gffli fails (Ml.) frfMl sat., May 8. 1976 3 Food for Thought"*™ Congress takes backward step By JEAN MAYER Processor of Nutrition, Harvard University Because of amendments tacked on to a recently introduced bill, which may have wccn* Jaw by now, the Food and Drug Administration will no longer be able to regulate the amounts and combinations of so-called "safe" vitamins, minerals and other ingredients of foods in dietary supplements. Tliis means you, the consumer, must be more knowledgeable and wary than ever when buying and using high-dosage vitamin and mineral preparations. In effect, these amendments removed the protection consumers have enjoyed since 1968, when the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act first required manufacturers to prove the safety of a substance before adding it to or selling it as a food. Now, an unethical manufacturer is free to add almost any amount of an ingredient and in nearly any combination he sees fit - - even if it is too low for benefit or loo high for safety. This setback came about because the manufacturers of some of the more outlandish dietary supplements and their health-food enthusiasts embarked on a vigorous mail campaign. They argued that vitamins and minerals are natural components of foods and that people should be free to eat or take as much as they want, without government control or interference. Dietary supplements are a lucrative business, and it is understandable that those engaged in it are loathe to have anyone point out that it is hokum — and possibly dangerous hokum - to believe that special doses of vitamins and minerals are essential to health and well-being. This is what the FDA attempted to do last year when it issued regulations requiring that high-dose vitamin and mineral preparations be sold either as 'over-the-counter drugs or, in the case of some megadose preparations, as prescription drugs. A vigorous protest to Congress against this so-called curtailment of "freedom of choice" resulted. Unfortunately, too many Congressmen paid attention. At high enough levels, every substance — even water and oxygen — is harmful, and vitamin and minerals are no exception. Megadoses of these substances have a pharmacological, rather than a nutritional, effect. For example, we know that the fat-soluble vitamins A and D are deadly if taken at high levels over a period of time. Fortunately, these vitamins have been exempted from the new legislation and are still subject to regulation. But the water-soluble vitamins have not been exempted, and this is a source of potential concern. We are only beginning to learn about the possible ill effects of high intakes of some of these. Jf large amounts of vitamin C, for example, are consumed with a meal, they can destroy much of the vitamin B12 in the gastrointestinal tract. The greatest potential hazard, however, is in taking minerals. We do know that all are toxic if taken in excessive amounts. If the daily requirement of potassium is taken in a single supplemental dose, it can be fatal for certain types of patients. Similarly, smaller supplements, taken over a period of time, can cause severe ulceration and perforation of the gastrointestinal tract. The effect of different minerals varies greatly and is influenced by such factors as the individual's state of health, the form in which they are taken (and whether they are consumed with food), and the levels of other essential minerals and nutrients in the body. While considerable research remains to be done, here are a few things you should remember: - The effect of calcium depends upon its relationship to vitamin D, phosphorus, protein, zinc, lactose, fat and oxalic and phytte adds. Thus, very high intakes can cause kidney stones or calcium deposits in soft tissues and also increase the severity of zinc and magnesium deficiencies. — Two to five times the normal daily intake of magnesium is a strong cathartic, and larger amounts can lead to death. — An excess of phosphorus over cakium intake interferes with calcium absorption and can bring on mineral loss from the bones, or oesteoporosis, in older people. If you're .still bound and determined to pop these pills, the safe course is to buy only the supplements that provide no more than the Recommended Daily Allowance and that are made by reputable manufacturers. And above all, you should not take supplements without the advice of a physician or registered dietitian. Be safe, not sorry. Who says dieting is a bore? Not when your menus are macaroni with ham and cheese, chili con came, shrimp scampi, arroz con polio. . . .These are some of the recipes Dr. Mayer provides in his "31-Day Reducing Diet." 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