Supplement industry makes millions, but studies debate effectiveness

Global Business

Supplement industry makes millions, but studies debate effectiveness

Every day, a third of all Americans take vitamins and supplements in the hope of staying healthy. But studies suggest they don’t actually improve our health, and some may even have adverse effects.

So why do we take them and what are the results we’re hoping to see?

CGTN’s Nick Harper reports.
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Gavin Dreiling has been taking supplements since he was a child, and now takes around eight different types a day. He works nights as a karaoke host and finds the vitamins help with energy and his general wellbeing.

“For immune boost, and for energy and just to fill in the gaps where my diet might be lacking sometimes. So I like to make sure everything’s balanced. And mood, they help with just so much, energy especially. I’m constantly adding things and taking things away and seeing what works and what doesn’t,” Dreiling said.

But that adds up, with Gavin spending between $100 and $190 a month on vitamins.

Nutritional supplements have been pouring out profits over the last few years. It’s an estimated $30 billion a year industry; if averaged out would mean every man, woman and child is consuming $100 worth of vitamins every year. But the benefits of all those vitamins, minerals and herbs is harder to quantify. Scientific research suggests people could see similar effects just by taking better care of themselves: that a plant-based diet and a healthy lifestyle is really all you need.

Experts like Nutrition Specialist, Dr Michael Greger, admit that busy lives and marketing pressure make supplements a tempting option. But do they really work. “People take too many supplements. There are a few that can be helpful. But in most cases they’re useless or worse.”

An investigation in 2015 found several leading supplements retailers, including GNC, were selling products that didn’t actual contain the stated herbal ingredients. It was a worrying sign of the scarcity of regulation in this multi-billion dollar industry.

Wellness Forum Health’s Pamela Popper discusses the science of nutritional supplements

CGTN’s Rachelle Akuffo spoke with Pamela Popper, executive director of the Wellness Forum Health about the multi-billion dollar untritional supplement industry.