Supplements: What you don’t know (and probably wish you didn’t, after reading this)

July 4th, 2009  |  Published in Stumpblog  |  3 Comments

The sports-supplement world has many power brokers… They have risen along with an industry that in three decades has grown from a niche business serving iron-heaving behemoths to a broad-based juggernaut with nearly $20 billion in U.S. sales in 2007, according to the Nutrition Business Journal.

Despite the move into the mainstream the industry remains fertile ground for kitchen chemists with little or no formal education in science or nutrition—and in some notorious cases former steroid users and dealers. They help decide what compounds go into the fat-burners, muscle builders and preworkout drinks consumed annually by an estimated 33.5 million Americans…

There is a simple reason that the industry has become, in the words of Darryn Willoughby, director of the Exercise and Biochemical Nutrition Laboratory at Baylor, a Pandora’s Box of false claims, untested products and bogus science. To sell any type of food or drug, a company must submit to scrutiny from the FDA. That scrutiny once applied to supplements such as concentrated milk, egg and soy powders, which fed the demand for nonperishable food additives during World War II. But in 1994 Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), which allowed supplements—broadly defined as vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids and other products that don’t contain approved pharmaceutical drugs and don’t claim to treat diseases—to be sold with no proof of effectiveness or safety, and without approval from the FDA. That legislation, heavy with lobbyists’ fingerprints, razed virtually every barrier to entry into the marketplace.

All it takes to become a sports supplement dealer is a little money and a phone call…

Full story in Sports Ilustrated.


  1. Elizabeth says:

    July 5th, 2009at 12:08 am(#)

    Except ecdysterone doesn’t have any effect on humans. “Studies in my lab have shown that ecdysteroids are completely innocuous in mammals,” says Ronald M. Evans, a professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego. “Spinach, for example, is loaded with [ecdysteroids], but these molecules provide no muscle-building properties in humans.”

    Oh yeah? Well, what about Popeye the Sailor Man, huh?

    I especially like the part where they’re selling steroid prohormones that don’t contribute to muscle gains, but do cause all the other side effects of steroids — beards on women, breasts on men. All the drawbacks of banned substances with none of the benefits, but hey, it’s legal!

  2. women's workout says:

    July 5th, 2009at 6:51 pm(#)

    Whenever I read about the supplement industry I find myself a little angry… 90% and more of the shelved supplements are a bunch of crap and won’t don’t anything for giving benefits… or they end up being taken off the shelf a year later (hyroxycut for example) for being harmful for your health.

    If you just eat healthy, workout like recommended toward the goals your wanting supplements are a waste of time. Plus, who wants to put something in their body that they have no idea the long term affects or how it will affect you even right after consumption… caffeine highs, fast heart rates, anxiety, messed up stomach, you know what i mean.

  3. philip says:

    July 6th, 2009at 6:23 am(#)

    Thanks for posting this, Krista.

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