Are Your Natural Health Products & Supplements Backed by Science?

Are Your Natural Health Products & Supplements Backed by Science?

Are Your Natural Health Products & Supplements Backed by Science?

October 25, 2019

Are Your Natural Health Products & Supplements Backed by Science?


When you’re searching for natural supplements, there are a few things you should always keep in mind: Having natural ingredients is not a guarantee that a product is good. It’s not enough for a manufacturer to throw a bunch of natural ingredients into a tincture, capsule, or powdered drink mix. It’s also not enough for a manufacturer to mix together a bunch of natural ingredients that have been proven individually to have certain health benefits. It is important to make sure the combination of ingredients – as a single formulation - is backed by the most up-to-date science and determined to be safe & effective for your body. Here are a few reasons why.  

It’s Easy to Fool People into Using Untested Ingredients

The market for natural health supplements and skincare products is largely unregulated, and the benefits of some natural ingredients are overhyped. If an unscrupulous company has the connections, or funds, to partner with celebrities, irresponsible health claims can become extremely popular very quickly. Some companies may purposely misinterpret scientific studies in their marketing materials, knowing that most people won’t read and/or understand the actual research.  

Natural Does Not Mean Healthy

You can eat poison ivy leaves. They’re natural, right? That doesn’t mean your life won’t be a little bit hellish for a while after you snack on a few of them. Poison ivy is never healthy, but there are other natural substances that do have positive effects as well as negative ones. Xylitol is a natural sweetener that will make your coffee or cupcakes taste great. It may also improve your oral health. However, it doesn’t take a huge amount of it before it starts giving you gas and diarrhea.1 Some essential oils may improve your health but also cause harmful hormone imbalances.2  

Natural Ingredients Can Cause Problems When Combined

You may think that daily oral doses of cranberry, grape seed extract, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, and a few cloves of garlic may help protect you from bacterial infections and fungi and improve your immune system. It might also cause your blood to become too thin.3 If you take blood-thinning drugs, any one of those ingredients can potentially cause interaction with the drugs as well.4  

Natural Ingredients Can Compete with Each Other & with Other Nutrients

Two notorious examples are copper and zinc. Too much zinc can lead to copper deficiency and vice versa. Too much of one, and not enough of another, can cause serious problems in your body.5 Likewise, there could be ingredients in your supplement that compete with each other or with other nutrients that are already in your body.  

Some Natural Health Products Do Not Have Clinically Effective Doses

You’ve probably seen “healthy drinks” that are nothing but sugar water and insufficient amounts of gingko biloba extract. You will get some temporary energy from the sugar and some hydration from the water, but you won’t get enough gingko biloba to improve your memory or alertness. If you’re spacey and have poor recall because of dehydration, then maybe one of those drinks will help. If you want the positive effects from the gingko, you might have to chug a few gallons. Good luck with that. The evidence of gingko biloba extract’s brain benefits may be strong, but that doesn’t mean the health claims of those drink makers are science-based. What it does mean is that gingko extract has produced particular effects - compared to placebos – when study participants took particular dosages at particular frequencies for particular periods of time.  

Science Evolves Over Time

In the movie, Sleeper, Woody Allen plays a health food store owner who gets cryogenically frozen in 1973 and wakes up 200 years later. He sure is surprised to learn that cigarettes are actually healthy when a 22nd century doctor offers him one. The joke is funny because science is full of unexpected twists as new studies are designed and new data comes in. Coconut oil was all the rage because it was a “healthy” fat that battled bacteria and fungi. Studies emerged that cast doubt on the belief that it was healthy overall. Millions of people switched to avocado oil after the news broke.6 The point is this: cience is not a set of facts. It’s a process. Foods and ingredients that once seemed harmless may not be and vice versa. Some may give you the benefits you desire but with harmful side effects. Health advice changes over time, and natural supplement companies need to keep up with the most up-to-date research. This will help keep you healthy and safe and help ensure you get the right amounts of each ingredient.   balancefive  
References:
  1. Mäkinen, K. K. (2016). Gastrointestinal Disturbances Associated with the Consumption of Sugar Alcohols with Special Consideration of Xylitol: Scientific Review and Instructions for Dentists and Other Health-Care Professionals.International Journal of Dentistry,2016, 1-16. doi:10.1155/2016/5967907
  2. Lee, Bruce Y. (March, 2018). Will Essential Oils Like Lavender And Tea Tree Make Your Breasts Larger? Forbes.com. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucelee/2018/03/18/will-essential-oils-like-lavender-and-tea-tree-make-your-breasts-larger/#22bc752f3fc2
  3. Leonard, Jayne. (Reviewed July, 2018). Blood-thinning foods, drinks, and supplements. MedicalNewsToday.com. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322384.php
  4. Wong, Cathy. (Updated May, 2019). Potential Interactions Between Warfarin and Herbs. VeryWellHealth.com. https://www.verywellhealth.com/potential-interactions-between-warfarin-and-herbs-89905
  5. Fischer, P. W., Giroux, A., & Labbé, M. R. (1981). The effect of dietary zinc on intestinal copper absorption.The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,34(9), 1670-1675. doi:10.1093/ajcn/34.9.1670 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7282591
  1. Corliss, Julie. (Updated April, 2017). Cracking the coconut oil craze. Harvard Medical School Blog. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/cracking-the-coconut-oil-craze-2017041011513
 

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