A look at EmpowHER’s supplement info database

I received an invitation to join the blogger network at EmpowHer, which is billed as a health and wellness content library and discussion community for women. Out of curiosity I checked out their Drugs & Supplements A-Z database to see what they have to offer. I started with A and scrolled down till I saw “ascorbic acid” (vitamin C). Steam came out of my ears. There were all of four lines about what it’s used for and how it works, buried in a ton of wording similar to what you find on the package insert of a prescription drug — how to take it, what forms it’s offered in, a list of brand names that is nowhere near exhaustive, and what you should do if you miss a dose.

Under “What is this medicine used for?” is listed:
– This medicine is used to promote proper growth and good health.
– This medicine is used to prevent or treat vitamin C deficiency.
– This medicine is used to decrease the urine’s pH.

Under “How does it work?” it says:
— Ascorbic acid is a dietary supplement.

Ooooo! Helpful! I found the same Rx-paper-bag copy under the listing for manganese.

But then I looked up “vitamin C” and got an admirable entry covering therapeutic uses, alternate names, history of the vitamin, Linus Pauling’s research, dosage, competing substances, studies, estimated deficiency rates, scientific evidence, and a long list of references.

I found equally impressive descriptions for magnesium, artichoke and black cohosh. The information about what each substance does in the body isn’t exactly comprehensive, but it’s not a bad place to start, and it’s certainly better than most rented databases.

The useful entries come from a database provided by EBSCO Publishing and from another EBSCO product, DynaMed, a reference tool used by practitioners in their practices/hospitals/research and marketed on the Dynamed website as being particularly up-to-date. Most of the entries I saw were reviewed in 2009, though. Not that that’s horrible. It just doesn’t seem really, really up-to-date.

The lousy entries are copyright Lexi-Comp, Inc.

In general, the entries for vitamins under “V”, such as vitamin D, are EBSCO entries, and the entries listed by the full name, such as cholecalciferol, are Lexi-Comp copy. At first I thought that the Lexi-Comp entries were only for supplements given in prescription form, but no, OTC brand names are listed as well. Vitamin A is listed twice under “V” — three, if you count the entry for “vitamin A and vitamin D” — and has both types of entries.

EmpowHer needs to iron out that glitchy info overlap.

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