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Scientists Call BS on the Billion Supplement Industry
From probiotics, to omega-3 capsules, to those addicting gummy vitamins, supplements are undoubtedly popular in the wellness world. Now, a new study published in JAMA International Medicine claims they're largely no better than placebos.
First of all, supplements are actually not regulated by the FDA–companies don't need to submit any evidence products are effective or safe before going on the market. Since the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, law allows companies to sell products that "support" health so long as they don't claim to treat ailments.
For the majority of adults, supplements provide little, if any, benefit.
In the report published this October, data was culled from 1999 through 2012 via in-home interviews with 37,958 adults in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted every two years. They found 52 percent of adults used one or more supplements in 2012 but only 23 percent of consumers use supplements at the suggestion of health care providers. In fact, most users of supplements are among the healthiest in the population, and are reportedly more likely to be people who don't smoke, drink moderately, and exercise regularly.
The report came with an editorial titled "The Supplement Paradox: Negligible Benefits, Robust Consumption" by Dr. Pieter A. Cohen from the Cambridge Healthy Alliance. He wrote that while supplements are "essential" for vitamin and mineral deficiencies, they're "overused among the general population to 'improve' or 'maintain' health." He added, "for the majority of adults, supplements provide little, if any, benefit."
In the end, there's nothing you can get from a cocktail of vitamins that you can't get from whole foods. For a guaranteed health boost, you're better off skipping the supplement aisle at the grocery store and heading straight for the fruits and vegetables.
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