Here's The Skinny on Dietary Supplements

Updated: Aug 2, 2021

Let's face it, there are an endless amount of dietary supplements available. All of which make claims to improve your health in one way or another. I listen to a radio show every weekend that features a different product every week that is "the latest super potent miracle ingredient" that will solve your health problem whether it be arthritis, knee pain, back pain, feeling tired, or pretty much any ailment you might be experiencing. After I listen the radio show I always have the question, " but didn't the product last week (or last month) do the same thing?" I learned a long time ago that any and all of the claims they make about those miracle products all come with the disclaimer: "*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease."

A collection of dietary pills
Are dietary supplements effective or just well marketed?

After sitting through an entire hour of the testimonials, so-called studies, and intense marketing about how well the product does this, or that, you would think it is a cure! Because most Americans are not willing to get off the couch and put in a minimum of just 20 minutes of exercise a day, they turn to a quick and easy fix that does not require them to do anything but take a pill. Most medical professionals agree that dietary supplements also have health risk associated with their use. While I completely disagree that there are intrinsic health risks associated with taking dietary supplements, I understand why the risks are still real for some people. Here's what I mean: According to data from the 2017-2018 National health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), nearly two-thirds of adults in the U.S. are overweight, and a significant number are obese. Obesity and over-eating are the cause of a myriad of diseases such as heart failure, diabetes, liver failure, sleep apnea and other respiratory diseases. Not to mention they weaken the immune system and disrupt the normal operation of your metabolism.

The problem that the Food and Drug Administration has with dietary supplements is not necessarily about the pills themselves, but the lack of research on how they interact with people who might have an underlying disease like a cardiovascular condition or pre-onset diabetes. Remember back in the 90's when Ephedra was banned? On February 9, 2004, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a final rule prohibiting the sale of dietary supplements containing ephedrine alkaloids (ephedra) because such supplements present an unreasonable risk of illness or injury. Thousands of people actually died from taking supplements containing Ephedrine because it promised apatite suppression, increased metabolism and fat burning properties.

Consider this: 75% of Americans are overweight, about 42% of Americans are obese and those numbers are climbing every year. Yet, revenue from vitamin and nutritional supplement production reached nearly 31 billion dollars in the United States in 2018 and the industry is set to add over a billion more in revenue in 2019. That means that most Americans are either overweight or obese and have convinced themselves that taking a pill is going to help them loose weight. The diet industry, the supplements industry industry knows most Americans are generally out of shape, unhealthy and sick. Yet they market their products as if it were a silver-bullet that will magically melt pounds of fat from our bodies without exercise. The bottom line is supplements are good, but food is better, and supplements only work if you are living a balanced lifestyle; eating healthy, getting off the couch consistently for a minimum of 20 minutes a day. If 20 minutes of cardio a day sounds like something you don't think you can do, think again. Most of us just need a plan and someone to help us stick to it. It starts in you your mind. Tomorrow never comes, that's why you should just start and make mistakes while you are doing whatever you can do. Before you know it, you'll understand your body better and what works best for you. Maybe just two days of cardio a week is a good starting point for you. Talk to your doctor before starting any serious workout regimen. I know everyone says that, but it's still true. Your primary care physician can give you advice based upon what he has learned about your health condition, risk factors and lifestyle. Just take the first step and second, third and fourth steps will be easier.

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