The Truth About Health Supplements In One Picture

What Are The Most Scientifically Proven Superfoods?

From Information Is Beautiful:

Do Health Supplements Really Work?

Browse more data visualization.

The picture is interesting.   Let me add a few comments:

1). This picture should reinforce the differences between health supplements and drugs.  Drugs are specifically designed to target specific pathways in the body.  Many supplements and compounds do do that, but in a more indirect way that’s very dependent on external circumstances.

2). I take this picture to map the implicit relationship between a particular substance and a specific health condition.  From this perspective many beneficial foods and compounds appear less helpful than they actually are.  For example, there’s plenty of evidence to believe that acai is very good for you because of its nutrition content.  However, it wouldn’t perform well according to this graph because of its novelty and lack of evidence that links it to a particular disease.

3).  Does this table take into account different types of supplements? Different types of studies?  For a lot of organisms and roots there’s simply not a lot of formal evidence that maps a particular food to a particular condition.  I’ve written before how difficult it is to reproduce results in scientific research.  This is not limited to merely supplements and is probably more true for drugs.

4). This chart compares the usefulness of supplements to drugs, but what does that say about the usefulness of supplements to food?  The “food synergy” approach to biochemical nutrition has gained a lot of traction, but that issue isn’t really touched on here.  An all-in-one meal shake like Vega One probably doesn’t have a lot of evidence suggesting it can be used to treat disease, but that doesn’t make it any less useful for most of the people using it.

5). What would a chart like this look like for prescription drugs and medication?  What would it look like if you accounted for side effects? For cost? The chart might not look so pretty. I think this would tip the scale in favor of supplements, at least as a first line of defense.

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