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Top 9 Dietary Supplements Myths on the Internet – Debunked!  

In this article, we explore the Top 9 Dietary Supplements Myths circulating the internet today. Fortunately, we’ve been able to debunk most of these myths. It’s important to have the proper information about dietary supplements before purchasing them.

Misleading information on the internet can be confusing, especially when you are trying to decide whether or not a supplement will be beneficial to you. In this article, we hope to shed some light on the true nature of dietary supplements myths and to better assist you in making informed purchasing decisions when it comes to health and dietary supplements choices.

Woman drinking coffee and using laptop searching for dietary supplements myths This article explores the top 9 dietary supplements myths that people are searching for on the internet today!

1.    Supplements are a Waste of Money

This is a common myth and one that has been busted long ago! It is one of the top dietary supplements myths and it is often propagated unfairly by healthcare professionals. It’s interesting that many of the people who prescribe multivitamins – which have been shown time and again to be of little use to people – are often quick to dismiss other dietary supplements, especially those of plant origin. [1]

Liftmode Berberine HCl, 98+% purity Berberine HCl is a great support supplement for heart health

It’s important to remember that more than half of the pharmacological agents in use today were originally based on plant-derived chemicals. In fact, a research paper published in 2005 showed that around 50% of all medicine in use at the time was originally based on plant compounds, and up to 25% contained phytochemicals directly from higher plant sources. [2]

So, the myth that dietary supplements are a waste of money is often a misinformed one which ignores the important value of plants and plant-derived medicines.

 

Herbal supplements also have an important role in naturopathic, allosteric, and traditional medicine. Although these are not conventional forms of healing, they cannot simply be written off because of their alternative nature. Many dietary supplements have ample clinical evidence showing their efficacy. [3]

Take, for example, Berberine HCl, which has been compared to common anti-diabetic agents in numerous studies and has been found to have comparable effects on blood sugar and insulin sensitivity. [4] Or, examine Green Tea Extract – in two separate studies, researchers found that fat oxidation increased by over 18% in people using this dietary supplement! [5]

For more information about myth that supplements are a waste of money, and other dietary supplements myths, check out our interesting blog post on the subject here: Are Health Supplements a Waste of Money?

 

Myth Status: Busted!

2.    Supplements aren’t Recommended for People Who Eat Well

Even if you eat well, you can still benefit from using dietary supplements. One of the most interesting dietary supplements myths is the belief that supplements aren’t useful for people who eat well.

healthy food on table with stethoscope People who eat a healthy diet can also benefit from using dietary supplements

This stems from the belief that health supplements are all related to nutrients and deficiencies. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, the only supplements that are generally used for combatting nutrient deficiencies are vitamins and essential nutrient supplements like Choline Bitartrate  or L-Tryptophan. [6]

Also, even if you do eat well this still doesn’t discount using vitamin supplements. An example is people living on a vegan diet. Although this diet is considered very healthy and avoids many of the health risks associated with eating meat, people on a vegan diet require vitamin B12 supplements to ensure good health. [7]

 

Another example: even if you have a wonderfully healthy diet, if you live in the Northern hemisphere then it is very likely that you will suffer from a vitamin D deficiency at some point in the year. Vitamin D cannot be obtained from food – your skin generates vitamin D in response to sunlight. If there is no sunlight, supplements are required. [8]

However, there is still an entire world of health supplements for people to explore that are not related to nutrient deficiencies. These supplements have an extremely wide range of potential cognitive benefits and positive effects on your body. Examples include Magnolia Bark Extract and Oleamide for promoting relaxation, and 5-HTP or Hordenine for improving energy!

Dietary supplements are actually best taken in addition to a healthy diet and lifestyle. The name says it all: dietary supplements – supplementing a healthy diet for more benefits. People with a healthy diet can definitely benefit from using health supplements.

Myth Status? Busted!

Fruit and berry juice: a great antioxidant for weight loss Juicing is a great way to boost a healthy diet and enjoy some great phytonutrients!

3.    All Supplements Are the Same Quality

It is strange that this is still one of the most common dietary supplements myths around today. It stems from the belief that health supplements are all regulated by FDA and independent bodies in the same way that medicines are (which they are not – see myth #6).

 

  1. Using excipients and fillers

plants in test tubes and dietary supplements contamination Tests can show contamination in dietary supplements

One of the top ways that dietary supplements lose quality and purity is through the use of fillers and excipients.

