A quick look at the multi-billion dollar supplements industry and what you should expect of your supplements.
As the name suggest, supplements are meant to be just that. They make the missing nutritional value count from your diet. Be it proteins, creatine, vitamins…supplements were traditionally recommended by medical professionals in case you weren’t getting the required amount from your regular meals.
Today, supplements have become a claim churning industry in itself. Thousands of brands and countless products later, there is very limited amount of science on what actually works and doesn’t. And on the back of almost every product, you have the glaring statement: “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”
The claims makers of dietary supplements make on their products is often too vague (vitamin C prevents scurvy) or generic. They cannot claim that their product will have the effect as they are marketed because they do not have the scientific tests to back it up.
So, are supplements a scam? No, of course not. For the simple reason that some of them do work and provide the additional nutritional value.
For instance, products such as whey isolate and creatine monohydrate, the two staple supplements within the fitness industry do have scientific data to prove a marked improvement in performance and muscle recovery after a strenuous workout. In fact, intake of creatine monohydrate as a supplement can enhance performance and recovery upto 10%. Both these products are safe to consume and do have an impact on performance.
Now, here’s the catch. There are literally thousands of other products that are safe and carry no side effects whatsoever. However, their impact on athlete and at gym performance is not backed by any scientific data or clinical tests. Products that contact BCAA, glutamine (overhyped), fish oils have not stood the scrutiny of clinical tests to measure any improvement in muscle recovery or overall well being.
And then there are testosterone boosters that claim to mimic the results of anabolic steriods. Testosterone boosters are a class of herbal supplements that claim to naturally increase your testosterone levels. By directly increasing testosterone, or by inhibiting hormones responsible for converting testosterone to oestrogen (the female hormone), these supplements are designed to help you build bigger, stronger muscles.
Some commonly used ingredients, like D-aspartic acid (which increases natural testosterone production), fenugreek (which enhances creatine uptake) and ZMA (a formula of zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6 used to help achieve a more restful sleep) have been shown to increase testosterone levels and lean body mass. But the majority of studies examining the effects of testosterone boosters have produced underwhelming results.*
While better oversight is needed in the supplements industry, it shows little signs of slowing down and the explosive popularity of some products that are even harmful.
(Adapted from American Council on Science and Health).