Diet, Health, Lifestyle

The Supplement Trap

Michael Decker

November is male health month. Males in the US and globally face ongoing health and mortality concerns. Male life expectancy is always lower than female life expectancy in developed countries where such statistics are well-tracked. In the US, average male life expectancy is about 7 years fewer than females, in the UK, 5 years, and in France 8 years, while in Russia it is 12 years.

Many men regularly take dietary supplements. The most common of these are a simple multi-vitamin, which most rarely think about except when they pop it in their mouth. Fertility or erectile dysfunction issues are another leading reason why men supplements. Males regularly seek outside dietary interventions in pill form for body image reasons and, especially in athletic training, for perceived performance and muscle building advantages. In the US alone, it is estimated that 23,000 emergency room visits annually are related to ingesting weight loss and sports supplements.

Scientific studies on a vast array of supplements are lacking, which is troubling enough. To make matters worse, the supplement industry is severely underregulated. In the US, the FDA, which otherwise monitors food safety, is not authorized to review dietary supplements for safety or efficacy. The supplement market is a true “buyer beware” marketplace. With a flood of products whose producers make all sorts of claims, the lack of basic standards and transparency are alarming.

Companies are not held responsible for the ingredients in their products. Recent studies examining sports supplements in particular have found experimental stimulants, pharmaceutical stimulants, anabolic steroids, and androgen receptor modulators in products. All of these ingredients carry serious potential problems, from overdose, to harmful interactions with other drugs, to unknown long-term health damage.

What can you do?

  • Stick to trusted brands
  • Examine ingredient lists carefully
  • Educate yourself: do the research on suppliers and individual ingredients to satisfy yourself that the supplement you are ingesting is safe
  • Consult your doctor or other medical professional for advice on possible side positive results and side effects of supplements.

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