Truong Van Tuan, an associate professor at HCM City's University of Medicine, spoke with the newspaper Tuoi Tre (Youth) about the sale and use of dietary supplements.
What is important to keep in mind about dietary supplements?
The first thing is that dietary supplements are not a treatment. The products were not strictly examined like medicines were, from the research to the manufacturing. Clinical medicines use pharmacology and biology; dietary supplements for treatment are not sufficiently tested like medicine.
It also should be stated that dietary supplements are different from normal foods. Each dietary supplement is produced for a certain purpose and is internationally classified to avoid mistakes between medicines, processed food and dietary supplement.
With more than 3,700 types of dietary supplements in circulation, not including contraband, the figure represents high demand for this product, even though many demands are unnecessary. Mass media contributes to this issue, in addition to the spread of popular use among a number of users. People increasingly use dietary supplements as they become easier to find in drugstores and supermarkets.
This matter causes some worry. In principle, dietary supplements are not allowed to contain active elements, including plants with pharmaceutical chemicals or toxic and strong substances like medical treatments. For this reason, the theory is that dietary supplements may be used daily. However, facts show that there are two potential dangers when patients use medical treatment alongside dietary supplements. First, the concentration will increase if both have the same active elements. Secondly, a harmful interaction could result, destroying the effectiveness of treatment. Both dangers result in unmeasurable consequences.
They must ask for and follow specialists' instructions. They should take quality, efficiency and safety into account when consuming dietary supplements. For products licensed to circulate in the market, the Food Hygiene and Safety Department must certify and standardise their packing. They are at least safer than contraband products.
Dietary supplements are not necessary for people who take enough daily nutrients to maintain their health.
However, my sincere recommendation is to look around as there are still many tools which help us maintain our health and fight disease. People should not forget to exercise and amend unhealthy lifestyles. They should avoid overusing medicines and dietary supplements.
Doctors are trained to prescribe medicine. The Ministry of Health regulates against prescribing dietary supplement as prescriptions. However, doctors have the right to advise patients on which dietary supplements they could use in addition to their prescribed medicine.
What lessons should be learnt from experience in foreign countries?
The technology required to produce dietary supplements relates to the technology of manufacturing medicine of pharmaceutical origin. Foreign countries usually write ‘dietary supplement' on their products to help consumers easily recognise them. It is not the case with domestic dietary supplement.
Yes, I do. I sometimes use dietary supplements to fight oxygenation. — VNS