methodology, and thus its controversial conclusions.
In summary, it is interesting to note the article reported that "whether these supplements are beneficial or harmful is uncertain," but proceeded to quote the study’s conclusion that the use of antioxidant supplements was associated with a 5-16% increase in risk of mortality. Possible reasons behind the increase, as reported in the same article, include the fact that "antioxidant supplements are synthetic and not subjected to the same rigorous toxicity studies as other pharmaceutical agents."
Is the answer here to conduct more research or perhaps to demand a better definition of natural health? With so much consumer decision making based on media driven information, a better understanding of natural ingredients could be a step in the right direction. Synthetic, by definition, is man-made or artificial. Therefore, it may stand to reason to exclude the likes of synthetic antioxidants from the umbrella term of "natural health”.
In contrast to the Antioxidants study, some recently published Australian studies are among many concluding that natural health products can sometimes be proven to be effective. These include:
- Hypertension: Aged Garlic Extracts May Reduce Blood Pressure in People with Uncontrollable Hypertension
- Immunity From Super Bugs: Manuka Honey Effective Against Dangerous Super Bugs
Along with each new finding, there are, of course, often contradicting studies and criticisms.
Natural Weight Loss Sales Boosted by “Celebrity Health Experts”
With Australia (like other developed nations) facing an 'obesity epidemic,’ the idea of popping pills to lose weight has a powerful sway on consumers. This has seen the sales of natural weight loss products increase significantly over the last few years, especially those supported by the sensational claims made by certain “celebrity health experts”.
In most cases, there appears to have been at least some scientific research behind the claims. Sales of Green Coffee Bean Extract have sky-rocketed since a recent study’s findings were widely reported in early 2012 (Green Coffee Bean Extract Reduces Total Body Weight By Up To 10%), and are showing little sign of slowing down. It remains to be seen whether further studies will verify the effectiveness of Green Coffee, and other supplement sensations for weight loss. Given their relative affordability and perceived safety, it seems that many consumers are happy to try them in the meantime anyway.
Is It Buyer Beware or Buyer Be Prepared?
Ultimately, it may be up to the consumer to research natural health products for themselves, rather than relying solely on what’s reported in the media or hyped on daytime television shows
Abel Butler, Managing Director of online natural health products retailer HealthPost.com.au, says that consumers are increasingly well-informed about natural health products, often researching them online before purchasing:
"Rather than simply rushing out and buying whatever product is featured in the news, many people are taking the time to first research the product online. This is something we support - because when it comes to our health, we're all pretty unique and no product will work quite the same for every person. The better we can understand our own health situation, the more empowered we are to improve it."
"The difficulty with this 'self-education' approach," Butler adds, "is that many websites publish content that is unreliable or just plain wrong. With consumers turning online for answers," he says, "it's important that they can find reliable information they can trust.
We'd recommend that consumers only trust information from credible sources, such as government or university websites, reputable supplement manufacturers such as Blackmores, or identified as authored by a suitably qualified health professional. In our own case, we've partnered with a well-known health professional, Renée Leonard-Stainton to ensure everything we publish to our blog is of a high standard. As a qualified Naturopath, Nutritionist, and Western Medical Herbalist, Renée is well-placed to educate our customers on the many benefits, and also the precautions, of the products we supply.”
With discrepancies and conflicting information about natural health being the norm, it may be true that consumers increasingly need to try and sort some of the facts from the fallacies for themselves. In doing so, they should look for credible sources of information, and consult a health professional before taking any health products in conjunction with prescription medication, or a pre-existing health condition.
HealthPost.com.au is the latest name in online natural health and beauty in Australia. We offer a huge range of leading brand supplements, natural health and beauty products delivered to your door via an ultra-convenient online shopping experience. We’re dedicated to creating a rich and vibrant online health community, bringing you the latest ways to be naturally radiant and relaxed in the knowledge that you’re taking great care of yourself and your loved ones
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