These are often added to the supplements to create more volume or for other effects. By law, supplements companies must list all ‘non-medicinal’ ingredients on the product. [9]

 

  1. Contaminants

Many herbal supplements and dietary supplements contain contaminants. These are often contaminants from other plant species than what are listed on the ingredients.

In fact, recent research from the US showed that the majority of dietary supplements were contaminated with other plant species. Of 12 companies tested, only 2 were free from contaminants or unlisted excipients/fillers. [10]

 

  1. Poor quality materials

plant in hand - herbal supplements It's important to know when to harvest plants

Plants vary in the concentrations of active compounds that they produce throughout the year. It’s crucial to harvest plants at the right time for a high-quality product.

Also, the correct parts of the plants need to be harvested. Some plants contain the highest quantities of active compounds in their roots, others in the leaves, and others in the bark.

Finally, it’s important that the supplements are stored and packaged correctly. There are a number of factors that can negatively impact on the ability for a supplement to store correctly including temperature, humidity, and pH levels.  [11]

 

Dietary supplements should contain a third-party Certificate of Analysis (CoA) so that you know the purity and quality of the product that you’ve purchased.

 

Myth Status: Busted!

4.    All Dietary Supplements Are ‘Natural’

Another one of the top dietary supplements myths is that all supplements are ‘natural’ or are herbal supplements. Actually, this isn’t true at all.

Dietary supplements are different to pharmaceutical agents because they cannot claim to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease. This doesn’t mean, however, that dietary supplements are limited to compounds of ‘botanical origin’.

Take, for example, Phenibut. Phenibut is a Russian-developed chemical compound that is used to help reduce stress and promote feelings of calm and relaxation while maintaining full mental capacity.

 

Liftmode Phenibut for calming Phenibut HCl, 99+% Purity from Liftmode

Phenibut is often considered to be a Nootropic compound because of its beneficial effects on the brain. However, Phenibut is not a ‘natural’ supplement by any means. It was developed in a laboratory and has been studied in clinical trials in Russia. [12]

Another example is the mood-lifting supplement, DL-Phenylalanine. DL-Phenylalanine is a racemic (half and half) mix of different stereoisomers: D-Phenylalanine and L-Phenylalanine.

The left-biased compound is found in nature and is an amino acid with beneficial effects on neurotransmitters like norepinephrine and dopamine. The right-biased compound was developed in a laboratory and is thought to assist with pain relief and relaxation. [13]

These are just two examples of dietary supplements that are not based on naturally occurring compounds. There are many more available for purchase on the internet, often sold as ‘research chemicals’. Examples of these include Noopept and Phenylpiracetam.

 

Myth Status: Busted!

young woman working with dietary supplements in a laboratory One of the top dietary supplements myths is that all supplements are natural - some were actually developed in labs!

5.    All Dietary Supplements Are Safe

This is one of the dietary supplements myths that is not easy to bust right away. Why? Most dietary supplements are considered safe to use within the recommended dosage range.

There have been a few dietary supplements that were withdrawn from sale due to safety concerns in the past, but these cases are very rare. An example of this is Ephedrine, a very powerful energizing supplement that can increase metabolic rate by up to 5%. [14]

dietary supplements myths - all supplements are safe Some dietary supplements may have side effects, especially at high doses

After some time, Ephedrine use was associated with dangerous side effects, and its legal status was brought into question. Most stores no longer sell Ephedrine due to safety concerns. [15]

The overwhelming majority of dietary supplements are, however, deemed safe or partially safe for use by people over the age of 18 years. Some dietary supplements are also safe for children.

Safety concerns about dietary supplements fall into the following categories:

 

  1. Health risks from high doses/exceeding the dosage recommendations

By far, this is the biggest safety concern. The dietary supplements myths that all supplements are safe – and at all doses – have lead to some serious negative health effects. Contrary to what many people believe, it IS possible to overdose on many dietary supplements. They are potent chemical compounds and have pronounced effects on your body. [16]

 

  1. Interactions with medication

Another concern comes when people combine supplements indiscriminately or mix dietary supplements with medication. Always consult with your doctor before taking health supplements if you have an underlying medical condition or are taking medication. [17]

 

  1. Safety for pregnant and breast feeding women

The safety of many dietary supplements for pregnant and breast feeding women have not yet been determined. As a result, it is recommended for pregnant and breast feeding women to speak to a doctor before using most dietary supplements. [18]

 

Myth Status: Partially Busted.

