Don't Fall Prey To These 6 Myths About Supplements

Health and beauty have always been connected to one another, but, in recent years, they're becoming closer than ever. Instead of focusing exclusively on external beauty, many people are working to become their healthiest selves from the inside out, hoping physical results like clear skin, more energy, and toned muscles will follow down the line. This approach marks a major, and often healthier, view of what it means to be beautiful, but it can come with a few risks as well.

Let's face it — we're all a bit impatient, and achieving your healthiest self takes hard work and a massive amount of time. Most people aren't able to get to the gym every day and eat healthy, nutritious food around the clock, so they begin to research what they can do to help speed up their results. Enter: supplements. For many, supplements are truly a lifesaver. People with deficiencies in certain vitamins or minerals can see massive improvements once they add a few capsules to their daily routine. 

Unfortunately, it seems like just about everyone is hopping aboard the supplement train, regardless of what their body actually needs. As influencers and so-called "experts" continue to spread misinformation and questionable data online, many people are left questioning what to believe. We're here to help clear it up by dispelling some of the popular myths that surround supplements.

They can completely counteract an unhealthy diet

Let's start off with a fact: the idea of "healthy" food is totally subjective. All foods are fine in moderation, and something high calorie or lacking vitamins doesn't immediately lose all value. On the other hand, however, we can all agree that a diet consisting solely of fast food and pre-packaged snacks isn't very balanced. A healthy diet includes a mix of fruits and vegetables, protein, carb sources, and yes, the occasional treat. If you're not getting your daily dose of vitamins from your food sources, you might consider taking supplements as a band-aid.

While this may help a small amount, it's not going to overhaul your existing diet completely. The vitamins, minerals, and fiber in our foods all work together to nourish our body; a supplement won't replicate that package. According to a study published in "Annals of Internal Medicine," taking supplements daily had no significant impact on mortality rates from heart disease or cancer, but gaining vitamins through nutritious food sources did.

All supplements are regulated and safe

Because supplements are sold over the counter and are easy to purchase online, they're seen as something more akin to a health drink than prescription medication. For the most part, supplements are pretty harmless — extra vitamins and minerals that your body doesn't need are filtered out through urine, so the most significant risk is your money literally going down the drain. 

With that being said, supplements are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration as food, not medication, so they face less scrutiny than the prescription medicines you get from the doctor. According to the FDA, brands have to list the name, quantity, ingredient list, place of manufacturing, and nutrition facts on the label. Supplements, however, don't have to go through clinical trials or testing like traditional medicine, meaning there's a higher risk you could end up with a brand that lists inconsistent ingredients that could pose risks or interfere with other medications. To avoid this, seek out well-established brands that submit to individual testing from organizations like United States Pharmacopeia.

IV supplements carry the same risk as a pill or powder

IV therapy centers have recently been popping up as the next big health and beauty treatment. They have mixes that promise to cure hangovers, boost immunity, and give you a dose of extra energy. Their widespread popularity, especially in cities big on drinking, has led many to normalize this procedure and see it as something more similar to a rejuvenating facial or grabbing a smoothie rather than what it actually is: an administration of IV fluid.

Intravenous fluid treatment is widespread and considered very safe when performed by a medical professional that understands the proper placement and dosage of what is included in the drip, but it can be dangerous if you go to an untrustworthy medspa for your procedure. Most states require those administering IV fluid to have proper medical training. Still, this practice is widely classified as a treatment for aesthetics, so it's not as strictly regulated as if you were to go to a hospital. According to Houston Methodist Hospital, the benefits are questionable at best, especially for those that are healthy to begin with, and the practice carries the risk of infection and damage to the injection site.

They help prevent illness

During cold and flu season, it's commonly advised to up your Vitamin C intake to help reduce your risk of getting sick. As a result, many formulas and supplements designed to help boost immunity contain this vitamin, but it turns out, data stating that it actually helps is minimal at best. According to a study published in "Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews," Vitamin C for cold prevention has a long and storied history, but it doesn't show any significant impact on the risk of catching a cold among the general population.

Where it does shine, however, is as a supplement for marathon runners or other athletes that face a similar level of physical strain. Beyond that, it may very slightly reduce the length of time you spend sick (8%, so only a few hours for a regular bout of sniffles) but, typically, people get enough Vitamin C from produce in their diet. This serves as another example of when a supplement's reputation doesn't quite match the data — a common issue with these products.

They can replace diet and exercise for weight loss

One of the major advertising points for certain supplements is that they'll help boost your metabolism, allowing you to miraculously shed pounds and burn fat. What these labels and dramatic before-and-after posts fail to mention, however, is the diet and exercise going on behind the scenes. If you take a supplement, cut calories, and incorporate an intense fitness regime, of course you'll have results to show. But is the supplement actually doing any of the work?

According to WebMD, there are a wealth of supplements frequently advertised to encourage weight loss, but most show no to little evidence of actually making a difference in clinical trials. Among the massive collection listed, 7-Keto-DHEA shows the most promising results, but only when paired with diet and exercise changes. 

There's no miracle supplement that will help you lose weight without exercise, but, if you're looking for something to help maximize the work you put in, make sure you do research through scientific sources instead of relying on anecdotal evidence and social media. Diet culture and the push to drop pounds is practically inescapable online, so it's not uncommon for brands to use these insecurities to sell more products.

Everyone should be taking them

Because of the massive boom in the popularity of supplements, it's normal to think that there's a cure for just about everything you're facing in the health foods aisle. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Supplements are called supplements for a reason — they help people with deficiencies incorporate more of what they need if they can't achieve that through diet alone. Take vitamin D deficiencies, for example. Many people that are vegan or dairy-free struggle to get their daily dose of vitamin D because it's primarily found in fish and dairy products. A supplement can help complete their otherwise healthy diet.

In order to actually learn what supplements might help you, you need to go to a doctor and get blood work done. If they notice you have any deficiencies, vitamins and supplements can help counter this and allow you to feel healthier. Otherwise, it's likely you don't really need anything extra. A balanced diet is enough for the average person to feel their best, so it's always important to view supplements with a skeptical eye and follow the advice of a medical professional.