Beware – not all sports supplements are created equal
Do you know anyone who never used any dietary supplement? And do you know an athlete who is not using sports supplements?
Dietary supplements are a $100 billion a year industry in North America alone. This huge and growing industry is not regulated by anyone – FDA only occasionally controls if supplements do not contain poisonous or forbidden substances.
Unlike in Europe, US producers are free to make any claims about their products and the regulator would have to prove they are wrong – which is impossible in most cases.
So as long as the labels contain the famous “these statements have not been evaluated by FDA…” nutraceutical companies can claim anything and everything.
You’ve seen it all. The most popular are “advanced formula” (what does this exactly mean anyway?), “proprietary mixture” (when you don’t want to admit that you produce exactly the same stuff as everyone around but your prices are twice higher), “premium” (no comment), “novel” and you name it.
So since the claims by nutraceutical companies are as reliable as ENRON’s accounting books we have no choice but turning to scientific papers.
When evaluating scientific studies, certain knowledge is necessary:
- Small number of scientific papers on given topic mean that it requires further evaluation (and the study usually includes this statement).
- Very small number of studies (1 to 3) on a specific “proprietary” product usually means that they were sponsored by the producer.
- Read carefully what the study is about. Maybe they found that group of young men using proteins didn’t grow any muscle in comparison to the control group using placebo. But did you notice that neither the first nor the second group didn’t do any exercise?
- Even if number of studies claim A, more studies can claim B. Consider this: out of several hundreds of scientific studies evaluating the benefits of creatine monohydrate 30% found no significant improvements in performance or muscle growth. That’s dozens of studies. But still, 70% of the studies did find significant improvements and that’s the generally accepted opinion.
Another important thing to consider is the SOURCE of the supplement and FORM of the supplement.
Example (sources): some sources of omega-3 are contaminated by mercury so it’s preferable to avoid them.
Example (form): creatine monohydrate can be bought very cheaply but this low-cost form is not micronized. Such creatine can cause several digestive problems and should be avoided.