Myth Busting – why dietary supplements are not beneficial for your health
Taking pills to lose weight instead of eating healthy and exercising? Not only it doesn't work that way, but it can be outright dangerous
Last time we busted the myth about "detoxing" and "cleansing" by explaining how your own body does it and we've got to know the health risks of those two "miracle" procedures. But another marketing pitch we're seeing more and more on the store shelves can be just as harmful. Yes, I'm talking about the so called dietary supplements, which claim they'll make you thin and fit, without you putting any effort. But do they work in practice?
The science behind how your body does it without requiring any absurd diets or "cleansing" – and an example of how this can be lethal
A recent study of damaged livers caught my eye and those "magic" pills take a significant share in it. And apparently the damage they cause can be irreversible, requiring a transplant. So why would people take them?
Understanding how your body works
Metabolism is the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy. That's the most basic explanation – you have your meal, your body separates the nutrients and feed your cells. The rest is packed by the liver, filtered by the kidneys and it goes out as waste. Simple enough, but there's more. Your liver only knows to recognise a limited amount of unnecessary things entering your body. And while most chemicals in processed food are relatively new and often not recognised, they are (mostly) harmless and when passing a few times, your liver eventually gets them packed and out, considered useless or not beneficial. For the most part, those chemicals do not accumulate in your body.
Dietary supplements however work differently, as they are trying to fool your liver into taking them as beneficial. While some chemicals pass through that test, a lot of them don't. And because they are trying to pose as nutrients, they tend to stay in the liver and accumulate in it. This is where the problem lies, because the specialised liver cells excrete enzymes that will break down known substances into nutrients, it can't do anything about unknown chemicals, posing as nutrients, but resistant to the certain enzymes. So your liver is getting fooled, but only partly, and those chemicals are there to stay, and decay.
Damaging your body for nothing
The study, published in The Medical Journal of Australia, analysed medical data of people admitted to the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney with drug-induced liver injury between 2009 and 2020. A significant chunk - 22 percent of the participants had liver damage, associated with herbal and dietary supplements! What's worse, those instances are on the rise with the share being only 15% between 2009 and 2011, but increased sharply to 47% in the 2018-2020 interval. Not only was the proportion of supplement-related liver injuries found to have increased, but prognosis also worsened. Transplant-free survival after 90 days was higher (86 percent) for the early patients than it was for those associated with recent cases (59 percent).
And the reason for that is fairly simple. Dietary supplements are not required to pass as much testing as conventional drugs before they get to the counter. In most countries, those pills fall into a different category and so the control is low (putting it mildly). Then there's the way dietary supplements should work - from making you feel full to altering your metabolism, both of which are basically lying to your body. Doesn't sound healthy, does it?! While the food you eat contains much more than just calories (vitamins, minerals, essential fats, etc.), those "magic" pills contain only imitation of proteins, which cannot properly feed your cells.
So do you feel the need to take dietary supplements in order to be thin and fit? And in the process drain your wallet in the 37 billion dollars per year "diet" industry? Nope! You're looking great the way you are! Keep your head up, go out, have fun, live happily in your own skin and feel good about yourself!
And if you really insist to be thinner and fitter, eat healthy where possible and do some exercises from time to time. It's not a "magical three-weeks solution", but you won't risk suffering permanent organ damage, because the myth about the dietary supplements have been...