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Life Extension’s Dr Michael Smith: ‘75% of Americans are taking supplements but they don’t know what they’re doing’

By Stephen DANIELLS , 15-Apr-2014
Last updated on 15-Apr-2014 at 23:56 GMT

"A one-size-fits-all approach cannot fulfil your unique nutritional needs" write Michael Smith, MD, in his new book, The Supplement Pyramid

Between two-thirds and three quarters of Americans are taking supplements, but they need guidance about how they should be using supplements, says Michael Smith, MD, senior health scientist for Life Extension.

“Imagine if we had more consumers demanding doctors to know about supplements,” Dr Smith told NutraIngredients-USA. “It’s not that doctors are anti-supplements or anti-diet. They just didn’t see it because nutrition training is not part of the core curriculum for MDs. I think that, as the younger generation steps up, there will be a change.”

Dr Smith has stepped up and authored a book that he says will provide guidance to consumers. “I’m taking the guess work out of supplement use,” he said.

The Supplement Pyramid is intended to guide consumers on to build their own personalized nutrition regime.

“When it comes to your health, a one-size-fits-all approach cannot fulfil your unique nutritional needs,” reads the book’s back cover. “With step-by-step instructions, informative medical quizzes, discussions on blood testing, and more, The Supplement Pyramid provides you with all the tools you need to make the best choices and maximize your intake of nutritional supplements.”

Trusted brands

At the end of his book, Dr Smith discusses some supplement brands. “To help you [the reader] find the best products, I’ve put together some information on my favorite supplement companies,” he writes. “These are companies I buy from and have come to trust.”

The list includes: Source Naturals, Country Life, NOW Foods, Rainbow Light, Carlson Labs, Gaia Herbs, Garden of Life, Jarrow Formulas, Life Extension, New Chapter, and Twinlab.

“Every company has to follow GMPs,” he explained, “but there is a spectrum on GMPs. The companies listed in the book can produce a Co A and most have 3rd party label proof.”

Consumer education

Life Extension is privately-held by co-founders William Faloon and Saul Kent and employs around 315 staff. While it started life exclusively in the business to consumer (b2c) space, it has expanded into the b2b channel, which now represents 25% of sales. This may rise to at least 40% in the future .

Dr Smith’s new book is very much in-line with the organization’s aims of consumer education and outreach. In response to recent negative media surrounding supplements, Dr Smith said, “Life Extension and CRN are doing a good job in dealing with these”.

Some may say that the E in DSHEA has been missing – where is the ‘education’ part of the Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act?  “I don’t think it’s necessarily missing,” said Dr Smith. “Imagine if we get positive studies in the news. They will go a long way towards educating the consumer.”

So will we see supplements being included in dietary guidelines? “I think you will start to see a change,” he said. “I think you’ll see the big boards add dietary supplement to their guidelines.”

And the hope is in the younger generation of medical professionals being better educated about supplements, he added. Life Extension is already working universities to establish the infrastructure for more integrative medicine, he said.

“This started with CoQ10 with statins and CoQ10 depletion. The grass roots consumer has been pushing us to learn more about nutrition.”

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