 

6.    Dietary Supplements Are Regulated like Medicine

The list of dietary supplements myths goes on. Myth #6 is clearly false. There is a strong distinction between medications and dietary supplements. This can be seen in the way that they are marketed, produced, and regulated.

fda approved stamp Dietary supplements are regulated by the FDA

The FDA does regulate dietary supplements, but not in the same way that pharmaceutical agents are regulated.

For a start, dietary supplements are considered safe until proven unsafe. In contrast, pharmaceuticals are considered unsafe until proven safe in clinical trials.

 

If a dietary supplement is “new” – contains ingredients that haven’t been used before as dietary supplements – then the manufacturer must provide evidence to the FDA that it is safe. [19]

Two sets of laws regulate the marketing of dietary supplements in the US: those set in the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994, and the regularly updated FDA regulations. [20]

These laws set the basis for dietary supplements regulation in the US. There are four sets of regulations for dietary supplements manufacturers:

 

  1. woman pouring green tea outside outdoors healthy Green Tea Extract has a number of great health-promoting benefits.

    Manufacturers of dietary supplements are responsible for ensuring that their products are safe and that the labels are not misleading.

  2. Manufacturers can make three types of claims about their supplements: health claims, nutrient content claims, and structure/function claims.
  1. Manufacturers must follow “current good manufacturing practices” to ensure that their products are processed, labeled, and packaged consistently and to high-quality standards
  1. The FDA evaluates the safety of dietary supplements that are on the market by doing regular research and keeping track of adverse health events. [21]

Although there is a clear regulatory process for dietary supplements in the US, this process is very different to the regulation of medicines.

 

Myth Status: Busted!

tincture bottle, mortar of healing herbs Dietary supplements are regulated by the FDA, but not to the same extent as pharmaceuticals.

7.    “Weight-Loss” Supplements can Burn Fat Even If You Don’t Work-Out

One of the most common dietary supplements myths is about “weight-loss” supplements – that they can help you lose weight regardless of whether or not you do exercise.

“Weight-loss” supplements are often marketed as a kind of ‘magic-pill’ to reduce weight and to help you burn fat. Unfortunately, this just isn’t the way that they work. Apart from simply not eating, there is no way to burn fat without expending energy. And the only way to expend energy is through exercise. [22]

Skinny woman used green tea extract for weight loss Weight-loss supplements help boost your metabolism.

In fact, it is best to be wary of supplements that are marketed as ‘weight-loss’ formulas, in general. There used to be some interesting compounds available on the market like ephedra and synephrine. However, these ‘weight-loss’ supplements had to be withdrawn due to safety concerns. [23]

 

Most ‘weight-loss’ supplements cause increases in blood pressure and heart rate. These effects are especially dangerous for people with hypertension or cardiovascular problems. Even more, problematic issues arise with ‘weight-loss’ supplements stacks.  These stacks often combine multiple ingredients in varying ratios. Combining different stimulants can be dangerous. [24]

Some supplements definitely have the ability to increase metabolism and some have even been shown in clinical trials to assist with weight-loss. However, these supplements only work when you are doing exercise and they tend to work best when you combine them with a healthy diet and healthy lifestyle. [25]

Taking ‘weight-loss’ supplements while you live a sedentary lifestyle won’t help your body burn fat, and it may actually be dangerous for your health.

 

Myth Status: Busted!

8.    Everyone Gets the Same Benefits from Dietary Supplements

Unfortunately, this is still one of the most prevalent dietary supplements myths and is untrue. There are a number of reasons that people sometimes just don’t feel any benefits from health supplements while others do.

close up shot of a mans torso illustrating internal flora Internal flora are very important for absorption of many vitamins and dietary supplements

Sometimes people don’t feel effects because of problems with purity. Through scientific testing, manufacturers can test a chemical and know its purity and molecular structure.  If they know that two different sources of a dietary supplement are chemically identical then the most likely explanation is not that the compound is of poor quality.

What is left are factors unique to an individual’s biology and environment that are not as easy to control. These can include individual metabolism, tolerance, and when/how the supplement was taken. [26]

 

A great example of this is the dietary supplement and Nootropic compound Phenibut. Many people experience wonderful benefits from this compound – reduced stress, improved mood and sociability, relaxation, and better sleep. Unfortunately, some people do not feel anything when taking Phenibut. [27]

Liftmode's Quercetin - 95+% purity Quercetin, a top health supplement with anti-inflammatory properties

Another example is vitamin supplements. Vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, vitamin B12, magnesium, and zinc are very important for maintaining a healthy immune system and preventing flu and colds. [28]

However, an important factor in experiencing benefits from these supplements is your intestinal flora – the bacteria in your gut! These help the minerals and vitamins to be digested and integrated into your body properly. If your intestinal flora isn’t healthy, you won’t experience as many of the benefits of health supplements as others. [29]

As we can see, there are numerous factors that can affect the extent to which someone feels the benefits of dietary supplements. A good supplements company will refund your order if you do not feel any effects.

