8

votes

are we being duped by supplement industry?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created August 22, 2012 at 2:15 PM

bear with me here because i know this might sound paranoid. i have been very gung-ho learning about paleo and lots of other health conditions, the cholesterol con, diabetes etc in recent weeks and especially listening to Jimmy Moore's podcast, i have realized that everyone seems to be regurgitating the same information. now, if that information is true then it makes some sense but all of our paleo/primal/low carb gurus also push supplements and diet programs and books and i am wondering if some of what they are selling us isn't 100% true...do you ever wonder if there is a conspiracy in this health industry the way there is in the pharmaceutical/medical industry? am i crazy?

i know most of you have had personal success with paleo and i'm not saying it's a bad lifestyle by any means but i wonder if the big people pushing it have an alternative agenda.

is it possible that these hypotheses we support about cholesterol, heart disease etc are formed to create a false dichotomy with the mainstream medical researchers as another way to make money off us via fear (selling books, websites, programs, and supplements rather than pharmaceuticals)?

6bce08b072e3cea49b292658b9d5d197

(1144)

on August 23, 2012
at 06:39 PM

Oops, sorry. Should've just written multi-vitamin, but I don't want people buying just regular Wal-mart brand junk. How about "buy a high quality multi-vitamin, not something your grandmother would buy." :)

Fd70d71f4f8195c3a098eda4fc817d4f

(8014)

on August 22, 2012
at 08:38 PM

+1. People like Sisson and Wolf provide FOR FREE everything someone would need to get started -- how-to guides, food matrices, shopping guides, FAQs, etc. Remember how long Robb was giving away awesome info for free before he wrote his book. I think most of the more prominent voices of the movement are not looking to become rich and famous. They really believe in what they do, have a great passion for it, and honestly are just tired of people being so ill and so overweight, and feeling lost and hopeless when there *is* a better way.

Ebb10603524dd22621c1155dd7ddf106

(19150)

on August 22, 2012
at 07:39 PM

@nursling - consider installing AdBlock. I agree -- it's crazy to go to any paleo type site, and see ads for (for e.g.) diet pills. The site operator is not choosing these ads, rather they are chosen by the ad-delivery-network "tailored" to suit you. @Dan W -- we are talking about the "paleo" industry selling supplements here, not big pharma.

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4

(20436)

on August 22, 2012
at 07:29 PM

I almost bought it, JB, but now I see that you are just a shill for GNC. ;) (Lol, there are TWO GNC ads on this page right now, I suspect as a result of your mentioning the company name...)

194d8e8140425057fe06202e1e5822a7

(3979)

on August 22, 2012
at 05:51 PM

a) It's NOT far away from being conspiratorial. The pharmaceutical industry goes WAY farther than innocently trying to sell products to consumers. (Doctor bribing, senator bribing, etc.) b) "Supplements" covers a wide range of things, some of those things people take to solve health issues, not just to "supplement" their current regime. It's not just vitamins, it's herbs, "nutra-ceuticals," etc. that can have an equally profound impact on the body as pharmaceuticals.

B958be1f3a4a9743998ab2ea51d9c945

(205)

on August 22, 2012
at 05:38 PM

Great question! Thanks for asking. Perhaps they're also working with the healthier side of the foods industry to promote free range foods and organics. Paleo is a perfect way to start people trending in that direction. Watch out for those nitrates! I could see it. Thanks for the outside perspective.

F9638b939a6f85d67f60065677193cad

(4266)

on August 22, 2012
at 05:32 PM

I agree. Yet some supplements do seem to make a difference, such as Vitamin D in the winter and magnesium when you're getting leg cramps. I think the strong n=1 of this community helps keep us honest and largely drives our recommendations to each other.

7a6529ea25b655132fe58d793f95547a

(2030)

on August 22, 2012
at 05:24 PM

ahh...ya, that was totally a pun....

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on August 22, 2012
at 05:15 PM

Lovely Spam, wonderful Spam!

C4f1a0c70c4e0dea507c2e346c036bbd

on August 22, 2012
at 05:09 PM

Spam spam spam is a monty python skit too.

A97b68379a576dfa764a4828304d2efb

(4181)

on August 22, 2012
at 05:06 PM

Damn, another great typo/pun! I totally have a steak in this game.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on August 22, 2012
at 04:56 PM

nursling, always good to question. sorry for the error.

