Saturday, February 27, 2010

Scientific Evidence for Popular Supplements

Courtesy of, Information is Beautiful . net

Feel free to discuss.

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Trista said...

I pretty much agree with this guy who posted a comment on the actual article:

Tim P
Posted February 26, 2010 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

"Challenge….making a blanket statement that covers BILLIONS of people? This is kin to Suze Orman saying annuities are bad for everyone under every cirmcumstance. We are all different and we each have different needs. Just because it works for a smaller percentage of the population does not mean that it doesn’t work! Another analogy…a rigid knee brace may not do those with healthy knees, or those whose are too far gone, any good. But, for a very select few professional football players that brace may mean the difference of making a very good living or not working at all. There is a large logical fallicy here in making a blanket statement about supplements that don’t seem work in the appropriate percentage of population. Taurine may not work for MOST, but it may save the quality of life for a FEW. Each person should consult a supplemental professional for their each circumstance. I thought my parents and teachers always told be generalizing was a unpopular practice."


I also think it's interesting that the B vitamins, vitamin C, echinacea and chamomile are all below the worth it line. And apparently antioxidants "don't work"? I'm no expert, but based on my personal experience with some of these things, I beg to differ!

I think there are far too many inconsistencies and generalities in this so-called study for it to be taken seriously. For instance, "showing tangible human health benefits when taken orally by an adult with a healthy diet": What does that even mean? What qualifies as tangible? What's the age range? Pre-existing conditions? M/F ratio? What constitutes as a healthy diet? How much of each supplement did they take every day?

This raises more questions than answers. That's about all it's good for.

By the way, if you're eating an apple a day, you might want to try local or organic (if you already aren't), as apples are part of the "dirty dozen" and tend to contain a rather large pesticide residue! What's on My Food Just sayin'!! ;)

Outliers Inc. said...

I think it's very interesting. I'm no health nut, but I do understand research and the spread sheet was very informative. Meta-research is very difficult because you can't narrow down your qualifiers, you have to start with a very broad statement because you are drawing your conclusions from multiple research studies so you can't afford to be specific (one of the big negatives of meta-research).

Trista, if you want more specifics about why something doesn't work, look at the spread sheet and read the research that conclusion is based on. They have listed all of the URLs.

The part that interested me the most was the correlation between evidence and popularity. For example, the difference between the evidence for Vitamin C and Vitamin D and their popularity. Just because every one is doing it doesn't mean it's helpful or a good idea. I think the idea they are trying to drive home is before you buy into a new health fad, do some research because once it goes in your body, there is no reset button.

I could talk about bridges, but I shall refrain.

I think it's kind of funny that the guy who wrote about generalizing people was generalizing the research. Haha...ok..maybe that's just me.

I think the questions this resource raised are good ones and hopefully health care professionals will begin to research more natural remedies.

Outliers Inc. said...

Correction to above- the research never said that any compound or vitamin doesn't work, but that there was not evidence that it did all the things people claimed.

If you want to know why there is no evidence for a particular compound, go to the URL on the spread sheet and read the research.

White Russian said...

Hey Everyone,

Trista, I definitely agree with you on how different people are affected differently. Not to mention how the placebo effect can result in giving you varying results. I don't normally take vitamin C, but when I have cold, I normally start taking it until I start feeling better. Does it help me get better faster? I don't know? But I feel like it doesn't hurt.

Personally, I have never taken supplements long enough to see their lasting effect. Well, I do drink green tea, but I don't drink it to improve my cholesterol levels. I drink it because I enjoy the taste, and I know that its better then drinking sodas.

Outlier, as far as this being meta-research that is a good point. To me this becomes more of interesting eye candy rather then definitive research. I have come to learn that I can no longer accept the information that is given to me without double checking the resources from which that information came from. With studies like this, I can't find the time to check all the research that went into getting it.

Unfortunately, Outlier, I do believe that as long as pharmaceutical companies keep dumping money into the health sector, they would rather have your doctor give you a prescription for Lipitor, instead of telling you to drink green tea and work out.

Trista said...

Actually, if you click on "antioxidants", the words "don't work" appear underneath.

I also agree with what Serg said. I'm aware that they have cited sources, but who has the time to go through them all? I suppose if I was truly interested, then I'd make time. I guess the best practice is just to do research on the specific herb or supplement that you personally want to try.

But doesn't that render this chart useless? I find it hard to believe that this chart was drawn just to point out to people that they should do research on a supplement before they take it, especially when the chart itself is dubbed "Snake Oil?" during a time when Senator McCain is pushing to crack down on the FDA regulation of such supplements and herbs with The Dietary Supplement Safety Act. Not to mention that this guy used time and effort to pull together all this research to make the chart.

I don't know if I'm making any sense here, I have a sinus infection so my head's rather foggy, but I'm just trying to say that I find the chart to be rather suspicious. It almost seems to me that the main objective of the chart is to stir up trouble, as it's rather unreliable (in my opinion) for other purposes.

Trista said...

Also, here's an interesting article on the chart's author, David McCandless, regarding the trustworthiness of the statistics on one of his other charts.

Oh, and slight clarification to above: I was trying to say that if he took the time and energy to convert the data from the spreadsheet onto the chart, I'd imagine that he did it for a larger reason than just to say "hey, research supplements before you buy them," which was the only useful conclusion I personally could draw from the chart.

Aaaaaand, here's someone else's thoughts on the chart in question.

Outliers Inc. said...