 

Myth Status: Busted!

Portrait of woman with omega 3 fish oil capsule, outdoors Unfortunately, not everybody experiences the same health benefits from supplements

9.    All Marketing Claims Are Backed by Science

The final of the dietary supplements myths is, perhaps, the most concerning of them all. It is unfortunate that there is so much room for ‘snake-oil’ salesmen in the dietary supplements industry – corporations who make false/misleading claims about their products.

One example of this comes from labeling of products. As we saw earlier, (myth #4) many dietary supplements suffer from contamination. The reason that this happens is that, while manufacturers are required to provide a list of the ingredients of their products, they are not always required to prove the accuracy of these lists. [30]

This can greatly affect the claims made about the benefits of a supplement.

Furthermore, supplements manufacturers that use ‘structure/function claims’ have to state:

 

This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.[31]

herbal medicine in capsules Some supplements are low quality and may not provide benefits to users - always use a reputable dealer!

This often allows room for making misleading claims based on questionable science. One important way to distinguish a reputable company is to check whether or not they inform you of whether a quoted study was done on animals or humans.

Often, supplements companies use conclusions from animal studies to draw claims about benefits on humans. This is simply bad science. [32]

 

Another important consideration is that supplements companies making ‘structure/function claims’ should give honest information about the results of the studies that they quote. For example, some companies draw positive conclusions from studies where a real conclusion was not actually reached.

To avoid buying supplements that don’t work, make sure you buy from a reputable dealer who makes honest claims – do an online check first and read through customer reviews about that company to ensure that they are honest.

 

Myth Status: Busted!

dietary supplements myths are that all claims are backed by science Contrary to the popular dietary supplements myths, not all marketing claims are backed by solid science.

Conclusion: Dietary Supplements Myths and Facts

In summary, there are many different dietary supplements myths around today that people should be aware of. Most of these myths are about the efficacy of supplements. Despite what many people think, dietary supplements are actually beneficial and can be very effective!

Here is a quick summary of our list of the Top 9 Dietary Supplements myths:

 

Myth #1: Supplements are a waste of money

Myth busted! Many supplements are very effective and some even have comparable effects to certain pharmaceutical agents.

 

Myth #2: Supplements aren’t recommended for people who eat well

 Myth busted! Dietary supplements are definitely useful for people with good diets – not all supplements are nutrients, and some have other interesting effects like stress-reduction and energizing effects.

 

Myth #3: All supplements are the same quality

Myth busted! Not all supplements are the same quality because of contamination, packaging issues, and variation in raw materials quality

 

Myth #4: All dietary supplements are ‘natural’

Myth busted! There are many examples of dietary supplements that are not of a ‘natural’ origin – an example is Phenibut.

Myth #5: All dietary supplements are safe

Myth partial busted. Dietary supplements are considered safe at the recommended dosage but maybe have adverse health effects at higher doses. They may interact with other supplements or medication and may be unsafe for people with medical disorders and for pregnant and breast-feeding women.

 

Myth #6: Dietary supplements are regulated like medicine

Myth busted! Supplements are regulated by the FDA but not to the same extent as pharmaceutical agents.

 

Myth #7: ‘Weight-loss’ supplements can burn fat even if you don’t work out

Myth busted! ‘Weight-loss’ supplements are only useful when combined with an exercise regime and work best in addition to a healthy diet and lifestyle.

 

Myth #8: Everybody gets the same health benefits from dietary supplements

 Myth busted! Quality problems as well as individual variations in metabolism, environment, tolerance, and how the supplements were taken mean that not everyone experiences the same benefits.

 

Myth #9: All marketing claims are backed by science

Myth busted! There is room for supplements companies to make misleading claims about their products based on flawed science. It is important to purchase supplements from a reputable dealer.

woman happy taurine on beach We hope this helped cleared up some of the most important dietary supplements myths!

