Nutritional Supplements Grow To $37 Billion In Sales

And Gwyneth Paltrow comes under fire

October 6, 2017

Business Insider reports that Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop is underfire for their new lineup of $90 monthly vitamin packs with brilliant marketing names like "Why Am I So Effing Tired" and "High School Genes." They claim to deliver health benefits like energy boosts and metabolism jump-starts.

"What is different about what Goop offers is that the combinations, the protocols put together, were done by doctors in Goop's team," Alejandro Junger, a cardiologist who helped design several of Goop's multivitamin packs, told Business Insider. 

But BI’s look at the ingredients in "Why Am I So Effing Tired," which Junger helped design, suggests the formula is not based on rigorous science. The vitamin packets include 12.5 milligrams of vitamin B6 — about 960% of the recommended daily allowance (although on Goop's label it is listed as 625%) — and ingredients like rosemary extract and Chinese yam, whose effects have never been studied in humans and for which no standard daily allowance exists. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, BI writes, vitamin B6 is "likely safe" in the recommended daily intake amount: 1.3 milligrams for people ages 19-50. But taking too much of the supplement has been linked with abnormal heart rhythms, decreased muscle tone, and worsened asthma. High doses of B6 can also cause drops in blood pressure, the Mayo Clinic notes, and can interact with drugs like Advil, Motrin, and those prescribed for anxiety and Alzheimer's. 

The FDA defines supplements as products "intended to add further nutritional value to (supplement) the diet." They aren't regulated as drugs — only when a supplement is shown to cause significant harm is it called out as unsafe.

Half of all adult participants in a survey in the mid-2000s said they took at least one supplement every day — almost the same percentage of Americans who took them two decades ago. Yet research has consistently found the pills and powders to be ineffective and sometimes dangerous. 

Using data from 2004 to 2013, the authors of a 2016 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine estimated that 23,005 emergency-room visits a year were linked to supplements. Between 2000 and 2012, the annual rate of negative reactions to supplements — or "exposures" as they are known in scientific parlance — rose from 3.5 to 9.3 cases per 100,000 people, a 166% increase. 

A large recent review published in the Annals of Internal Medicine looked at 27 trials of vitamins involving more than 400,000 people. The researchers concluded that people who took vitamins did not live longer or have fewer cases of heart disease or cancer than people who did not take them. 

BI adds that research has suggested that our bodies are better equipped to process the vitamins and minerals in whole foods than those in pills. When we bite into fruits and vegetables, we're ingesting dozens of nutrients, including phytochemicals. Which is why dietitians and nutritionists recommend people get their nutrition from whole foods. Exactly why we need to promote more retail dietitians in our stores.

 

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