The new year is here, and many of us have succeeded in maintaining our resolutions- though it isn’t always easy. Our struggle to meet our fitness or lifestyle goals often leads us to seek out methods to help us succeed. These often include nutritional supplements. Supplements promise to be the quick-fixes you need to reach your ideal weight, increase your energy, promote a better night’s sleep, or even feel more confident. No matter your goal, you can likely find a supplement that says it can help.
So, what’s the problem? Supplements sound great, right?
Supplements do sound great. However, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Supplement safety is a problem in the US, with hundreds of thousands of pills being sold daily without much, if any, regulation on ingredients. Companies label their product, “all natural supplements,” and consumers think, “If it’s natural, it can’t be bad.” Unfortunately, this is not the case.
According to a 2015 study performed by the New England Journal of Medicine, over 23,000 emergency room visits in the preceding year were due to adverse reactions from dietary supplements. Of these, more than 2,000 patients required hospitalization. More than a quarter of the visits were made by seemingly otherwise young, healthy individuals between the ages of 20-34. The main offenders were supplements designed to increase fat loss, increase energy and enhance sexual performance.
Though the supplements that cause the most damage might be seen as vanity supplements to some, more than 30% of emergency room visits resulted from herbal or vitamin supplements designed to promote overall health. Nutrition trends reflect our desire to better ourselves, both mentally and physically, and often we fall prey to promising advertisements and the quick-fix of pills. The danger of supplements is the lack of regulation or oversight from the FDA.
According to the Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act of 1994, the FDA regulates supplements in the same manner as they regulate food- not drugs. Essentially, the makers of supplements must disclose ingredients in their drugs, but the extensive testing performed on drugs is not performed on supplements. This allows companies to boast of life-changing benefits without the need to prove claims or adequately test potential side effects of their supplements before sale.
Setting goals at the beginning of a new year is a great practice; however, we must do our due diligence before enlisting the help of pills promising overnight miracles. Americans spend over $30 billion a year on supplements, and this creates a massive incentive for companies to produce more pills to promise more miracles with little to no accountability. Though many supplements can be helpful and might enhance your results, it’s essential that you fully vet companies and their products before adding them to your diet. Make health your 2020 resolution.