Dietary Supplements Myths - References:

[1] Farin Kamangar and Ashkan Emadi “Vitamin and Mineral Supplements: Do We Really Need Them?”, Int J Prev Med. 2012 Mar; 3(3): 221–226.

[2] A Gurib-Fakim, “Medicinal plants: traditions of yesterday and drugs of tomorrow”, Mol Aspects Med. 2006 Feb;27(1):1-93. Epub 2005 Aug 18.

[3] J Mlcek et al., “Quercetin and Its Anti-Allergic Immune Response”, Molecules. 2016 May 12;21(5).

[4] J Yin et al., “Efficacy of berberine in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus”, Metabolism. 2008 May;57(5):712-7

[5] MC Venables et al., “Green tea extract ingestion, fat oxidation, and glucose tolerance in healthy humans”, Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Mar;87(3):778-84.

[6] NK Weirdsma et al., “Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies Are Highly Prevalent in Newly Diagnosed Celiac Disease Patients”, Nutrients. 2013 Oct; 5(10): 3975–3992

[7]What Every Vegan Should Know About Vitamin B12”, Vegan Society online, accessed June 8, 2017

[8] Holick MF, Chen TC, “Vitamin D deficiency: a worldwide problem with health consequences”, Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Apr;87(4):1080S-6S.

[9]Excipients and Fillers”, Iva Lloyd, NDHealthFacts.org, 2013-06-03, accessed June 8, 2017

[10] SG Newmaster et al., “DNA barcoding detects contamination and substitution in North American herbal products”, BMC Med. 2013 Oct 11;11:222.

[11] L Thakur et al., “Novel approaches for stability improvement in natural medicines”, Pharmacogn Rev. 2011 Jan-Jun; 5(9): 48–54.

[12] I Lapin, “Phenibut (beta-phenyl-GABA): a tranquilizer and nootropic drug”, CNS Drug Rev. 2001 Winter;7(4):471-81.

[13]DL-Phenylalanine”, PubChem – Open Chemistry Database, US National Library of Medicine, Compound Summary for CID 994, accessed June 8, 2017

[14] AG Dulloo, DS Miller, “The thermogenic properties of ephedrine/methylxanthine mixtures: human studies”, Int J Obes. 1986;10(6):467-81.

[15]Ephedrine”, Examine.com, retrieved June 8, 2017

[16] CK Li, K Sundararajun, “An Uncommon Case of Phenibut Toxicity in an Intensive Care Unit”, International Journal of Medical and Pharmaceutical  Case Reports 5(5): 1-6, 2015;

[17]Possible Interactions with: Green Tea”, University of Maryland Medical Center, accessed June 8, 2017

[18]Quercetin”, WebMD.com, accessed June 8, 2017

[19]FDA regulation of drugs versus dietary supplements”, American Cancer Society, cancer.org, accessed June 8, 2017

[20]Dietary Supplements”, US Food and Drug Administration, available online, accessed June 8, 2017

[21]Using Dietary Supplements Wisely”, NIH, US Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, accessed June 8, 2017

[22]Dietary Supplements for Weight Loss”, NIH, US National Institutes of Health, accessed June 8, 2017

[23]Ephedrine: Banned by the FDA 2004”, by Kelly Roseberry, Health Psychology online, accessed June 8, 2017

[24] YR Krishna et al., “Acute liver failure caused by ‘fat burners’ and dietary supplements: A case report and literature review”, Can J Gastroenterol. 2011 Mar; 25(3): 157–160.

[25] K Klipstein-Grobusch et al., “[Influence of lifestyle on the use of supplements in the Brandenburg nutrition and cancer study]”, Z Ernahrungswiss. 1998 Mar;37(1):38-46.

[26] SM Chacko et al., “Beneficial effects of green tea: A literature review”, Chin Med. 2010; 5: 13.

[27]Beginner's Guide to Phenibut”, Reddit.com, online forum, accessed June 8, 2017

[28] Ströhle A, Hahn A, “[Vitamin C and immune function]”, Med Monatsschr Pharm. 2009 Feb;32(2):49-54

[29] REO Williams et al., “The influence of intestinal bacteria on the absorption and metabolism of foreign compounds”, J Clin Pathol Suppl (R Coll Pathol). 1971; 5: 125–129.

[30]5 Dietary Supplement Myths Busted”, EatingWell.com, accessed June 8, 2017

[31]Structure/Function Claims”, FDA: US Food and Drug Administration, accessed June 8, 2017

[32]The issues of generalizing results from animal studies”, Psychology on WordPress, accessed June 8, 2017