A fellow multiple myeloma (bone marrow cancer) patient sent me this email today:

Hello, Pat…

As a supplement to your coverage of nutritional supplements, it might be helpful to remind patients and caregivers of the evil side of the field.

There’s at least one very visible, scoff-law infomercial joker, who advises cancer patients to avoid all medications. Having been barred from selling products, he seems to amass his fortune hawking his books.

Here’s how to determine if those who would gain our confidence, are sincerely interested in our good health.  Read Food and Nutrition Science Alliances’  Ten Red Flags of Junk Science before you plunk down money for a substance that sounds too good to be true:

o Recommendations that promise a quick fix.

o Dire warnings of danger from a single product or regimen.

o Claims that sound too good to be true.

o Simplistic conclusions drawn from a complex scientific study.

 o Recommendations based on a single study.

o Dramatic statements that are refuted by reputable scientific organizations.

o Lists of “good” and “bad” foods.

o Recommendations made to help sell a product.

o Recommendations based on studies published without peer review.

o Recommendations from studies that ignore difficulties among individuals or groups.

– Tom Whittaker

Thanks, Tom!  Although I agree with most of the things on the list, I think it paints with too broad a brush.  Most supplements are never run through a three or four part clinical trial gauntlet before FDA approval like drugs.  I wouldn’t disqualify a supplement based on a single study, just as one should be cautious about jumping on the bandwagon after seeing promising results.

supplementsThe source and who publishes the study is the key.  Is it a reputable, academic institution doing the testing?  Were the results published in a well-known and respected journal?

And the list of good or bad foods.  Again, one needs to consider the source.  A good friend and columnist on MultipleMyelomaBlog.com, Danny Parker, has posted compelling evidence why multiple myeloma patients shouldn’t eat asparagus.  But there are good reasons to eat it, too.  We all need to become knowledgeable enough to weight the risks and make sensible choices. 

 If I’m served asparagus, I eat it gladly.  Love it!  But I don’t eat it every day, or even every week.  Foods aren’t drugs or supplements.  Eating in moderation is the best way to protect ourselves from danger.  I look at supplements that way, too. 

 Cut back on sugar, processed foods and unnecessary carbs.  Eat more vegetables.  Simple. 

Feel good and keep smiling!  Pat

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