By Lem Taylor PhD, President of the ISSN
Woodland Park, CO - November 10 2011- A recent story in the Wall Street Journal suggested that the dietary supplement industry is "collapsing. " It was also suggested that using multivitamins, calcium, and B-vitamins do not have "health" benefits and may even cause harm. Notwithstanding the questionable accuracy of these claims, there is a clear distinction between consumers using certain products to improve their health vs. the use of supplements by athletes to improve their performance in sport.
The line between these two classes of dietary supplements is very distinct for a variety of reasons. One such distinction between general dietary supplements and those used in the sporting/exercise arena is related to the types of clinical research studies that are undertaken. Research in sports nutrition is quite abundant and as the field progresses, this research is important to delineate which sport supplements are effective and safe for consumption versus those that are not. Doing a quick search on PubMed (www.pubmed.gov) using terms such as: creatine, protein, and caffeine supplementation results in 1370, 28638, and 359 hits (publications) respectively, for peer-reviewed scientific research studies. Thus, research in sports supplementation is robust and is not "collapsing" by any means.
Continued, high quality scientific research is vital to this field and provides objective evidence to support or refute various claims that are associated with the use of certain supplements. Creatine supplementation is a classic example of this, which over the years has been (incorrectly) alleged to cause cramping, gastrointestinal distress, liver damage, etc. despite no evidence to support these assertions. Notably, research on creatine supplementation is still ongoing in the sport setting, but is also expanding in the world of medicine. Thus the supplement that my coach use to tell me would "turn my muscles into beef jerky" is now thought to play a role as an anti-oxidant, an agent that might increase cognitive functioning (especially in vegetarians), and may even benefit individuals with degenerative muscle disorders. In fact, the benefit-to-risk ratio for creatine is so high, that it has recently been suggested as a beneficial supplement for pregnant and lactating women.
Thus, the moral of the story is that we should not lump every product on the market as being all good or bad. This all or nothing approach is at best misguided and at worst, just downright doltish. Supplements are different in many ways. Some have compelling data to support their use while others have little to none. We know this only because of decades of research. Responsible individuals must make every concerted effort to distinguish between the sensationalistic editorials published in the mainstream press versus scientific reports published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.
Founded in 2003, the International Society of Sports Nutrition is the leading professional organization in the field of sports nutrition. The ISSN is dedicated to promoting and supporting the science and application of sports nutrition. Our original founders included: Jose Antonio PhD, Doug Kalman PhD RD, Susan Kleiner PhD RD, Richard Kreider, PhD, and Anthony Almada MSc.
- Jose Antonio, PhD, FACSM, FNSCA, FISSN - CEO and Co-Founder of the International Society of Sports Nutrition -