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NPA chief calls FIFA official's statements about supplements 'outrageous'

By Hank Schultz , 11-Sep-2012
Last updated on 19-Sep-2012 at 09:52 GMT

John Shaw, executive director and CEO of the Natural Products Association, rose vigorously to the defense of the dietary supplements industry in the wake of statements made by an official of FIFA, the international governing body of soccer.

 Jiri Dvorak, MD, FIFA’s chief medical officer, called into question the quality, safety and efficacy of dietary supplements.  He asserted that there was no evidence that supplement use could boost performance, though many players think it will, and said that the widespread use of the products posed a doping risk, maintaining that many supplements are tainted with anabolic steroids.

 At the very least, Dr. Dvorak is misinformed, Shaw said.

 “Unfortunately you have folks in positions of authority like the FIFA official who make broad statements that condemn our industry that have no basis in reality,” Shaw told NutraIngredients-USA.

 “Facts speak for themselves.  Millions of people take supplements.  Thousand of athletes take supplements.  Hundreds of professional, world-class athletes take supplements.  And they are tested routinely to make sure they are not receiving any adulterated product," he said.

"So for someone to turn around and say the supplement industry is not doing its job, that’s outrageous.”

Widespread use among players

Dr. Dvorak  cited statistics that he characterized as sobering: Based on data from the past four World Cups, about 35% of all players are using dietary supplements. But the uptake among younger players is higher.  As many as 50% of the U-17 and U-20 World Cup players are using supplements, he said.  And he claimed that as many as 60% of the U-16 players in the U.S. used supplements. It should be noted that unlike some national sports organizations in North America, such as the NFL and the NBA, FIFA regulates competition from the teenage level up to international professional competitions.

 Even with the use by younger, possibly more vulnerable athletes, supplements pose no safety risk, Shaw said. “This industry continues to have an excellent safety record even with widespread use. Additionally, supplements have been shown to have a variety of healthful benefits, including addressing nutritional deficiencies.”

Evidence of regulation

Dr. Dvorak characterized supplements as untrustworthy because they are insufficiently regulated, a charge regularly leveled at the industry.  While supplement manufacturers and those who represent them, such as the industry trade organizations, can be relied upon to take the opposite position, an unbiased point of view on the state of supplement regulation can be found in an exhaustive, peer-reviewed article on the subject in the February–April edition of HerbalGram, the publication of the American Botanical Council . The article, which stretched over 17 pages of the magazine, looked at every aspect of the history of the development of dietary supplement regulation in the U.S. and included 75 references.

The authors’ conclusion was unequivocal: “The years since the enactment of DSHEA have been marked by a progressive development of regulations an guidance by FDA to help ensure that dietary supplements are safe, of high quality, and appropriately labeled."

They finished by saying, “With the complex, interrelated infrastructure of regulations now in place to implement DSHEA and subsequent amendments, the myth that dietary supplements are an unregulated industry is definitely dispelled.”