What if you could just take a tablet and be granted radiant skin and luscious locks? Would you mix up a powdery drink for tighter muscles and a negligible body fat index? How about improved heart health, sharpened brain function, or boosted energy levels? It’s all yours for just one pill a day.
This is the main sell of the supplement industry, which has ballooned from a $20 billion market in 2004 to a $132 billion market today. In America alone, 170 million adults regularly take supplements, and three out of every four people do so on a daily basis.
However, despite their popularity, the supplement industry isn’t what it seems. In fact, peeling back the curtain just a tiny bit reveals an insidious underbelly – lawsuits, lies about ingredients, and a general sense of apathy in the face of scary medical statistics. Below are 12 facts about the supplement industry that will horrify you.
According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, around 23,000 people end up in the emergency room each year due to complications from supplement ingestion. Weight loss pills were the number one culprit.
2. Supplements Might Contain Amphetamines
In 2015, a study in Drug Testing and Analysis revealed that six weight loss supplements produced by Hi-Tech pharmaceuticals contained R-Beta-methylphenethylamine, a compound that is similar to amphetamines. Two weeks after this study was published, the FDA demanded a recall.
3. Your Life is At Risk
According to a study in the Journal of Medical Toxicology, supplement ingestion can be fatal. For example, last year, 34 people lost their lives as a direct result of supplements.
Labdoor, a research laboratory that carries out testing on dietary supplements found that hair supplements skew their ingredient labels. For example, SugarBearHair supplements were found to contain about 70% more biotin and 26% less vitamin E than indicated on the label.
5. Natural Doesn’t Always Mean Natural
Jack3D, a pre-workout supplement manufactured by USPlabs, purported to be made out of plant-based material. However, as a Department of Justice Investigation revealed, it was entirely synthetic. According to a 2015 report in USA Today, the DOJ criminally charged six USPlabs execs with conspiracy.
6. They Can Cause Liver Failure
The FDA warns that DMAA, a common ingredient in supplements, can cause a host of serious conditions, including liver failure and seizures. In fact, both Jack3D and OxyElite Pro (another USPlabds supplement) have been linked to several cases where liver transplants were required.
Sunrise Nutraceuticals, the company behind Elimidrol, marketed their beverage as a substance to help people overcome opiate withdrawal. However, Elimidrol contains zero ingredients that have been scientifically proven to help combat opium addiction. As such, the FTC handed than a $5 million dollar lawsuit.
8. You Shouldn’t Mix with Smoking
According to a trial carried out by the US National Cancer Institute, smokers who regularly consumed vitamin A supplements were actually a lot more likely to develop lung cancer than smokers who did not.
9. They’re Useless at Preventing Dementia
Makers of antioxidant supplements, such as selenium, tout the stuff’s anti-dementia properties. However, according to a recent study in JAMA Neurology, supplement-ingesting participants showed no decreased rate of Alzheimer’s.
For people with peanut allergies, this next fact should terrify you. According to the New York Times, in 2015, the FDA found that GNC used fillers (extra powder intended to boost product weight and limit production costs) in their store-brand supplements. They use legumes as a common filler, which falls under the same class of wildlife as peanuts. This information was not included on the labels.
11. They Can Contain Gluten
Walmart claims that their ginkgo biloba, a popular brain-boosting supplement, is gluten-free, but officials found that the supplement contained only radish and wheat, and no ginkgo biloba.
12. Multivitamins Might Give You Cancer
A 2007 review from the National Cancer Institute found that men who took multivitamin supplements regularly died from prostate cancer at nearly twice the rate of those who steered clear of the stuff.