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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: The Balderdash and Realities of Health and Performance Claims for Supplements As Exemplified by Calcium, Chromium and Vanadium

Author
item Nielsen, Forrest

Submitted to: North Dakota Academy of Science Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: April 1, 1999
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Intakes of some essential nutrients beyond those that prevent deficiency pathology have been found to promote health and reduce risks leading to chronic disease. As the result of the nutrition preventing disease concept, supplements represent an exploding market in the U.S. In some cases, supplements or fortified foods may be the only method to achieve intakes of nutrients in amounts needed for specific health benefits. Many of the health claims for supposed health enhancing supplements, however, have not been substantiated by basic research and human trials. This has not prevented a multitude of charlatans, in the quest for financial gain, from touting all kinds of supplements as magic bullets that cure or prevent many feared diseases. Thus, when one decides to use supplements, there is a need to know that most all of them have some balderdash and realities associated with their marketing. For example, the balderdash of calcium supplementation is that by itself it will not prevent post- menopausal bone loss; the realities is that it may help achieve intakes needed for proper calcium status, and in conjunction with other essential nutrients, assure good bone growth and maintenance. Most claims for chromium, especially for weight loss and muscle building are balderdash. However, chromium supplementation in pharmacological amounts may be an effective treatment option for diabetes. The balderdash of vanadium is its marketing as a muscle building agent because the amounts needed most likely could have toxic consequences. The reality is that there is no nutritional basis for vanadium supplementation. In summary, supplements are not inherently good, bad or worthless, it is the manner in which they are presented to the consumer that determines their merit.

Technical Abstract: Intakes of some essential nutrients beyond those that prevent deficiency pathology have been found to promote health and reduce risks leading to chronic disease. As the result of the nutrition preventing disease concept, supplements represent an exploding market in the U.S. In some cases, supplements or fortified foods may be the only method to achieve intakes of nutrients in amounts needed for specific health benefits. Many of the health claims for supposed health enhancing supplements, however, have not been substantiated by basic research and human trials. This has not prevented a multitude of charlatans, in the quest for financial gain, from touting all kinds of supplements as magic bullets that cure or prevent many feared diseases. Thus, when one decides to use supplements, there is a need to know that most all of them have some balderdash and realities associated with their marketing. For example, the balderdash of calcium supplementation is that by itself it will not prevent post- menopausal bone loss; the realities is that it may help achieve intakes needed for proper calcium status, and in conjunction with other essential nutrients, assure good bone growth and maintenance. Most claims for chromium, especially for weight loss and muscle building are balderdash. However, chromium supplementation in pharmacological amounts may be an effective treatment option for diabetes. The balderdash of vanadium is its marketing as a muscle building agent because the amounts needed most likely could have toxic consequences. The reality is that there is no nutritional basis for vanadium supplementation. In summary, supplements are not inherently good, bad or worthless, it is the manner in which they are presented to the consumer that determines their merit.

Last Modified: 4/20/2014
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