How Supplements Use Research to Sell Worthless Products
In Vitro versus In Vivo Studies
Before I consider taking a supplement, I want to know how it worked when used on real-life people. I don't want to know how well it did in a petri dish or a test tube. My body isn't a test tube. I want to know how flesh and blood people responded to that supplement, how much and how often they took it, and what were the effects after at least a year of study.
There are four words you must learn, so you can find out the truth. Those words are “in vitro” and “in vivo.” Simply put, in vitro means “inside a petri dish” and in vivo means “inside an organism.”
A study that's done in vitro, is watching things react OUTSIDE a living organism. It gives you an idea of what a supplement is capable of, in an isolated environment.
A study that's done in vivo, is testing things INSIDE a living organism. That may be good, as long as that living organism is a human. Early in vivo studies are often carried out on mice, and the results aren't the same for humans. Here's how two supplements use in vitro (test tube) studies to promote their sales.
When we age, or our bodies undergo stress, we create something called free radicals. If enough free radicals are created, they can damage cell components and even DNA. Doctors have linked extensive damage to a compromised immune system, Parkinson's, heart disease and cancer.
Our bodies neutralize free radicals with something called antioxidants. We get antioxidants from fruits and vegetables. So as long as we eat a healthy diet, we don't have to worry about those damaging free radicals.
The problem is, most Americans don't eat a healthy diet. We eat far too few fruits and vegetables, so free radicals are building up in our bodies and causing lots of long-term damage.
This is where supplement companies jump in. They don't suggest you eat a balanced diet. They suggest you take their pill that's been stuffed with antioxidants. Pop a pill, eliminate the free radicals and everybody's happy. Except that's not how it works.
When studies were carried out on actual humans, it was discovered that people who took antioxidants in supplements, actually died sooner than subjects who took a placebo. Get your antioxidants from food and you live longer. Take a supplement with antioxidants in it, especially the antioxidants beta carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E; and you'll die sooner.
Antioxidants in pill form don't appear to just harm your health, there are now reports that show they may harm workouts as well. Subjects were given high-dose supplements of vitamin E and C to see if it could speed recovery and help reduce or prevent muscle soreness. In fact, they did the opposite. Exercise performance dropped and muscle recovery was delayed for subjects taking antioxidant supplements.
The reason you might not know this is because there's no money in running an ad campaign to tell people to AVOID antioxidants. Who would pay for it? However, there's plenty of money to be made from companies that produce antioxidant pills for you to buy. All they have to do is point to those in vitro (in a petri dish) studies that show antioxidants kill free radicals. Ignore the human studies.
Companies that sell glutamine supplements are masters of the misleading study. When muscle tissue cells were bombarded with glutamine in a petri dish, those muscle cells grew an incredible three times larger. Imagine taking a supplement and watching your muscles grow three times bigger!
There's just one problem. When you take a glutamine supplement, virtually none of it makes it to your muscles. It's absorbed in your small intestine and gets processed out of your body as waste. Your muscles do get glutamine from your body to grow, just not much through supplements.
To sell more supplements, glutamine companies conveniently ignore the “in vivo” or human testing. They simply promote what happened in the petri dish, and let you conclude the same thing will happen to you. Even though it won't.
The next time you see a supplement that claims amazing results, ask for the research. Insist on “in vivo” studies using human beings for at least a year. If that's not available, odds are you're about to buy something worthless, dangerous or both.
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