Mon. Jan 17th, 2022

Mary’s story is a cautionary tale about supplement safety. Twenty years ago, Mary was a healthy, physically active woman with a successful career as a banker. Two years later, Mary was out of a job and only able to work a few hours a week as a volunteer doing light office work. The dramatic change in her life was due to the fact that she had become disabled from a mysterious illness caused by taking a dietary supplement called tryptophan.

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L-Tryptophan is an amino acid found in a variety of foods. It’s found in turkey in high concentrations, and is partially responsible for that drowsy feeling you get after Thanksgiving dinner. Tryptophan can be taken in supplement form for such conditions as anxiety, depression, PMS, and insomnia. In 1989, an outbreak of a strange illness was traced to the supplement tryptophan Prostastream . The symptoms of the illness included paralysis, neurological issues, muscle aches, headaches, fatigue, memory loss, and lots of other awful symptoms.

It turns out that the illness was traced to just one manufacturer of the supplement-Showa Denko of Japan. To make a very long story short, the news on this outbreak led consumers to believe that it was due to “impurities” in the manufacturing process. The real story is that Showa Denko was the only manufacturer of tryptophan to make and market a genetically engineered form of the product. They were not required to label their product as genetically engineered, nor did they inform the consuming public of this fact.

Mary, a lovely and gentle woman, had the misfortune to be on the buying end of the Showa Denko supplement. She struggled with chronic pain and fatigue that damaged her health and it cost her both her job and her active lifestyle as a vibrant and energetic woman.

It is the rare person who does not take a vitamin or supplement of some kind. It is also the rare person who takes the time to become knowledgeable about the ingredients in the supplements that they take. We tend to think of vitamins and supplements as items that enhance our health, and with a little label reading, that can be the case. Here are a few things you should know and check out when you’re buying supplements:

Our quest in finding the best dietary supplements is constantly renewed with a vengeance. The number of icons and famous personalities passing away because of fatal diseases, drug abuse and other health concerns lead us to place more importance in our health.

The realization took a long time in coming, of course. We overindulge in numerous takeouts without thinking of the toll it will give to our health. We have too much greasy breakfast that speed us up on our way to cholesterolandia.

But some of us also conform to a good diet and nutrition. If you doubt that, just take a look at the number of people who are patronizing organic products today. Organic products are purported to have more nutrients and less chemical content. You are not only ingesting great-tasting food, you are also switching directions from the development of seriously life-threatening diseases.

The placebo effect spills over into the muscle gaining environment through other drugs known as supplements. The truth is, many of the supplements on the shelves don’t actually contain any active ingredients that would cause someone to gain muscle. Some supplements are like a shot of saltwater, they are useless and just get carried out. Other supplements have very little active ingredient, but not enough to account for any muscle growth that someone might experience while on the supplement.

Most muscle gaining hopefuls don’t simply walk into a store and purchase any flashy tub of powder they see. They usually make “informed” decisions based upon what they’ve read in magazines or heard from others. In most cases, when someone starts taking a dietary supplement for the first time, it’s a leap of faith. They are using the supplement for one simple reason, because they believe it will work.

The belief is key here. When you believe something completely, and back it with emotion, you can accomplish things that once seemed impossible. This includes physiological changes, or changes to the body. By thinking and believing that the supplement that was just consumed will cause muscle growth, the brain takes it as instructions. Basically, because of the individual’s strong conviction, the person’s brain will actually get to work and start the muscle building process. It will do this because it was told to do it.

Now, usually when a trainee starts a new supplement, they believe it will help build muscle. With everything else staying the same, this belief is strong enough to spark growth. The thing is, how many people start a new supplement and keep doing what they are doing? Not many. Most people will get on the “new miracle” and will kick their training up a notch. Not only will they improve their training, they usually improve their nutrition and recovery.

I have owned and operated a personal training studio for the past 14 years. In that time, I have had several supplement companies approach me to sell their products to my clients. I take my job very seriously and I don’t make any recommendations unless I am 100% certain that the products are safe and effective. If I don’t use the product I could never recommend it. It’s just the way I am, and believe me I could have made some serious money. To be perfectly honest I always saw supplement wholesalers as snake oil salesmen they totally freaked me out. I would always let them rattle off all the benefits of their products and then I would shut them up with a few words ,”show me the research.” That would be the last time I spoke with them.

So for the last 14 years, I have not recommended any supplements excluding some pre/post workout snacks. I have 4 major concerns with supplement usage.

1. I’ve always been skeptical of supplement companies because there are no FDA regulations, you can do or say basically whatever you want without any regulation. My personal favorites are the weight loss supplement infomercials that tout you can lose crazy amounts of weight as long as you take their product followed with exercise and a healthy diet. A sugar pill, daily physical exercise, and a healthy diet would achieve great results. Absolutely priceless!!

2. If a product really works it should have supporting research from a double blind/placebo study published in a reputable research journal (Check pubmed.com). And what do these supplements do long term? Most supplement research studies only last a few months at best. Longitudinal studies on the safety of supplements over long term usage are unheard of. There are several bogus research journals that will publish studies to anyone willing to pay for it. The research should also test the specific supplement in question not a generalized herb/mineral/vitamin. The dosage, delivery, purity, and concentration of a supplement make a huge difference on how it is absorbed in the body.

3. Another issue I have with supplement companies is that I have no way of knowing their ingredient purity. Several supplements have active ingredients in them and am I supposed to just take their word for it. I trust no one when it comes to my health and I’d rather try to eat my nutrients instead of trying to get them in a pill. The majority of supplement companies don’t do any actual quality control tests on their ingredients let alone from an independent, unbiased research facility.

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