Diet Supplements: For the Healthy, by the Healthy

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Only healthy people use diet supplements

Who Uses Health Supplements?

There’s been a kerfluffle the last few months about the health benefits of supplements. Epidemiological data suggests they do some good, but studies focused on individuals show little to no benefit.

The disparity between the two results is probably due to a selection bias in who uses them. If you’re nutrient deficient in a particular area, a little supplementation helps a lot, even if it’s absorbed very well. However, the people who use them are usually very health conscious, thus creating only a small observed effect in health outcomes.

Healthy People Use Diet Supplements

Here’s an excerpt from a paper published in the November edition of the Journal of Clinical Nutrition:

Dietary intakes of minerals from food sources were higher for magnesium, copper, potassium, and selenium in male supplement users than in nonusers. For women, dietary intakes of minerals from food sources were higher for users than for nonusers for each mineral examined except for selenium. In women, users of calcium-containing dietary supplements were much more likely to meet the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) than were nonusers.

It makes sense that for people already getting their recommended daily allowance of vitamins and minerals, extra vitamins and minerals will not do a whole lot of good. And those are the exact types of people that are using supplements!

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About Jonathan Bechtel

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Comments

  1. Most of the people I know who take supplements are gym-toting, vegetable eating, health conscious nuts who obsess over their weight, workout regimen, and bench press numbers. I can’t imagine them being any healthier. No wonder taking a vitamin doesn’t have any effect. How could it?

  2. Jonathan Bechtel says:

    Jim,Supplementation use is probably over-represented among the very healthy. You can argue the causality, (and many have), but I think there might be two benefits to taking supplements that are not captured in these studies:1). the health markers they use are blunt and don’t capture a lot of the intangible benefits of excellent health…..extra feelings of energy, status, etc.2). the act of taking supplements has psychological benefits unrelated to health. The feeling of commitment, the placebo effect, etc.

  3. It sounds like using health supplements varies with every individual. Though it does sound it’s basically good to use. I’m not a health nut but I’d be willing to try it out.

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