Supplements – are they actually beneficial or just a scam?
If this is something you’ve wondered – keep reading!
It’s estimated that nearly 70% of U.S. adults take dietary supplements (including vitamins and minerals). “Producing about $32 billion in revenue for just nutritional supplements alone in 2012, it is projected to double that by topping $60 billion in 2021 according to the Nutritional Business Journal.” (1)
The Purpose of a Supplement
By definition, supplements are designed to supplement the nutrition you’re already getting from your food. When we start to believe that supplements can replace the nutrients we should be getting from food, we are misusing them. Because we are “quick-fix” oriented, this is a common trap we can fall into, and may find ourselves thinking “I don’t have enough time to focus on eating healthy, nutrient-dense food, so I’m just going to supplement instead”.
Sadly, this is ineffective and harmful. As soon as we get to this point, we miss out on the potential benefits supplements may provide. Here’s why: you cannot out-supplement an unhealthy diet (or lifestyle for that matter!) It just doesn’t work that way.
Supplements are designed to supplement, not to replace nutrients.
Supplements can be an incredibly powerful resource for healing, when they are used appropriately to supplement our nutrition. In fact, I take several supplements (that change from time to time) that have been extremely helpful throughout my health journey.
When are Supplements Beneficial?
Supplements are most beneficial when you know you’re deficient in a particular nutrient, vitamin, or mineral. There are certain nutrients that we are often deficient in due to several reasons: lack of diversity in the food we’re eating, where we live, even the mineral deficiency of the soil today (which isn’t what it was 50 years ago!) and so much more.
The Scary Truth about the Supplement Industry
Have you ever heard the expression “paying for supplements is just equivalent to expensive urine”? Unfortunately, with many mainstream brands this is often the case, as the supplement industry is full of fraud. Brands can get away with putting almost any substance into a supplement and make a claim about it’s effects. Like many industries today, the supplement industry is one that often puts profit above people.
Just like personal care products, cosmetics, and cleaning products are greenwashed, there is a lot of greenwashing in the supplement industry and the lack of regulation is concerning.
In other words, before picking up a $5.99 bottle of vitamin D from your local drugstore, I would strongly question whether it is effective, beneficial, or safe.
This is why I only trust a select few supplement & vitamin brands that have proven their purity, quality, safety, and bioavailability (the ability of the supplement to actually benefit your body the way it claims to). Don’t assume that any supplement or vitamin you see on the shelf is safe.
If you’re wondering if a particular brand is trustworthy, that’s a perfect question to ask in my private facebook group, so we can all learn together!
5 things to consider when buying supplements
1) Avoid mainstream supplement brands.
They’re often owned by large pharmaceutical companies and you can bet that they don’t have your best interest in mind.
2) Look past marketing.
A brand may look great at first glance, especially if they have a large marketing budget. Look past this for research, testing, and quality. Don’t just take their word for it. Get a third, fourth, and fifth opinion before blindly popping pills that have the potential to affect your body – positively or negatively.
3) Be cautious of celebrity branded supplement lines.
These are most often private-labeled, which means they’ve outsourced the supplement itself, from an undisclosed source, and simply put their name and face on the bottle.
4) Do they disclose their purity, quality, safety, and bioavailability research and testing methods?
If this information is not public, email the brand and ask them about it. You should be able to tell by their response whether they have taken the time, energy, and investments necessary to ensure that their products are the highest quality possible.
If they respond with something along the lines of “due to our proprietary formula…” and will not tell you anything – that’s a red flag. You have a right to know the quality of the supplements you’re investing in to promote and protect your health.
If you don’t get a reply, that’s another red flag – move on!
5) What is included in the “other ingredients” list?
Supplements are labeled differently than processed food products. On a supplement, you’ll see “Supplement Facts” then “Other Ingredients” below that. Here’s an example:
Do the “other ingredients” contain cheap fillers and dangerous, synthetic ingredients (like the example here)? OR if they don’t disclose the full ingredient list, that’s a huge red flag – move on!
What are your thoughts on supplements? Share below! Remember, if you’re curious about a particular brand, come ask in the Facebook group!
Hannah is the founder and health educator at Healthfully Hannah, empowering women to live healthfully through science-based, step-by-step guidance. Read Hannah’s personal health journey that led her to discover the power of Functional Medicine and Nutrition. Feel free to send Hannah a message here.
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