Supplements - Getting Past the Hype
by Dave Slagle, General Manager of Paradise Fitness Centers
Supplement companies spend millions on marketing campaigns to have us believe that their products are the best things since sliced bread. And while we pretty much know what advertising is and discount it accordingly, the sheer repetition of these placements wears us down. And eventually, on some unconscious level, we accept their claims. The Supplement companies snipe at each other and try to hustle the consumer (that's you and me). If you have spent any time studying about the Amercan healthcare system, you realize that pharmaceutical companies make billions of dollars and spend millions on research. The most qualified scientific researchers are sought out by these companies to develop new drugs. But if you believe some of the supplement advertisements out there, you might believe that the WORLD'S greatest scientific researchers aren't wasting their time trying to cure cancer or HIV. No, these researchers are pouring all of their time, energy and resources into the development of new nutritional supplements. These advertising tactics never cease to amaze me. And while there are actually researchers who study nutrition and athletic performance, they don't create a new magic pill every month. Supplement companies like to hypothesize on small bits of scientific proof with little or no common sense. I will present to you a couple of techniques that suppiement advertisers have tried to use to fool you.
The Before and After Technique
It all started with a supplement company named CYBERGENICS. The genius behind their advertising, Scott Chinery, had a great concept. He used before and after photos to show the results that could be achieved by using the CYBERGENICS supplements. I was told, (by a supplement industry insider) that the "after" photos were taken on the day that the bodybuilders were entering a contest. Then after a few weeks when the bodybuilders had lost their competition tans and gained back several pounds of fat, the "before" pictures were taken. Although I have nothing to substantiate those claims, if you remember those advertisements, the story doesn't seem too far-fetched. The next generation of before and after advertising removed any question of legitimacy by having the models hold a newspaper. The newspapers were used to verify the dates. So now the physical transformations are real, but the circumstances might be false. A well-known company had a "transformation contest" and announced their winners. I had the privilege of meeting one of the winners. When I questioned ths person about their motivation, I was told that the "before" picture had been taken three weeks after this person had been released from the hospital after having surgery for appendicitis. Then twelve weeks later, after using the supplement company's products and working out, the amazing "after" photo was taken. The supplement company never mentioned that this person had been hospitalized and inactive for several weeks prior to the "before" photo. Another example is just the opposite.
My friend's wife was injured while preparing for a national fitness competition's obstacle course. She landed on a hard mat after jumping off a ten-foot wall and tore all the tendons in her knee. While in rehab after surgery, Company X contacted her requesting some current Polaroids to evaluate her deconditioned physical status. Even after almost 3 months of bedridden inactivity, she still appeared quite fit. Company X offered her a lucrative contract provided that she gain 15 lbs of fat for a "before" photo and then regain her previous physical condition for her "after" photo. Since I lived in Hawaii, I sent her some chocolate covered macadamia nuts to help her "bulk up". That was a few months back. She has now regained her pre-injury condition and looks awesome. I understand that she used a few of Company X's products during her crash diet and intensive exercise program. It seems strange that the 6 page advertorial from Company X tells the triumphant story of an athlete who suffers a devastating iniury and then became an out of shape woman. She discovers Company X and becomes fit and fabulous by using their miracle product. Somehow the ad failed to mention the bulking up, intense exercise and crash dieting.
The Scientific Proof Technique
Sometimes a supplement company will make reference to scientific research to validate their claims about a product. The advertisement might read like this: "Try the New Product X, now with Ingredient K! Research has proven that product X builds massive muscles." Here is what their scientific proof might look like; Science has shown that Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1) is responsible for muscle growth. lngredient K causes an increased production of IGF-1 in laboratory rats. Product X contains Ingredient K. Therefore Product X causes muscle growth. Blah, blah, blah!
Ask yourself the following questions the next time you read a supplement advertisement: Is this advertisement trying to sell me something of VALUE? Does the advertisement claim to have scientific backing? Then take the time to research the VALUE and SCIENCE behind the product.
When a supplement advertisement makes claims about a product, (Gain 30 lbs of muscle in 15 days!), are the claims logical or even physically possible? When a supplement company references a scientific study as evidence of their product effectiveness check it out. Several years ago a supplement company was claiming that their dibencozide product produced more muscle mass than the anabolic steroid stanozolol (WINSTROL). The Supplement Company also referenced a scientific study to back up their claim. Those consumers who took the time to look up the study found out that the testing was performed on malnourished children ages 1-13 years old. Just give a malnourished 1-13 year old kid food and he's going to grow! The amount of steroids used per child is nowhere close to what your average 'roided out gym rat would consider an effective dose. Dibencozide is a co-enzyme of vitamin B-12 that assists the body with protein synthesis. Protein synthesis means more muscle mass, right? Well, back in the late 1980s I used several bottles of this company's dibencozide before I researched the scientific evidence supporting it. I don't think it works any better than regular vitamin B-12 and certainly not as well as any anabolic steroid. Now I'm certainly not advocating the use of illegal anabolic, androgenic steroids, but any company that advertises their products are as effective as steroids is deceiving you. It really is a case of apples and oranges. Supplements and drugs use different metabolic pathways.
I actually am an enthusiastic consumer of many nutritional supplements. I know I sound a bit jaded, but l've wasted thousands of dollars on useless products. My goal here is to help you avoid that experience. When it comes to new dietary supplements I caution you to wait out the hype. Remember that if it is really that good of a supplement today, it will be every bit as good 12 months from now. And it will have a year's worth of data (practical research and empirical) behind it. lf you really need help developing a sound nutritional program including supplements, you can contact me at either of the Paradise Fitness Centers to set up a consultation. Remember, when it comes to supplements, Caveat Emptor (let the buyer beware)!