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The Health Professional's Guide to Dietary Supplements
The Health Professional’s Guide to Dietary Supplements by Shawn M. Talbott and Kerry Hughes. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2007. Paperback; 444 pages. ISBN-13: 978-0-7817-4672-4. $45.95. The newly published reference, The Health Professional’s Guide to Dietary Supplements, is a scientifically grounded, well-organized approach to understanding the clinical use of more than 120 dietary supplements. The book is useful for practitioners wanting to compare the efficacy of herbs, vitamins, minerals, and other nutritional ingredients in treating specific conditions. The supplements covered are organized within 12 general use areas or indications: weight loss, sports performance, energy enhancement, bone support, joint support, brain and mood support, heart health, immune support, antioxidant and eye health, gastrointestinal support, male/female support, and diabetes and blood sugar control.

The authors use a 5-star rating system to designate the amount of clinical research backing the common uses of each supplement. For example, guarana (Paullinia cupana, Sapindaceae) received 3 stars for energy, 2 stars for athletic and mental performance and weight loss, and 1 star for aphrodisiac properties. This means that the evidence that guarana can be taken to boost one’s energy has some support but is limited and not conclusive, that evidence of whether it improves athletic and mental performance is very limited, and the evidence it has aphrodisiac properties is theoretical and not currently scientifically supported.

In the preface, Talbott and Hughes explain, “Although such a ranking is partly a subjective undertaking, it accurately reflects the quality and quantity of the clinical evidence and traditional usage that exists for the supplement and also weighs both the risk/benefit and impact of conflicting positive and negative data.” The star ranking provides the reader with a fresh, quick way to evaluate efficacy.

In addition to the star ranking, the information on each supplement is organized into the following sections: Overview, Comments, Scientific Support, and Safety/Dosage. Each supplement section is also concluded with a list of references as well as additional resources if necessary. The book provides easy access to data with an appendix of supplements in alphabetical order and an extensive index that alphabetically lists the common name and Latin binomial of each supplement as well as treatable ailments and possible benefits.

The book joins the ranks of other authoritative books for health professionals, such as The ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs (American Botanical Council, 2003), but it focuses on a wider range of supplements with more detail instead of covering herbs exclusively. The Health Professional’s Guide to Dietary Supplements is peer-reviewed by individuals with significant expertise in exercise and nutrition, but lacks established reviewers within the herbal field. However, Talbott and Hughes are well-respected researchers who succeeded in compiling the scientific data on supplements in a new way, providing health professionals convenient access to vital information.

—Alicia Goldberg Funk Communications and Business Development Consultant Nevada City, CA