193f00d53ebcb13940c7a55afc78ad17

(1260)

on August 22, 2012
at 04:44 PM

@CD true, but it also lacked his subtle use of capslock, a la: "are we being duped by supplement industry? GLUTEN PILLS SAVE LIVES SISSON MURDERED JESUS" Those caps are a dead giveaway.

76211ec5301087de2588cfe3d6bccba9

(1178)

on August 22, 2012
at 04:00 PM

i am not saying that Paleo isn't a good way to diet/live. i have maybe been spending too much time listening to podcasts and reading blogs and now i am inside the Paleo bubble looking out and wondering if i have lost perspective and am just following a new dogma that could be deceiving me like my old dogma...

76211ec5301087de2588cfe3d6bccba9

(1178)

on August 22, 2012
at 03:58 PM

heh, sometimes we feel huge when i spend all day reading Paleo blogs...then i go out into the real world and see people drinking soda

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on August 22, 2012
at 03:45 PM

@Kyle, All of the Razz stuff starts as innocent questions that suggest that we are being lied to, then after they have a week or so in they start hitting with the ridiculous stuff we see. I believe nursling, it just put up my radar.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on August 22, 2012
at 03:44 PM

I'm sorry to have called you a spammer. As to whether there are charlatans out there, I am sure there are. I have been on almost every diet that exists. In 2007 I was 265 lbs. I've tried everything, the only thing that worked (prior to Paleo\Primal) was calorie restriction and excessive working out. Since transitioning to this lifestyle, my health and weight have improved in ways I never thought possible. I went from a 207 lbs (running 50+ mi/week) to 165 lbs (despite not being able to workout in the first couple of months). for me, the proof is in the tasting.

077ab7e5875f87f159cfc256c2a76d82

(65)

on August 22, 2012
at 03:42 PM

*grin* @ Marcy. Genius.

193f00d53ebcb13940c7a55afc78ad17

(1260)

on August 22, 2012
at 03:39 PM

What would they be spamming?

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4

(20436)

on August 22, 2012
at 03:29 PM

There is not a lot of money to be made. Mark Sisson does okay, but he works his arse off. And all his info is free on his website. Most of the gurus blog for free and aren't selling anything - take Dr. Harris or Dr. Deans, for example. The AHS videos are free. It's kinda hard to package "just eat real food" into a product. Plus, we are not such a 'huge' crowd yet.

76211ec5301087de2588cfe3d6bccba9

(1178)

on August 22, 2012
at 03:17 PM

it's not spam, i promise...

A97b68379a576dfa764a4828304d2efb

(4181)

on August 22, 2012
at 03:04 PM

I think the small typo in "buyer be ware" results in the greatest pun of all time. Love it.

76211ec5301087de2588cfe3d6bccba9

(1178)

on August 22, 2012
at 02:24 PM

okay but maybe it's not the supplement industry. maybe it's just a bunch of our gurus selling ad space on their websites and such...i don't know. part of me feels a little uneasy for some reason and is questioning how honest people ultimately can be when there is money to be made from a large, loyal population like us

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12 Answers

6
Ebb10603524dd22621c1155dd7ddf106

(19150)

on August 22, 2012
at 02:20 PM

Do you ever wonder if there is a conspiracy in this health industry the way there is in the pharmaceutical/medical industry?

No. It's the same thing as everywhere else: businesses trying to sell products to consumers. It's far away from being conspiratorial.

I will say that in the Paleo/Primal/whatever world, companies and people seem pretty frank about the fact that you don't need supplements, and yet will still sell them to you. There's generally a handful of supplements that stick around (e.g. fish oil), and some that rise to prominence (e.g. K2).

You don't need supplements. They are, indeed, supplemental.

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4

(20436)

on August 22, 2012
at 03:29 PM

There is not a lot of money to be made. Mark Sisson does okay, but he works his arse off. And all his info is free on his website. Most of the gurus blog for free and aren't selling anything - take Dr. Harris or Dr. Deans, for example. The AHS videos are free. It's kinda hard to package "just eat real food" into a product. Plus, we are not such a 'huge' crowd yet.

76211ec5301087de2588cfe3d6bccba9

(1178)

on August 22, 2012
at 02:24 PM

okay but maybe it's not the supplement industry. maybe it's just a bunch of our gurus selling ad space on their websites and such...i don't know. part of me feels a little uneasy for some reason and is questioning how honest people ultimately can be when there is money to be made from a large, loyal population like us

76211ec5301087de2588cfe3d6bccba9

(1178)

on August 22, 2012
at 03:58 PM

heh, sometimes we feel huge when i spend all day reading Paleo blogs...then i go out into the real world and see people drinking soda

194d8e8140425057fe06202e1e5822a7

(3979)

on August 22, 2012
at 05:51 PM

a) It's NOT far away from being conspiratorial. The pharmaceutical industry goes WAY farther than innocently trying to sell products to consumers. (Doctor bribing, senator bribing, etc.) b) "Supplements" covers a wide range of things, some of those things people take to solve health issues, not just to "supplement" their current regime. It's not just vitamins, it's herbs, "nutra-ceuticals," etc. that can have an equally profound impact on the body as pharmaceuticals.

