Supplements, many of them ineffective or even unsafe, garner a great deal of attention from young adults on social media.
This information led a professor at New York’s Binghamton University to research how this same demographic might behave after learning about supplements in a formal classroom setting.The professor surveyed students and found that those with minors in Health and Wellness Studies were more likely to use supplements responsibly.
However, Lina Begdache, the assistant professor who ran the survey, includes stopping supplement use altogether as "responsible."
We asked Begdache for her top takeaways.
It seems obvious that people who are educated about supplements might use them more responsibly, but what are some of the unexpected takeaways from the survey?
Lina Begdache: The unexpected part is we also found out that some will likely be stopping [taking] supplements. There was a question asking ‘How likely are you to stop taking supplements?', and that was significant for the [Health and Wellness Studies] minor students. We didn't find that for the non-minor students. We assume that maybe once they learn about the supplements or the effectiveness of the supplements that they were more likely to be stopping them.
How big of a problem do you think misuse of supplements is among young people?
LB: It is a big problem. The student who helped me with a survey wanted to work on that very specific topic because she said that [discussion of supplement use] is everywhere on social media and it's all targeted toward young adults. She said it's getting too much [attention] and she was interested in looking at the effects of education on supplement use.
Where else are they getting their information?
LB: The results that we got say it’s mostly social media, and if not it’s parents, friends, family. We didn’t assess where the friends and family are getting the information, but we assume that it's also somewhere online.
What are some of the ways supplements are being misused that were mentioned in the survey?
LB: We had about five or six questions about myths and if people felt that the supplements would be helping with, for example, building muscles. So we looked at these myths and we found out that non-minor students are more likely to be answering these as correct versus the ones with the [Health and Wellness Studies] minor, who had more of the accurate responses.
What would you like to see the mainstream media do to inform people about responsible supplement use?
LB: Maybe seek more educated knowledge, rather than just going online and maybe Googling. They could be going into governmental websites like NIH (National Institutes of Health). They have a website that's only for substance abuse and information [on that topic]. So, they can get their information from more reliable sources.