You're right Serg, and it's not just pharmaceuticals, it's also insurance companies that want the average American to stay on a healthy regimen of prescription drugs because that is multi-billion dollar industry. But, I do think we are seeing a shift in thinking from prescription drugs to more natural remedies. I mean, 40 years ago you would have been hard pressed to find even one study that documents the effects of green tea. It's going to take time and pressure from the people to make this a priority, but I don't think it's a losing battle yet.

And, BTW, I'm all for natural, non-prescription remedies because 7 years ago I had a very rare reaction to a prescription drug that resulted in me losing my night vision and part of my peripheral vision. Since then I have made it a priority to research any drugs that a doctor prescribes and any natural remedies that people recommend. Do I always have the time to do that? No, but that is why I have such a good relationship with my pharmacist. I ask her a lot of questions before filling any prescription or buying any supplement.

I agree that the visual of the bubbles is a rather horrendous way to show information (sorry Serg, it's pretty but that's about it). What I was talking about was the information in the spreadsheet, not the visual. The spreadsheet gives good info, but this guy is no real researcher, he's just presenting stuff he finds in an interesting (albeit confusing) visual form. I guess I don't understand how this meta-study is stirring up trouble. To me it looks like a rating system that was applied to the outcomes of various studies. I guess I see the purpose of this study to disseminate information, not really to give an opinion.

WatchingStars said...

Wow a lot of reading tonight..I agree with ya'll on doing research but to me that is just boring I admit. However I totally believe in the notion of taking stuff naturally. I rarely take stuff for headaches unless it is super for colds I will drink tea and take Vitamin C and I just recently found this stuff that was amazing..
After two weeks of a super bad cold, after taking it, it was gone in 48 hrs. It was something that someone suggested to me. You can get it off the shelf at Walmart. And I admit, I didn't research it, but hell it worked and I was happy!
The stuff is called Emergen-C It's an immune booster.
Hm, now I am curious to find out more about it because of your posts LOL. I dunno if I'll stop taking it, cause it's like a miracle drink.
On another note: It's definitely worth it to check out what we are putting into our bodies. I am TRYING to get off the steps right? I am starting to drink green tea (but it has to be rasp-green tea-otherwise yuck) Sorry Serg :P
Thanks for the post, I retweeted it for ya also!

Good night!

Anonymous said...

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ncchapman said...

I was just looking at books on this at Border's, so weird. I found a lot of arguments on both sides regarding herbal and vitamin use to control anxiety but I also noticed that of the things they named the pro's far outweighed the con's.
I like taking daily vitamins. I feel like when I take them regularly I get sick less often. Never have I gone to a doctor who's said "Oh you gotta get off that multi-vitamin, it's not doing you any good." Especially since we starve ourselves of so many nutrients from eating the wrong things, it's nice to have a balance.
I love green tea.. Actually, I love tea in general. You should get republic of tea's daily green tea it is the best. I've been trying to only drink tea, water, and beer... and sometimes vodka. I feel so much better throughout the day if I am constantly hydrating myself. I try and drink like, 3 liters of water everyday... However, I've almost peed my pants like 3 times already.
It's interesting to see that most of the vitamins below the worth it line are advertised as antioxidants, metabolism stimulants, and natural energizers.
Basically, I don't think that vitamins need to be a controversial subject. We should be much more concerned with what we unknowingly put into our bodies by eating healthy things, like fruit & veggies, covered in pesticides. Not only does it effect us but think about the people and the places that are constantly spraying the harmful chemicals and the effect it has on their health and environment in such large doses. Scary shit.

Kris said...

I find it extremely interesting that all the vitamins (like E and C) and such that doctors encourage us to get plenty of are below the "worth line". I make sure to get plenty of Vitamin C when I'm feeling sick, and I don't know if it's just the thoughts that it could work that make me feel better or what, but it seems to work. I'm not at all surprised that green tea is all the way up there at the top. I love my green tea, and drink it all the time.

You also made a comment about Lipitor. I've witnessed myself someone taking that particular drug and compared it to someone who drinks green tea regularly, and the green tea of course, had the better effect. Just saying...

Good to see ginger root up there, too. I tried it once for nausea, and it worked wonders. :) Kind of surprising to see acai down there at the bottom too, though.

Of course, like Trista said, I think different supplements and vitamins have different effects on different people, so how exactly can this study be taken as serious? An interesting topic to look at, though, and now I'm interested in reading further research on this. Going to go see what I can dig up.

SarahMay said...

Man, I love reading anything on health! I'm not ashamed to admit that I am a true health nut. When it comes to supplements, I am no stranger to a lot of them. Totally agree with the comments that each individual is different when it comes to how he/she will be affected taking each various supplement. So many factors to take into account and the chemistry of it all...AHHHH!

From my personal experience, I believe Goji Berries are powerful and thus, should be above the "Worth It" line. Haha! And wheatgrass is basically at the "NONE" line?!!! Blasphemy! So many raw foodies/ health nuts would wholeheartedly disagree with that as well. Many people claim that daily wheatgrass shots have changed their lives and for some, even helped them to stop taking some or all of their prescribed medications. Oh well, at least our society is focusing more and more on the power of nature which will, hopefully, lessen our society's dependence on pharmaceuticals.

SarahMay said...

I bought a mushroom supplement today that contains multiple extracts, but mainly includes the Reishi mushroom--so I checked on this chart to see if Reishi mushrooms or any mushroom was on it. Lo and behold, this type of mushroom is considered to have "Good" evidence supporting its effectiveness (This particular formula is for immunity). Actually made me feel more confident about my purchase. :) But, now I'm wondering if by knowing this it will trigger a placebo effect for me...