Ebb10603524dd22621c1155dd7ddf106

(19150)

on August 22, 2012
at 07:39 PM

@nursling - consider installing AdBlock. I agree -- it's crazy to go to any paleo type site, and see ads for (for e.g.) diet pills. The site operator is not choosing these ads, rather they are chosen by the ad-delivery-network "tailored" to suit you. @Dan W -- we are talking about the "paleo" industry selling supplements here, not big pharma.

4
A97b68379a576dfa764a4828304d2efb

(4181)

on August 22, 2012
at 02:46 PM

It would be lovely if some individual or group got involved in this effort purely for the good of the people. But that would be (hypothetically) government. And I don't trust the current government structure to generate a diet plan that is not rooted in the best interest of the biggest financial contributor.

To dedicate themselves full time to researching this stuff, a lot of the gurus need to find a way to make money off it. Considering how much information they give away, it doesn't bother me that they sell some add-ons for profit or even if they get rich doing so. It would bother me if Mark Sisson said "you cannot achieve optimal health without my shake." But he doesn't say that.

This is where pure capitalism in its theoretical sense kicks in. You, consumer, decide which guru is selling you something that you need and at a price you are willing to pay. You buy it, the guru makes more money and continues to sell more. If he is selling snake oil and nobody sees any benefit from it (apart from the whispered nocebo effect), then he fades out of view and nobody buys his stuff any more.

What I like about the paleo movement, at least for now, is that the individuals seeking to make money are individuals without many secret back dealings. Mark Sisson isn't selling bars tainted with gluten and then selling a "gluten recovery" pill alongside it. He is just an individual seeking to make a lot of money off of a product that he has modified to make unique. This is a form of wealth accumulation that I respect.

Do I think that some of the research presented is slanted to serve their individual pecuniary interests? Sure, to some degree. But there are enough people trying to make a name for themselves in the paleoworld by disagreeing with some of the minutiae of the gurus that I am sure it keeps the entire process relatively honest - to quote Justice Brennan, an actual marketplace of ideas!

Fd70d71f4f8195c3a098eda4fc817d4f

(8014)

on August 22, 2012
at 08:38 PM

+1. People like Sisson and Wolf provide FOR FREE everything someone would need to get started -- how-to guides, food matrices, shopping guides, FAQs, etc. Remember how long Robb was giving away awesome info for free before he wrote his book. I think most of the more prominent voices of the movement are not looking to become rich and famous. They really believe in what they do, have a great passion for it, and honestly are just tired of people being so ill and so overweight, and feeling lost and hopeless when there *is* a better way.

4
193f00d53ebcb13940c7a55afc78ad17

on August 22, 2012
at 02:33 PM

I think you are being paranoid. I doubt that anyone, regardless of their nefarious connections, could manage to coordinate all the greedy people in both the pharmaceutic and supplement industries into playing ball.

That said, yes we are being duped. Most supplements do very little and/or are unneeded. Humans evolved just fine without energy boosters, special protein blends, BCAA packs, and other snake-oil based vitamin packs.

There is a good section discussing the supplement industry in the documentary, "Bigger, Stronger, Faster - The Side Effects of Being American". Last I checked it was viewable on Youtube in multiple parts.

F9638b939a6f85d67f60065677193cad

(4266)

on August 22, 2012
at 05:32 PM

I agree. Yet some supplements do seem to make a difference, such as Vitamin D in the winter and magnesium when you're getting leg cramps. I think the strong n=1 of this community helps keep us honest and largely drives our recommendations to each other.

3
7cf9f5b08a41ecf2a2d2bc0b31ea6fa0

on August 22, 2012
at 02:19 PM

The main argument is that soil has been depleted of its rich natural resources through pollution and over farming etc, so foods back in the day would have much higher vitamin and mineral content. People who eat standard cereals and foods like that have lots of added vitamins and minerals whereas if you go paleo you can miss out on some of those. They aren't pushing their own supplements (though some offer their own) so I don't think it's a scam

I take a general vitamin supplement (without Iron) every other day

1
Cc3ce03985eac5ebcbb95fc2329f13b0

on August 22, 2012
at 07:45 PM

I always remember that these people are also running a business, and therefore want to make money. That isn't necessarily bad, everyone needs to make a living, but it does temper my commitment to any specifice program. I tend to stick to free information.

