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Hot Topic: Supplements - Part II: The research

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Hey Everyone,

If you haven't read Part I of this series on Supplements, please go back an check that article out first.

The research. If you are familiar with my blog, you know I am all about research and "the science." I love the science behind claims, because most of it is "junk science." Someone did a study about this, that or the other thing and published a report. A "study" is usually nothing more than a questionnaire asking a select group how it feels about something.

When you do your own research, you really need to see who is writing the article, what the person's qualifications are and what they have to gain by writing the article. For instance, I am a trained journalist, with a Bachelor's degree in Journalism from an accredited university. I am NOT a dietitian, doctor, biologist, physiologist or any other kind of "gist". I am just a guy who does research the writes about it. I have nothing to gain other than the dissemination of information to anyone who wants to read my blog. My only goal is to get people to think for themselves.

So, with that said, here's the scoop on supplements. Most of them are nothing you can't get in what you eat every day. In fact, many of the supplements on the market contain ingredients that are bad for you if taken in large doses. And none of the supplements I researched say anything about what will happen when you stop taking them.

Even the people who write about supplements "hedge" their articles with caveats and disclaimers. I read a good article about supplements on WebMD by Hilary Parker who is a Ph.D candidate at Johns Hopkins. The article is called "Proven Weight Loss Supplements"and is sub-titled "Which weight loss supplements really work." I don't know if she picks the titles to her own articles or if it is done by the editors at WebMD, but even she falls into the trap that is what I call "supplement hype."

In her article she looks into 6 ingredients found in supplements, Calcium, Fiber, CLA, Green Tea Extract, Meal Replacements, and Orlistat (and over-the-counter medication). But as she writes about each of these supplements she admits the research is inclusive or the supplement needs to be combined with some change in behavior to work.

1. Calcium supplements as fat metabolizers, the research is contradictory or inconclusive depending on who you ask.
2. Fiber supplements: work, but you can get the same results if you modify your diet and drink plenty of water.
3. CLA (Conjugated Linolic Acid): I had to look this one up in two different places just to understand what it was. It is a fatty acid that occurs naturally in small amounts in dairy products and in red meat. In other words, it's a polyunsaturated fat that has been isolated and made into a dietary supplement. It works (in pigs, but the jury is still out as far as how it works in humans), but the side-effects are still being studied in Sweden and include: increasing Blood Serum Cholesterol, inflammation (the article didn't specify what kind of inflammation), and adverse liver tests (what tests was also not specified).
4. Green tea extract: They list three extracts in the article, but admit without the caffeine the other two might not work at all as far as metabolizing fat.
5. Orlistat: also known under the brand name Alli. This is actually a medication available over the counter. I'll save this one for another article.

What else did I find? I found out many supplements had to be taken off of the market because they contained ingredients, such as enphedra, which are banned in the US because of their harmful side-effects.

Here is the topper. Many of the articles written are made to sound factual, but are based on sketchy research or misquote actual research in order to sound valid. I found one such article on which mis-named the journal it referenced several times in an article on CLA.
I found the actual article and I will save the results for another Blog of my own. For the time being let's just say CLA may not be all these writers think it is.

I found another article on that promotes the virtues of many fat burning supplements which contain ingredients banned by the Food and Drug administration.

My point here is, draw your own conclusions. Even scientific experts can't agree on the validity or the usefulness of dietary supplements or the research done on them.

More "food" for thought.

Until next time, JUICE to you all.

Jonny Mac
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Thanks for the info!
    1857 days ago
  • SAILOR64

    Good for you! Doing your own research.

    I just checked into one linked to me by another reader, Invingia. It's supposed to reduce body fat. It might, but to date, it hasn't been scientifically shown to do anything.

    Of course there are medical conditions that may require the use of supplements to balance an otherwise healthy diet. If they are prescribed, then go ahead. But I stand by my earlier statement. There is little or no valid scientific evidence that shows any of the supplements on the market today actually work for their advertised purpose.

    Thank you for bringing your point to light regarding medical conditions. It is a point well taken. And thank you for keeping me on my toes.

    Jonny Mac

    1857 days ago
    You are right that there are a ton of supplements for sale that are useless.
    There are other supplements that are necessary for most people because of poor nutrition practices or because soils that are farmed on are too low in minerals because of unnatural farming practices. This can even be true for organic products, although often to a lesser degree. Factory farming for animal products is done using feed for animals that are unnatural for them, usually grain and soy instead of pasture. This leads to abnormal lipid content in the meat, dairy and eggs, requiring supplementation of omega 3 fatty acids and abnormally low mineral and vitamin levels.
    Most soils don't contain enough magnesium and some other minerals any more and many people have high levels of various toxic metals in their body that replace these minerals. Supplementation is often the only answer.
    I am in the process of learning about supplementing for mercury toxicity at the moment and have had to do a lot of research on learning to supplement for my hypothyroid condition.
    A perfect diet helps, but is sometimes not enough to be healthy. There are also supplements that I have found very helpful to prevent disease. Studying supplements is a very time-consuming endeavour but it has benefited my health a lot.

    1857 days ago

    Comment edited on: 1/20/2013 1:04:16 PM
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