One of the fastest, yet unregulated, growing industries in the last decade is the supplement industry.
Whether it’s vitamins and minerals from the grocery store down the street or supplements from a local nutrition shop, this $60 billion money making machine has strategically marketed towards the inexperienced, particularly younger folks, that supplements are the missing link to optimum health.
Like most young kids in high school, I fell for this. After years of trial and error did I finally realize that I was wasting my money and possibly jeopardizing my health on useless garbage.
Everyone looks for a quick and easy fix. That one magic pill, powder, or secret potion that’ll solve whatever dilemmas we face. Life doesn’t work this way, and neither does your health. Optimizing your health is your responsibility, not a supplement’s.
Warning: what you are about to read contains a large amount of untold truths, with the first one being that supplement companies prioritize making money over YOUR overall health by whatever means necessary. Don’t believe so? Then keep reading.
What They Don’t Tell You
How often do you walk around a grassy field or green forest and find a protein bar growing beneath the ground or hanging from a tree? Never have and never will.
For thousands and thousands of years, humans ate unprocessed, organic foods. Eating whole foods has always been the best way for people to absorb essential nutrients and maintain good, overall health.
But within the last century, humans started indulging in processed foods, pure concentrate forms of vitamins and minerals, and artificially created supplements. Just like highly processed foods, supplements have a nutrient composition that vastly differs from whole foods. Most of the vitamins/minerals, protein shakes, creatine, pre-workout, etc. rarely gets absorbed into the human body. It’s never been accustomed to doing so.
Think of the last time you took a multivitamin in the morning and a few hours later used the restroom. Your urine was probably a weird smell and different color. Obviously, your body isn’t processing any of it and you’re just disposing by whatever means necessary.
Now, does this mean that no supplementation is better than some supplementation? Depends. Some combinations of supplements are toxic for certain people, while others have improved health benefits. Everyone’s different. What I do advertise is to get your nutrition from organic food and, not from a plastic bottle or container.
It truly amazes me how far marketing can take a product, even if it has zero use or doesn’t work. Not saying all marketed products in the supplement industry are like this, but there are definitely too many.
In my lifetime, I’ve experienced first hand how most of these supplements are advertised. The many ways supplement company’s falsely advertise these products is quite lengthy, but I’ve tried to sum it up and narrow it down to the three most practiced marketing strategies these companies use:
1.) “Propriety Blend”
Besides pure vitamins and minerals, any supplement, such as mass gainers, creatine mixes, preworkouts, etc. always have the word “proprietary blend” on the nutrition label.
You’ll also notice that under the “propriety blend” is a long list of words that no one can pronounce. This is all marketing folks. The industry calls this label decorating and most of the time, these ingredients are so minute in dosage that it has zero effect.
Supplement companies can legally put lists of ingredients without the exact quantity. Don’t know how this is possible, but it is. You’ll never really know what you’re putting into your body when taking any sort of supplement.
2.) Joining the Hype
If you follow the supplement industry close enough, you’ll notice a trend. All supplements, just like clothing, shoes, cars, are trendy. New ideas are developed, and companies pop out of nowhere to make their large profits, then poof, they disappear.
When I was in my teens, creatine and preworkout supplements was such a largely marketed product. All these new and improved exotic blends kept arriving on shelves. Not saying that all were bad, but their price points were ridiculous for supplements that had two key ingredients that did majority of the work, pure creatine and caffeine, which by the way is dirt cheap.
Fast forward to 2019, and the new trend has and currently is the probiotic craze. Once again, not saying taking care of your gut bio isn’t critical, but many studies have shown that pill and liquid forms of “probiotics” rarely do anything for the human gut bio, and may actually cause harm to it.
If a product truly does good, it’ll stick around for the long haul, not just a few years. Keep that in mind.
3.) Social Media and Celebrity Endorsements
With social media at an all time high, supplement companies use this to their advantage, and rightfully so. Nothing wrong with good, well thought out marketing techniques, unless you’re deceiving people of course.
Unfortunately, people are vulnerable and believe everything they hear or see on social media. It’s so easy for supplement companies to photo shop before and after photos, convincing their targeted audience that their products work. Supplement companies have been caught countless number of times with false advertisement on social media and fraudulent behavior.
Also, the amount of paid celebrity endorsements has sky rocketed in the last decade. No longer is it about promoting a product that actually works, but paying a “celebrity” with a large audience to sway his/her followers in buying these products. If the person I look up to or celebrity idol uses it, then I need to use it, right? Wrong. In all actuality, these “idols” probably don’t even use these products themselves.
The regulators of the supplement industry is the one and only FDA (Federal and Drug Administration). Not only is the FDA understaffed to regulate the supplement industry, but they won’t be able to keep up with future demands. The supplement industry is projected to reach profits of $278 billion by 2024. Unregulated supplement manufacturing facilities are popping faster than they are shut down. The FDA WILL never catch up.
Ironically, the supplement industry isn’t classified as a drug. Instead, it’s classified as food in the eyes of the FDA. Under the outdated DSHEA (Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act), these supplements go unregulated, which is how they get away with nearly everything. Since dietary supplements are considered “food”, they bypass premarket approval and effectiveness testing. The only time supplements are ever tested is after market, either from series of illnesses/deaths resulting from the product, or someone conducts their own tests in a lab and reports it to the FDA (highly unlikely).
Will change happen? The commissioner of the FDA says so. He’s stated that the FDA plans on getting better oversight over the industry and updating the 25 year old DSHEA. But I’ll believe it when I see it.
How can you protect yourself if you want to take supplements? One word: research. Research well-established companies with a reputation for integrity. These companies do exist. Also, look for multiple clinical studies and base your use off of these studies, as well as a doctor’s opinion and supervision.
And that’s all folks! Hope you all enjoyed this week’s blog post! If you’ve missed last week’s post on making a career move, click here. As always, don’t forget to like, comment, share, and subscribe!
“Supplements will never solve your health problems, only proper food and clean water will.”
Book of the Month: “The Compound Effect: Jumpstart Your Income, Your Life, Your Success” by Darren Hardy