I generally find that persons who use homeopathy and the like tend to treat those businesses as intrinsically altruistic, rather than the billion dollar businesses they are. If we see businesses (or churches, or prisons, etc) as upholding our own values, we tend towards seeing them as benign entities that protect us, and ones to which we are philosophically opposed as the true exploiters.

1
74d3afd30ebc0d604d56c6de897bb9a8

(100)

on August 22, 2012
at 05:50 PM

interesting question.

I absolutely think you're right. it's definitely the biggest place to make money. it's just, when you do something that you enjoy, why not try to find a way to supplement that lifestyle? what's the difference between supplements, a cookbook, a personal life story? it's always a suggestion and you have to realize that you're subsidizing a persona/lifestyle with your purchase, whether it's through 7% amazon.com contributions or the person's own line.

I think the question I would have to ask would be, what would happen if you didn't supplement? Would you have grayer hair (copper deficiency), depression (numerous causes), worse sleep/higher anxiety (magnesium defeciency), worse healing (zinc, vitamin C), higher inflammation, cravings for foods, etc. ?

I can't say I've noticed a benefit from a single supplement that wasn't much better from the natural source. I never feel the same taking a Vitamin D tablet as I do sitting outside, in the sun. Taking fermented cod liver oil tastes disgusting and I'd much rather eat fish, liver, greens and raw cheese, not to mention it made me feel sick when i took it before bed. I still take vitamin C though, just because there is no downside to taking 1 g per day.

The perfect health diet says, to a certain extent, that when we're not well nourished (in other words, we're deficient in some vitamin or minerals), that that is what makes you binge/go hungry even when you've eaten. it's a theory. i think i've felt it? but who knows.

I think supplements are a good starting point for some health issues - if you feel a huge difference after you take a certain vitamin or mineral, it might be a clue as to the source of your health problems, but for me, someone pretty lacking in a LOT of different things, there was never one "cure-all." I did feel a big difference after Magnesium supplements and then it eventually leveled off. same with zinc.

But I don't think we need quite a whole bottle to get there, and so yes, that's tough - it's a lot of wasted money. plus it's important to note the antagonistic effects of one supplement on your body's absorbance of other ones, like Cu and Mg and Zn...

It's tough, when you've been broken for so long, not to throw the solution head-on into the problem. who wants to eat bone broth, make kimchi, order kefir grains, etc. when you can easily buy the isolated things in pill form and pop a bunch? I think the supplement industry reflects us wanting to take the easy out, in some ways, but also genuinely helping people who are really, truly deficient, in others. it's a mixed bag, take it with a grain of salt, and maybe, the industry wouldn't be thriving if more of us could do baseline testing (instead of taking cholesterol, blood pressure, height and weight) of our mineral/hormone levels in physicals. thoughts on how to make this more normal? i know americans probably take too many medical tests, but height/weight kind of mean nothing to me at this point.

1
7a6529ea25b655132fe58d793f95547a

(2030)

on August 22, 2012
at 05:04 PM

I'd rather give my hard earned cash to someone who's trying to help me by natural means. The work of Linus Pauling or Abraham Hoffer come to mind when thinking about the effects of nutrients/supplements on the body which can be very beneficial. Just because the ideas that we're privy to aren't mainstream doesn't mean they wont be in the future, the tide is turning more and more people are speaking out and academia is changing. I don't think many people here eat lots of animal foods in their diet without backing it up first with some evidence. I back up my diet with clinical/epidemiological evidence some anthropological evidence and some common sense and I don't feel like I'm being conned.

There are some bloggers out there who seem to not have any steak in the game like Stephen Guyenet, Denise Minger, Lucas Tafur, Peter at the hyperlipid and lots more that I can't think of right now.

So my answer to your question is no, but I don't blame you at all for thinking that way.

A97b68379a576dfa764a4828304d2efb

(4181)

on August 22, 2012
at 05:06 PM

Damn, another great typo/pun! I totally have a steak in this game.

7a6529ea25b655132fe58d793f95547a

(2030)

on August 22, 2012
at 05:24 PM

ahh...ya, that was totally a pun....

