Dietary Supplements Encourage Unhealthy Habits, study says

The main reason Americans take dietary supplements is to “improve overall health and general well-being”, according to a report by Roper Starch Worldwide in 2001. But regular dietary supplements users are in for a surprise, with the result of a recent study claiming that taking dietary supplements may just accomplish the opposite.

Researchers of the study said that those who are taking dietary supplements are more likely to engage in unhealthy lifestyle than those who don’t.

“After reviewing the literature of the prevalence of dietary supplement use, it seemed to show that use of dietary supplements is increasing, but it does not appear to be correlated with improved public health”, said Wen-Bin Chiou of National Sun Yat-Sen University, one of the authors of the study published in the Psychological Science, the journal of the Association of Psychological Science. Chiou said she was given the idea to do the research when she once observed a co-worker choosing an unhealthy meal over an organic meal just because the co-worker had taken a multivitamin earlier that day.

Two groups of subjects were involved in the said study co-authored by Chao-Chin Yang of National Kaohsiung University of Hospitality and Tourism and Chin-Sheng Wan of Southern Taiwan University. One group was instructed to take multivitamins and the other group was assigned to take a placebo. But both groups actually took placebo pills.

The results showed that participants who believed they had taken dietary supplements felt invulnerable to health problems, thus leading them to engage in health-risk behaviors such as not engaging in exercise, choosing buffet over organic meals, and walking less.

“People who rely on dietary supplement use for health protection may pay a hidden price, the curse of licensed self-indulgence”, Chiou explained adding “To put it simply, people who take dietary supplements may have the misconception that they are invulnerable to health problems and may make poor decisions when it comes to their health”.

The finding of the study is another jab at the diet supplements industry which has been the subject of many media criticisms lately. Negative comments centered on issues of the safety, efficacy and quality of current diet supplements. But the supplement industry has proven to be resilient despite these negative media headlines. In fact, the Nutritional Business Journal said U.S. consumer sales of supplements in all channels grew nearly 7 percent resulting to a $28.7 billion profit in 2010.

Recently too, the National Center for Health statistics said half of all American adults are taking supplements. Neither did the financial crisis deter consumers. They even spent more on supplements in the recession with sales volume growing by 6.3% in 2008 and 6 % in 2009.

Authorities attributed this behavior to the fact that most consumers consider dietary supplements as a cheap health insurance policy and that they’re less costly than visiting doctors or purchasing pharmaceuticals.

But with the conclusion of Chiou’s group research, there’s a reason again to put these touted benefits of consuming dietary supplements in doubt.

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