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Are supplements a waste of money?

Feb 23, 2022

Today you will learn how to critique supplement claims more confidently.

I'm so passionate about this topic because there are so many players in the supplement industry making big claims - but can they stand up to the test of science?

I have some perhaps unpopular opinions about supplements and I might ruffle some feathers but I'm okay with that because I'm committed to empowering you to think critically about claims in the health space. 

Have you ever thought - “Maybe I should take a bunch of supplements to help lose weight? It will fix my hormones!”

If so, keep reading!

There are 5 reasons why supplements are not necessarily the holy grail they’re promising to be:

1. Branded formulations of supplements have almost zero to no peer reviewed research that critically look at the claims about the supplement and whether it actually has benefits. The gold standard of research is a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized controlled trial. Go to PubMed and type in the brand name of your favorite supplement and you will most likely not find any research on it. 

Now this doesn't mean that all supplements are worthless. There is actually a lot of great research emerging about different supplements. For example, cinnamon has research that indicates that it might improve insulin resistance as does green tea. Valerian root (which I take to improve sleep) also has good research supporting its use. 

I just don't want you to drink the Kool-Aid and think a particular branded formulation is necessary for you to spend $50 for 60 pills, and it’s going to magically solve all of your health problems.

Look for quality research when evaluating a supplement and its claims.

Be careful not to buy into the marketing hype of specific companies & their “brands”.

2. The second reason to question the claims surrounding supplements is because supplements do not need FDA approval. If you look at a bottle of supplements, you will see claims the manufacturer is making followed by an asterisk and tiny print on the back saying “these statements are not meant to diagnose or treat disease”. 

When a medicine goes through FDA approval, it actually has to go through rigorous research processes to determine if the claims that the drug manufacturer is making are true. Companies often make many claims at once about a supplement, but research can actually only assess one claim at a time. You might hear that a particular supplement will improve fat loss, reduce your cortisol, improve your stress and stop hair loss. 

“Wow, it's so magical! Where has this been all my life?!”

You can't actually research many claims at once. The more claims that a supplement manufacturer is making about one of their formulations, the more skeptical that you should be, because research can actually only assess one claim at a time because well done research controls one variable at a time to determine cause and effect relationships. 

Watch for the marketing hype which sounds like:

“Hey, we're gonna solve all your problems with this one pill!”

It doesn't work like that.

People want it to be a pill. A medicine, a pill they can get from their doctor.

Maybe you’re disillusioned with Western medicine because you’ve learned that a pill can't magically solve all your problems but now you’re putting hope in the supplement industry and “holistic practitioners” to solve your issues. 

Those people are marketing that their pill is the solution but now it’s cloaked in “natural” or “herbal." It's Western medicine that's evil, they claim, but their pill is the solution! 

That's BS too. It's the same argument that this one little pill can solve all your health problems. 

Things in life are much more complex than that. 

Ya’ll, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. 

(And if the practitioner recommending the branded formulation also sells it, then be very wary! Follow the money.

3. The third reason that supplements can be a scam is because formulations are not always tested or regulated. You may or may not be getting what they even claim is in the capsule. Now, some companies claim that medical grade supplementation is better because it is subject to third party testing to guarantee what's in the formulation.

This is great, but remember that third party testing is not a randomized controlled trial. It isn't supporting the claim of the manufacturer. It's simply saying what's in this pill is in fact X (i.e. vitamin C) and not fairy dust. That's all that third party testing does. It doesn't actually prove to you anything about the effectiveness of the supplement.

4. The fourth reason to be skeptical of supplements is because supplements are a big business, a $35.7 billion industry in the U.S. alone. Why? Because people want it to be something simple. They want it to be easy and what's easier than taking a pill and swallowing it?

That is the easiest thing that you can do to try to improve your health. It's a lot harder to quit alcohol, quit drugs, quit caffeine, reduce sugar, reduce processed food, move your body, meditate, journal, connect to God and process your emotional traumas. 

A lot of businesses want a share of that $35.7 billion industry. Supplements are not cheap. It’s not uncommon to spend $50 for one bottle of 60 pills (and the label says, “take two daily!”)

Clearly more supplements is not the answer because people are paying $36 billion a year for them and we're just getting more obese as a country. 

Supplements are not actually the holy grail of weight loss. 

Supplements also operate on a recurring revenue model. You have to keep buying more each month to keep up with your protocol. Now the manufacturer gets recurring revenue from you. Jackpot. That's every business' dream - automatic recurring revenue. The problem is does that actually serve you as a consumer? 

Do you actually need to be spending $250 a month on supplements that may or may not have any science actually backing up the claims made?

It's a little bit of a scam.

5. Correlation doesn't mean cause. Just because you took a supplement and you felt better doesn't mean the supplement caused that. Before you invest your hard-earned money on a supplement, I want you to really think critically about whether this supplement actually has research behind it.

There's a lot of confirmation bias going on with people who take supplements.

They become fixed in their belief that supplements are the holy grail that will cause their healing. Then they will only look for evidence that the supplement is helping and they will dismiss evidence that contradicts their conclusion

Look, I'm super open to supplements being awesome. Show me the conclusive research that shows it actually has a benefit to my life. I'm down for it. Just show me the research.

A couple more things to think about:

1. It's much easier to take a pill or supplement than work on our nutrition, which requires daily maintenance and engagement. It’s easier to take a pill than work on our character deficits, our exercise habits, and our stress by changing our lifestyle and habits. 

Laziness is a character deficit.

Not processing emotions in a healthy way is a character flaw.

Avoiding your spiritual life is a weakness.

People want it to be something else because it's easier.

Maybe your health issues have nothing to do with your physical body. Maybe they're a result of darkness or immoral behavior in your life. People don't always connect that because a lot of people don't want to talk about morality.

Maybe your health issues are a result of living in a broken world. Maybe you can't actually fix everything with a pill. Maybe you can't actually fix all your problems with losing weight or getting healthy. 

Why do people want it to be that way? 

Because it's scary to realize you don't have complete control

It's scary as a human being to live in uncertainty, it's scary to give up control and realize, “Hey, I actually can do all these things for my health and still get sick. I could eat all the broccoli and still get cancer. I could take these supplements and, and still get struck by a bus. I could run a marathon and still get a heart attack.”

It's scary to realize that we don't have control so it can lead to an obsessive search for a cure to all of society’s health ailments, as opposed to accepting disease and death as a normal part of living in a broken world.
So what do you need? 

2. Until you have handled the nutrition variable fully, you have no idea if you need a supplement boost too. Save your money. Start with your nutrition. Start with your movement. Start with your lifestyle, start with your mindset

That's what I found worked for myself to get me results. It wasn't signing up for a supplement package for $250 a month.

It was gaining nutrition knowledge. It was practicing it on the court. It was navigating the challenges of life like holidays, travel, social events and dining out. It was eventually quitting alcohol for me, but initially it was just reducing alcohol. It was confronting the lack of spiritual fruit in my life. It was dealing with areas where I lacked integrity. 

That's actually what's going to get you results long term.

Remember when it comes to supplements:

  • assess every claim that's made
  • think critically about the research (or lack thereof)
  • follow the money - who benefits when you buy this supplement 
  • be an informed consumer and not a shackled controlled mind. 
  • question everything even if seems like a reputable source
  • go do your own research on PubMed. 

I hope this topic empowered you today. I'm fired up about this topic because I hate seeing women scammed out of their money, falsely hoping something will lead to result.

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