1
6bce08b072e3cea49b292658b9d5d197

on August 22, 2012
at 03:15 PM

I don't give much credence to the mainstream media and medical associations. Yes, it is true that many Paleo gurus sell books and supplements, but honestly, who doesn't these days.

Do you NEED the supplements? Absolutely not. I've lost 31.1 pounds in 4 months with nothing more than a solid Paleo diet, Intermittent Fasting, GNC Mega Man Sport multi-vitamin, Fish Oil, and Vitamin D. It works for me and I believe that is all anyone needs.

http://www.jbprimal.com

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4

(20436)

on August 22, 2012
at 07:29 PM

I almost bought it, JB, but now I see that you are just a shill for GNC. ;) (Lol, there are TWO GNC ads on this page right now, I suspect as a result of your mentioning the company name...)

6bce08b072e3cea49b292658b9d5d197

(1144)

on August 23, 2012
at 06:39 PM

Oops, sorry. Should've just written multi-vitamin, but I don't want people buying just regular Wal-mart brand junk. How about "buy a high quality multi-vitamin, not something your grandmother would buy." :)

1
6d64cd6dc98d6ab763bd03678a317964

(2177)

on August 22, 2012
at 02:50 PM

It's a business. Paleo guru's aren't "holier than thou". They are trying to make money plain and simple. What maybe rubbing you the wrong way is that they aren't transparent about their motives. It's all hidden behind a "curtain of compassion".

Regardless, forever it has been "buyer be ware". We are ultimately responsible for what we buy and what we promote in our community.

077ab7e5875f87f159cfc256c2a76d82

(65)

on August 22, 2012
at 03:42 PM

*grin* @ Marcy. Genius.

A97b68379a576dfa764a4828304d2efb

(4181)

on August 22, 2012
at 03:04 PM

I think the small typo in "buyer be ware" results in the greatest pun of all time. Love it.

0
785efa3950951957e65fa17efb25b078

(452)

on August 22, 2012
at 05:08 PM

Wherever there is money, there will be shills and spammers on the internet.

On the other hand, there is a ton of research being done on supplements (just check out Examine.com) and supplements can definitely help.

0
3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on August 22, 2012
at 03:14 PM

Maybe it is just the influx of the Raz spammers, or maybe I am just cynical, but I read this entire post as SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM.

76211ec5301087de2588cfe3d6bccba9

(1178)

on August 22, 2012
at 03:17 PM

it's not spam, i promise...

76211ec5301087de2588cfe3d6bccba9

(1178)

on August 22, 2012
at 04:00 PM

i am not saying that Paleo isn't a good way to diet/live. i have maybe been spending too much time listening to podcasts and reading blogs and now i am inside the Paleo bubble looking out and wondering if i have lost perspective and am just following a new dogma that could be deceiving me like my old dogma...

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on August 22, 2012
at 04:56 PM

nursling, always good to question. sorry for the error.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on August 22, 2012
at 03:44 PM

I'm sorry to have called you a spammer. As to whether there are charlatans out there, I am sure there are. I have been on almost every diet that exists. In 2007 I was 265 lbs. I've tried everything, the only thing that worked (prior to Paleo\Primal) was calorie restriction and excessive working out. Since transitioning to this lifestyle, my health and weight have improved in ways I never thought possible. I went from a 207 lbs (running 50+ mi/week) to 165 lbs (despite not being able to workout in the first couple of months). for me, the proof is in the tasting.

193f00d53ebcb13940c7a55afc78ad17

(1260)

on August 22, 2012
at 04:44 PM

@CD true, but it also lacked his subtle use of capslock, a la: "are we being duped by supplement industry? GLUTEN PILLS SAVE LIVES SISSON MURDERED JESUS" Those caps are a dead giveaway.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on August 22, 2012
at 03:45 PM

@Kyle, All of the Razz stuff starts as innocent questions that suggest that we are being lied to, then after they have a week or so in they start hitting with the ridiculous stuff we see. I believe nursling, it just put up my radar.

C4f1a0c70c4e0dea507c2e346c036bbd

on August 22, 2012
at 05:09 PM

Spam spam spam is a monty python skit too.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on August 22, 2012
at 05:15 PM

Lovely Spam, wonderful Spam!

193f00d53ebcb13940c7a55afc78ad17

(1260)

on August 22, 2012
at 03:39 PM

What would they be spamming?

0
C4f1a0c70c4e0dea507c2e346c036bbd

on August 22, 2012
at 02:48 PM

Well it is possible they aren't putting the correct ingredients in the supplements. What is snake oil and what is not?

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